For a moment, I am disoriented, not too certain about the day, the place and even the time.
I am thinking and trying, in the wake of a deep short sleep, to work out the arithmetic of my activities in the past 24 hours.
Yesterday, Saturday, was August 5.
We left Nigeria at 2:30 pm in a special flight for what was an almost 10-hour, non-stop haul across the Atlantic Ocean to the Islands between the continents of North and South America, a region often referred to as the West Indies, or the Carribeans, a place of great historic significance for Africans from West and Central Africa.
Some 500 years ago, these were the Islands, thousands of miles away from West Africa, where some of 12 million young Black Africans were off-loaded, unknown and uncharted parts of a new world.
They were packed like Sardine into missonary and merchant ships by White traders and adventurers from Western Europe. The Africans were their produce specially selected from the human stock of the healthiest and strongest, captured by local African chiefs and their foreign collaborators, kept in cellars in camps located along the coasts of sevetal Central and West Africa countries, chained and loaded into the bowels of wooden ships, and forcefully shipped to distant ports described as the ‘land-of-no-return’.
Millions of these slaves died during the long and torturous journey. Those that were lucky to survive and their offspring have suffered 5 Centuries of enslavement, abuse, oppression, deprivation, discŕimination and indignity.
That is a brief story of the Slave Trade, a subject I was taught in primary and secondary school. But then, there were too many gaps in that learning. I did not fully comprehend why such physically fit Africans would ‘accept’ such brutality and not turn the world upside down fighting; why such levels of dehumanisation went on for so long and the rest of the world watched and did nothing; why African chiels collaborated with White merchants to enslave their sons and daughters for ‘cheap’ material gain?
There were too many loose ends and unanswered questions around the history of Africans in the Diaspora that I was taught. I can understand what happened in the places were Blacks eventually became a minority Race after slavery was abolished. The suppression continued, of course, but differently, and till now.
The Carribean Islands were different.
These cluster of Islands eventually became ‘Homeland’ to the Blacks that worked and survived on the farms and plantations there. They now own the land, are in the vast majority of the population, have turned the land into exotic tourist destinations, and, today, happily call the land ‘Home’.
So, many questions have always been smouldering in my mind, wiating for an opportunity to visit, to meet with my Black brethren, to physically see the land, to ask burning questions, and to bring a closure to my lack of understanding of the true history of the African Diaspora in 22 countries outside of ‘Motherland’ Africa.
In my most recent of undertakings, without the Carribeans in the picture on the surface, but deeply connected in closer examination, the Elements have conspired again to saddle me with the challenge of connecting the dots, using the power of ‘foolish’ physical activities described as soft-power tools, including Entertainment, Art, Culture and Sport, to change the world.
So, I wake up this morning in the country called Antigua and Berbuda, momentarily disoriented. Until a few days ago, this place did not even exist in my projections and radar. Yet here I am, embracing the moment, savouring the beauty of this new place and new experience.
I am here courtesy of Dr. Allen Onyema whose Airpeace Airline is pioneering the opening up of a new frontier, a giant stride of establishing a new corridor for maximum collaboration between the Carribean region and West Africa.
The prospect and opportunities of such a development are so exciting that I shall be spending the next 4 days here dreaming endless possibilities.
Today is my first day here. Yesterday, we were met by the Prime Mnister and some members of his cabinet at the international airport for a short, colourful and impressive ceremony. Allen Onyema was at his best elements embracing the invitation to help the little Isalnd in its big ambitions, and marketing Nigeria as the ultimate hub for a new Carribean/African social,-cultural and economic relationship. Sport will play a big and integral role towards building and sustaining that relationship, another piece aaded to the jigsaw Puzzle that of a new Black Consciousness and Civilisation in an emerging new World Order.
This afternoon I am preparing to go out into the city, to see and to experience Antigua and its fabled annual Carnival in daylight, and have my first ‘taste’ of it at night.
This island-country of some 100,000 persons of the same genetic stock as I, is what the cab driver that drove us from the airport to the Hotel told us, proudly and excitedly, is ‘Paradise’.
I shall attempt to keep a daily diary that I shall publish from tomorrow, and share my experiences checking out this ‘Paradise in the Sun’.
Dr. Olusegun Odegbami MON, OLY, AFNIIA, FNIS.