Bussa: Barbados’ First National Hero

“…King William was a friend of Bussa, the overall slave leader who was tried and put to death for his crime.”

This was taken from page 18 of this year’s edition of The Ins and Outs of Barbados, where the preceding paragraph discusses King William being the leader of the slaves from Sunbury Plantation House (the actual subject of the article) who participated in the greater Rebellion that they were all put to death for.

My question to the editors of this publication: Tell me: What was the crime that Bussa committed exactly?

Your article, doesn’t qualify your comment or discuss SLAVERY in Barbados, only the house in which the slavers lived. So why even put that whole paragraph this quote ends into the piece at all? Only to add a bit of ‘colour’ to the piece, because well we’re in Barbados after all?

I know this publication is geared towards the property market in Barbados, but it’s in every hotel room, every villa, in every luxury apartment, every place tourists come to stay in this country. You chose to reduce this pivotal moment in Barbadian history, even as it continues to be misunderstood and misrepresented in the modern media, to a ‘crime’ and hence ‘criminal’. Almost 200 years later, in retrospect, against whom did Bussa commit this crime? What reason could you have, as the editors of this publication, to declare Bussa’s actions and those of King William obviously as a ‘crime’? Is this an act of shoddy editing? A personal affront based on family history? A political view of different history you endorse?

When I went over to this page (ugly, ugly it is I know. The geek in me shuddered a bit.) I discovered what happened. Miller Publishing took this content from there word for word and presented it with no qualification whatsoever. Sunbury Plantation House’s web page devoted to the history of the house, and the slave owning, then-colonial, the expat, but never, ever African descended Barbadians, reduces the Rebellion and its participants to not just a sentence or two, but according to them, Bussa and/or King William were killed for their ‘crime’, so for Miller Publishing in this instance that was good enough. The piece is a puff piece to please or justify advertising and clearly was not really thought out or even properly edited, because well ‘we’re trying to get it done as fast as possible right, and get as many ADS in as possible’. Right or wrong?

Don’t tell me how it goes. I’ve worked in the media my entire adult life. It’s approaching twenty years now I worked in the production of content for consumption. I KNOW how this goes. I’ve had my own little ‘mistakes’ too. Most notably I kind of pissed off the Chinese embassy–warranting a rather stern letter, and a slightly patronising discussion about ‘sensitivity’– for using material sent to me from the Taiwanese embassy which I used without really thinking about it, because well, does Taiwan have the right to declare it’s independence or not? Does TIBET have that right?

I digress.

We’re talking about not only a National Hero of Barbados, but in fact the very FIRST National Hero. So tell, me, PLEASE: What was his crime?

A lesser question would be the choice to trivialise the relationship between King William and Bussa as just ‘friendship’; The choice to eliminate the real organisers, omit Nanny Grigg and the other influential participants, and to declare them all as all criminals deserving of death for their actions in print, hardbound and available for every tourist or person hoping to buy property here, in this year 2010 is in fact to provide an obviously one-sided, stilted, view of history. We are in fact now deep into the land of revisionist history for corporate gain here.

These men plotted revolution against an unjust system and helped to end slavery in not just Barbados but throughout the ‘British’ West Indies. The amazing story of it, and reasons why it failed and the erroneous nature of much of what most people think they know about this Rebellion, has been reduced to a crime. WHY? Who is benefiting from this view of what happened?

My integrity as a journalist won’t allow me to let this one pass.

You can go over to the Ins and Outs web site and see it what I am talking about in black on white, just use the on page tools to scroll to page 18. Go over to the Sunbury Plantation House’s web site and read the information there too.

This seemingly innocuous statement is buried way, way, way up in the cut of this publication and rather proudly linked to from the front page of Sunbury’s web site, then dropped into the middle of this amazing discourse (loosely used here) on the various owners of this house. Page 18 of the Inns and Outs of Barbados doesn’t indicate its girth in glossy photographs of dwellings and Barbados’ ‘life’ and ‘culture’ and advertising for all manner of tourist-targeted goods and services. (Although I must say the paper of the publication felt a bit ‘cheap’, but that’s just me, I’m funny about paper quality.) I can only assume and make an ass of me and you, because I didn’t read past page 18.

I put the publication down, and only picked it up again to make sure that the quote was correct. I found it very difficult to even sit still in my seat, or stifle the exclamation of “WHAT?” that escaped my mouth… even as I modulated my voice enough so it didn’t escape with the force of what I was feeling, because I was in the most inconvenient place to go off on a rant. I whipped out my laptop and started this post though.

I have to tell you, Miller Publshing, as my great-grandfather–a Portuguese Shephardic Jew who fell in love with, married and remained devoted to a woman of African descent–might say: “Dat ain’t kosher.”

I believe my other Egun, who were slaves on Sam Lord’s Castle (hence my last name) and those of the slaves who lived and died in Barbados not just during the Rebellion under discussion here, but throughout slavery in Barbados’, and their descendants would agree, even if they wouldn’t use so diplomatic a term to express it. At least, the ones who thought and do think for themselves will.

I’m rather disappointed in you over there at Miller Publishing. That is a REMARKABLE lack of sensitivity on your part. Well, I’m not even to going to say what I think about Sunbury Plantation House’s logic or reasoning.

Punto finale.

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sungoddess

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