We found out just how far reaching our writings and the purpose behind our research and writings has been when we were contacted by a speaker for the Windrush Foundation from Britain, Mr. Vasco Stevenson. He had been reading our web pages with great interest in view of the fact that he had to prepare a presentation for his organization to present in London’s City Hall. When he came across our contributing poet, Louis Emanuel, he had to ask us for permission to use them in his presentation.
We had to publish this letter from Mr. Stenvenson feeding us back his thoughts and reactions and how the presentation went. Once again, we are impressed with the power of the World Wide Web to reach out. We also want to re-emphasize our vehement call for justice regarding the kinds of baneful and demoralizing practices inflicted on our ancestors such as “The Back Punch,” and the fact that thousands of the Silvermen and women were never paid their retirement and legitimate worker’s benefits by the American Canal Commission.
West Indians at the Panama Canal Presentations
Sincere apologies for the delay in getting back to you with regard to the Panama Canal presentation at City Hall, London on 28th October 2014. This was actually the fourth presentation of this subject but the first time at this prestigious location, City Hall being the office of the Mayor of London. The presentation itself was sponsored by a charitable organization named “The Windrush Foundation” (www.windrushfoundation.org) which specializes in promoting black history. The Windrush was the ship that brought the first West Indian immigrants to the UK in the 1950s.
I was researching another aspect of West Indian history but when I got to the Panama part of that research I had to set everything else aside and focus entirely on this story, this being the 100th anniversary of the opening of the canal. What alarmed me most of all was the fact that almost everyone who has written about the Canal did so in very romantic terms but neglected to mention the human cost of the canal’s construction. The more research I did the more gruesome details I uncovered and I must at this stage say thanks to “The Silver People Heritage” for a substantial amount of information and pictures which lend authenticity to my presentations.
Last night, 6th November 2014, I presented it at the Marcus Garvey Library (Tottenham) in the London Borough of Haringey and on the 25th November will be presenting it again at Wood Green library, also in the borough of Haringey. I have also just spoken with the chairman of the National Council of Barbadians here in the UK and he has pencilled in a presentation for the latter part of next year somewhere in the UK. The venue is dependent on which town their meeting will be convened. My intention is to keep making this presentation so that West Indians and descendants of West Indians are fully informed of the suffering their fore-parents endured at Panama, from the Railroad in 1850 to the opening of the Canal in 1914. So far every presentation has been very well attended with Q& A sessions and much comment but also with many people saying that they had no idea of what actually occurred there. Some members of the audience had recently sailed through the canal quite recently and were able to contribute positively to the discussions. A few had also visited the museum in Panama.
I know that currently there is much activity with regard to lost relatives and reconnection, which makes this presentation much more poignant at this time.
Finally, let me express my most sincere thanks to you for your quick reply to my initial email and request for permission to include a poem by Louis Emanuel in my presentation. Very early in the presentation there is a poem by James Stanley Gilbert about the Chagres river and towards the end the poem “Remember” by Louis Emanuel with its quiet exhortation that we should not allow this aspect of our history and heritage to be washed down memory lane. I usually ask this question at the end.
Was this Hell as in Hades – Death? or was this a “Living” Hell? The answer comes back –BOTH.
Ps Should you publish this in your newsletter please send me a copy