About Us

Lydia M. Reid, B.A., MLS. Executive Director, author. Mrs. Reid is the co-founder and Executive Director of the Silver People Heritage Foundation.

Her professional experience has included pioneering work in establishing technical library systems.  Her specialty has always been Special and Technical libraries and she has always enjoyed working with researchers, teachers, and students.

The Silver People Heritage Foundation has become a passion and a driving mission for Mrs. Reid.

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Cobert Roberto A. Reid, B.A., MA. Director, author. Mr. Reid is the founder of the Silver People Heritage Foundation and one of the principal authors. Born in Panama City, Panama, he grew up during the dynamic and often turbulent periods of Panamanian history. A second generation Westindian, he was descended of Jamaican grandparents, who had come to Panama to work on the construction of the Panama Canal- members of that unique class of workers known as The Jamaican Bosses.

He has pursued his great life ambition, to write about his heritage and his experiences in the United States and abroad. He is the principal author behind The Silver People Chronicle (a historical weblog) and Rapsodia Antillana, its sister web site in Spanish. The Silver People Heritage Foundation was born of his great concern to prevent the disappearance of his people’s culture and historical legacy- what he calls The Silver People Heritage, and he writes and works ardently to this end.

24 responses to “About Us

  1. My name is Anthony Mungo and I am currently looking for information regarding my great grandfather, Mr. Hubert Shand. He was born in panama around 1903 or 1904 and emigrated to the united states in the summer of 1921 when he was only 17 years old by way of steamboat. I have found the last name Shand to have connections to Jamaica and Antigua. My grandmother showed me a picture of him and he was dark skin with strong African features. But I don’t know if he descended from either Jamaican or Antiguan laborers. If you j=know any information about the Shand family from Panama please help if any you can. God bless.

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  2. Hola! I’ve been reading your web site for some time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Houston Tx! Just wanted to mention keep up the fantastic job!

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  3. Thank you for all the encouragement and courage I see in these several messages.I am Jamaican and my grandfather worked on the Canal and his name appears in their electronic archives which I inspected on a 2006 visit to the Panama Canal. I am currently writing about his adventures in Panama and Jamaica primarily to illustrate the power of geneaological factors in successive generations going back to our African past and the enterprising Language People of the kingdom of Benin. My own experience includes Historical research at University level ,service as a diplomat in London and Paris, Labour Attorney with Exxon.,and an inexplcable pleasure in construction & design and plumbing. I have no credential as an author.

    When I was in high school I had with me a share certificate which Cecil G. Gordon had purchased in the Black Star Line Inc. Does any one still have such a Share Certificate, a copy of which could be sent me by e-mail?

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    • Mr. Gordon,

      You didn’t exactly state your grandfather’s name but we assume it is Cecil G. Gordon. Your life sounds fascinating and so does the fact that you are writing a book about your grandfather’s Panama Canal Experience. Please do stay in touch when you have published your book so that we may give you a “plug.”

      You have a share certificate from the Black Star Line—very interesting! Of course, for those of you who do not know, the shipping company was founded by Marcus Garvey and the UNIA- Universal Negro Improvement Association. Garvey as well as UNIA had a very important presence in Panama. We are sure that Marcus Garvey would be very glad to hear that you still cherish your share certificate.

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  4. Bette Roebuck

    One way to find your ancesters is to go to the actual West Indian home country. For instance, a few of my family members were curious about our grandfather’s heritage and so we went to Barbadoes in 1997 and searched the records in the vital statistics department. What we found is that the birth records were kept by churches because there was no such thing as vital statistics back in the day. The birth records information was gathered from all the churches and copies sent to the vital statistics in modern times. We were able to trace our grandfather’s ancestry all the way back to Africa and England. My father and mother’s relatives were traced back to Jamaica and to northern India. As we know, there was a significant East Indian population recruited to help in the canal building industry as well as the West Indians. A number of these East Indians married West Indian women, as my grandfathers did. The Bajans brought to Panama their culture of polygamy via Africa, and the hispanic community caught on to this lifestyle and that may be how the “querida” relationships became traditional. This, also, is a possibility of why we have first, second and third families belonging to the same man in the West Indian culture in Panama. It would be great if there are some others offering commentaries who can add to this kind of history because we are truely multicultural Zonians.

