We recently received an important note from one of our most respected and widely read supporters, Mr. Anthony McLean, who owns and edits Etnia Negra de Panamá, a web publication with a focus on the Westindian community both in Panama and the United States. The excerpt had such a powerful statement that we took the liberty of posting it here on our Foundation web site to share with our readers. It reads as follows:
“In 2007 I wrote an article on Mt. Hope; in it I explained the special status we the WI had, but nobody cared.
Below is an extract of my writings.
…A couple of days ago I finally decided to visit my grandfather’s grave. Born on Crooked-L Island, Bahamas in 1889, he died in Colon on December 15,1964. He was a great person; my hero. I later found out that he was recognized for valor during a shipping fire at the Cristobal dock in 1920- my double hero. I went to the spot where I thought he was buried but it could not be found. Then I walked over to the administration office expecting to hear the clerk say that his remains were removed and cast away and, to my surprise that was not the case. There I learned many interesting things.
She told me that he is buried in the West Indian section and nobody can be removed from there. She even walked to the site with me and showed me the exact spot. Then turning, showed me other burial sections and said “ ustedes los descendientes antillanos porqué no arreglan su sitio como los demás. Allá, los chinos, los americanos y los otros extranjeros tienen arreglado el sito de entierro de sus antepasados pero ustedes no hacen nada.” I was shocked; I stood in awe as she spoke. I did not have the least idea of what she was talking about.
So we slowly and silently walked back to the office. I sat down and she showed me the data of his burial, and a long list as far back as 1950 of the people buried there. She explained that, complying with international agreements they cannot remove any person buried in their ancestral grounds. That ancestral ground is for the Canal Builders and they must be honoured eternally. Our problem, she said ,is that we are not taking care of our ancestral ground and it’s in very poor shape. She urged me to do something and to ask others to at least clean-up the graves.
I’ll be working on my grandfather’s resting spot very soon and I hope that others will follow suit.”
With this international recognition we must get up and show the world that We Care.
We, at the Silver People Heritage Foundation, have also felt the drive to just, as Mr. McLean said, “work on individual resting spots.” However, the need is so pronounced that the unfolding of a Silver People’s organization has emerged to do eternal fund raising and lobbying campaigns aimed at, above all, the Port Authorities and Shipping companies of the world to donate to fray the tremendous cost of “Perpetual Care” and the administration of these cultural and historic sites.
Further, we have requested funding to make these sites recognized not only as Historic Heritage sites but also for them to be treated more as Garden Parks on the Panama Canal Tourist Route. We also want to advocate that our historic burial grounds be recognized as a “Heritage to Humanity” for the perseverance and exemplary citizenship, loyalty, and honesty that our Silver ancestors became a symbol for. From the inception of the building of the great projects, they all had a vision that they were participating in “something momentous,” something bigger than life itself – an opportunity given to them by God Himself and they felt honored to be able to survive to enjoy it as well as the rest of the world.
We will show the world that “we care” when our garden park Silver Memorial Cemeteries become a show place complete with Honor Guards who will be drawn from governmental and civic community organizations and stand guard in their immaculate dress uniforms acting as guardian angels to honor the remains and the memory of our beloved ancestors. For, if it were not for our Westindian forefathers in the first place the French would never have gotten a foothold on the Isthmus and the Americans would never have able to finish the Canal much less be able to attract White American families to the area opening jobs for the “Gold Men.”
Our vision remains an agglutinating force that will continue to attract people and youth from every part of the community and the world as we take every opportunity to earn the friendship of all those who will help us heal from the shameful behaviour in the past which made us targets of racial discrimination, classism and the senseless back-biting and competitiveness that arose amongst us.
The Silver People Heritage is in need of funds which would assist us in establishing an office and equipping us with equipment that will help us to do more outreach presentations. We welcome suggestions and any assistance we may get from our readers as we continue to do research and development and the re-education that our present meagre resources afford us.
We are hoping that our friends and readers keep the prayer line open; with us is a God that never sleeps or forgets and we know that we will be ready when the specialists such as stonemasons, restorers, genealogists, anthropologists, and trained Docents specializing in heritage, history and cemetery administration join our ranks.
Our heartfelt gratitude goes out to all present and future supporters, like Mr. McLean, who share our vision and want to do something about it.