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  5. Bette Roebuck

    Lydia,

    Thank you so much for your quick reply and invitations. Would it be possible for me to speak with you by phone so I can explain the confidentiality issues I would face as a healthcare practioner? I travel a lot because I have three centers, including one in Ghana, West Africa and I can’t be glued to a computer. That’s why I gave you my telephone numbers.

    The other issue is that I got off of Facebook because someone tampered with my e-mail, I got locked out, lost all my contacts, and had to get another address.

    I would also like to introduce to you, if you don’t know him already, my brother, Raymond A. Davis, PhD (Stanford University/Sociology,)who has almost 3,000 friends on Facebook. His dissertation was titled, “Racism in the Panama Canal Company.”

    Bette

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  6. Bette Roebuck

    I need to talk to Lydia boca-a-boca about a recently initiated project, which impacts every surviving Zonian and everyone one of their progenies, even our great-grandchildren. You cannot be left out of this project, Lydia. No way can you not participate because your area of expertise would significantly help every single Panamanian descendant of the “canal diggers.” I agree with you that both the effects of stuff done to us and our history will be lost if the remaining black second generation survivors’ experiences are not documented now before we all die off.

    I am a Panamanian of West Indian heritage. I was born at Gorgas Hospital and am a product of La Boca and Paraiso, CZ. I am a professional healthcare provider, former staff writer for the Dayton Daily News, a major Mid-West Metropolitan USA newspaper; and now reside in Dayton, OH as a result of emigration choices my parents, well known CZ teachers, made for our family due to the depopulation of the Canal Zone in the 1950s. My business telephone number is 937-264-8551. Please leave me a message and I will return your call promptly. You can also call me on my magicJack free at 937-732-8215.

    Bette Ann Davis Edghill de Roebuck

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    • Bette,

      I’m curious about the program you speak of. I’ve friend requested you on Facebook and we can connect with each other a little better. Also, I would like you to join our Afro heritage of Panama which is becoming quite a forum. See you there.

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  7. Great website, I really enjoyed your entry.

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  8. Good luck finding the grave.

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  9. Patricia Weeks Brown

    Wish it was possible if your group could help me locate info on one of my grandmother. Was on the 1920 US Census and not the 1930. No other info found on her in the Gorgas Mortuary death records. She was from St. Lucia. No family members left to get info from

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  10. Thank you for alerting to the history of the canal. Your foundation is doing a great job for which I appreciate. The research is astounding as I noticed it alludes to the inhumane treatment of West Indians, another thing that surprised me was how little genealogical data on the presence of West Indians within the region is available.

    Thank you so much again for such informative insight.

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  11. Renaldo Manuel Ricketts

    The more I read about the atrocities in Panama and the building of the canal leads me to conclude,these people should pay for the inhumane treatment and sick psychotic disposition they’ve exhibited in the last 100 years. They reduced an entire population to servitude and humiliated generations in the name of profit and racism.They have never compensated the Silver People in any form. We should bring this issue to the attention of the UN.

    The world should be informed of the degradation inflicted on us. This is an untold story of genocide in Panama. The suffering and the monumental mental torture is generational.The current Gov. of Panama should lead the charge,after all we’re all Panamanians and our struggle as the Silver People should be their cause.

    The current gov should expose these truths. These are blatant human rights violations of the first degree carried out by the US. Why has the current governing bodies in Panama been silent about the degradation of a segment of their population?

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    • That is why our Initiative for a Law Declaring the Silver Cemeteries, on the banks of the Canal National Patrimony of the Republic of Panama is so important. We welcome your comment and concerns and I have notice that you are a painter and a poet. You can help us by taking iniciative and get people in your group writing letters and talking to people locally, because the UN also knew of the atrocities done to us Slver People, and as you have noticed they are the “Rubber Stamp for the US just as well as Panama govenment.

      Happy reading.

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  12. Renaldo Manuel Ricketts

    Hello Mr. Reid,

    In reading about discrimination on the CZ and Panama I see there was no difference between Jim Crow in Panama and the US. The psychopathology of oppressors is pretty much the same in all lands. You do develop a psychosis from the pressures of living under repressive reginmes. The US brought aparthei to Panama, they were simply reflecting the sick psychotic society they’sd developed in the US. Many in the US lost their lives in protesting the beastial society.

    I’ve never read anyting regarding Panamanians fighting back with acts of civil disobedience as they marched in this country.If it did exist please send me the documentation. It seems like they simply accepted the discrimination and never resisted, Please correct me if am wrong,like I said, I have no data to confirm or deny this. Why weren’t Blacks in Panama more vocal ? I would guess the dynamics between this country and Panama were so diverse they didn’t have a prayer in hell if they demonstrated, and prolly would have been thrown off the CZ. I Awaiting your reply

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    • Renaldo,

      We’ve posted many articles about racism in Panama and the Zone. Also read our Silver People Chronicle. Use the search box on all our sites. It will give you much to read about our ancestors and how they dealt with this issue.

      Roberto

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  13. Edward M. Rogers

    Hello
    I am a descent of a West Indian labor. I have been searching for an organization that keeps the history of our people and important contributions we have done in the success of the Panama Canal. Thank you very,very much.

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  14. I understand slaves were transported to Califonria during the 1849 Gold Rush. These slaves also accompanied their masters on steamships to Panama. when the masters returned to the Eastern United States of America. Do you have records that indicate how many slaves were passengers on the Panama Railroad or escaped when in Panama?

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    • Sorry Anthony, so far we haven’t run across any records per se of North American slaves or runaways from the north. We did, however, run into a very old woman whose mother was an “African” and whose father was Jamaican who pretty much worked on his own plot of land- self sufficient. Her mother might have been a runaway judging from the way she described her.

      Lydia

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      • Thank you. I found the New Orleans slave manifests that record the arrivals and departures of slaves during the Gold Rush on ancestry.com . I found a document written and signed by a slave owner and consular official that states the slave owner moved two slaves from Missouri (slave state) to California (free state) to Chagres (foreign country) to Louisiana (slave state).

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  15. Laura P. Thomas James

    Thank you for all the work your foundation continues to do. It is worth sharing with our community at large. The Alliance of Panamanian Organizations in the USA will host an educational Etnia Negra event in Brooklyn, N. Y. May 8, 2010 at 3p.m. St Gregory RCChurch, Brooklyn, N. Y. Please join us. Your Foundation is to be commended for the research and excellent presentation of your website. Peace, L. P. Thomas James, President Panama Canal International Alumni Association and APOUSA.

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    • Ms. Laura P. Thomas James:

      Thank you so much for recognizing our efforts, however it is for us the descendants of the Panamanian Silver People to come together and proudly and tirelessly promote who we are and from whence we come.

      It is our hope that we can also become part of your “Alliance of Panamanian Organizations USA,” become so close indeed that we here in Panama would see more of our fellow Silver descendants joining and supporting The Silver People Heritage Foundation.

      The beginning of our interest was first the love for all our Panamanian People and the great pain we felt at not being able to publish our works since before 1973 when our interest was at high.

      We are praising God for people such as yourself because we too had since the days I have mentioned above tried and did get involved in community work in your beloved Brooklyn, New York. We are hoping that the Lord would bless us with such an opportunity to be able to also leave that legacy so imprinted that our coming generations would have it to boost their sense of cultural heritage.

      Please also peruse our Silver People Chronicle site, which is full of our people’s history as well as some personal experiences.

      http://www.thesilverpeoplechronicle.com/

      We also invite you to keep up on our progress with the Proyecto de Ley (Bill) that we have initiated in Panama’s National Assembly:

      Thank you again for the invitation and for your well wishes and support. We look forward to hearing from you more often.

      With best wishes,

      C. Roberto A. Reid

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  16. Great sight. Needs exposure.

    Thanks for the positive information.

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  17. Hello
    I hope my new book about the Panama Canal construction – ‘Panama Fever’ – also brings to light the life and work of the Silvermen in Panama!
    best wishes

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