Caribbean blacks ashamed of African heritage says Ghana-born judge

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent — A Ghana-born High Court judge says that while blacks in the Caribbean might be better off for having been brought to the region, life in Africa is not as it is often portrayed by the western world.

Justice Frederick Bruce-Lyle, who has been living in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) since 1989 and is a naturalised Vincentian, made this observation on Saturday as a guest of Luzette King’s Global Highlights on Nice Radio.

Bruce-Lyle, who first came to the Caribbean in 1984 out of “adventure”, said many persons of African descent do not know the truth about their heritage and this leads to a lot of misconceptions.

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Afro-West Indians often resent their African heritage, he said, and recounted an experience with a black Vincentian who was offended when told that although he was born in SVG he is originally from African.

“And that fellow was very upset with me for saying so,” Bruce-Lyle recalled.

“There are some who still believe that they are better off having been brought here. It could be true. But I will tell you that those of us who were left in Africa didn’t have any special hard time as the western world will want us to be portrayed,” he explained.

Bruce-Lyle noted that when U.S. President Barack Obama visited Ghana all that was shown was the “bad, bad side” of the country, including unpaved road and mud huts.

“They didn’t show us the real Ghana,” he said, adding, “I have a feeling that some of our West Indian brothers and sisters have bought into [that portrayal of African].”

“The real Ghana is just like St. Vincent,” said Bruce-Lyle, who travels to Ghana every year.

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“There is a modern side — every country has its pockets of poverty, we have them. We have modern cities. We have everything that the rest of the world has. If you go to England today, the brand new cars that you see on the roads, if you go to Ghana they are all there,” he said.

“So, there is nothing for us to be ashamed of. We have our problems like the rest of the world but it just so happens that our problems are always exposed to the rest of the world and others have theirs hidden,” Bruce-Lyle continued.

He blamed the situation on a lack of education and misinformation, saying that the propaganda machinery of the western world is well oiled.

Bruce-Lyle further noted that black activists in the United States were portrayed as criminals and some government “joined on the bandwagon”.

If this were not the case, people of African descent will celebrate the beauty of being black, he said.

Bruce-Lyle, however, said that Afro-West Indians “are quite a bit away” from the point where they will go to Africa rather than the United State and Britain to seek a better life.

He said the youth must be re-educated to understand that they can go to Africa and live well and that “there is a space at the table for everyone”.

While saying that there are investment opportunities in Africa, Bruce-Lyle admitted that there are high levels of corruption in some African nations.

He further said that while legitimate channels might be “slow and red tapish”, investments are safer.

Bruce-Lyle praised the efforts of the Rastafarian and Black Power movements for heightening black consciousness and promoting pride in African heritage.

“If people would engage them more, people will learn a lot more about Africa than they do now. Maybe it’s because of the negative responses they get and … that is why I say it boils down to you yourself recognising who you are. And that the first step so that if somebody tries to engage you in that topic you are interested in it,” he explained.

“But for some reason, the majority of people I have met don’t seem to be interested in anything African because, first of all, they don’t consider themselves African. And I don’t say they are African in any derogatory way. I know they are Vincentian — they were born here, this is their island, this is their country — but we have to recognise that black people came from the continent,” Bruce-Lyle added.


8 thoughts on “Caribbean blacks ashamed of African heritage says Ghana-born judge

  1. West Indians, we are our own people, a mixture of African, Indian, European, middle and far eastern and Ameridian forging our own identity. Are we to deny the other sides of our rich history, cling to longing hope of some “back to Africa”? When I was in England, I was called “slave baby” by Africans who were in college with me. I reminded them they sold me for SALT and trinkets. The prime minister is proud to say he is portuguese. The same way Bruce-Lyle choose to live in SVG is the same way a Vincentian can choose to live in Ghana. Where I come from does not matter, it is my contrbution to this world through the blessing of my God through his son Jesus the Christ.

    Posted by John J | August 15, 2011, 09:53
  2. Well put by the learned Judge. @John J: not because some Africans in England were mis-educated enough to call you derogatory names out of ignorance does not deny us our heritage as a people descended from a rich African tradition. Our PM speaks also of the Caribbean being a unique civilization of all races but in the mix we still need to recognize the history and value of all the parts, without prejudice. We are one Caribbean people but of African, European, Indian and Indigenous (miscalled indian) heritage. We still need to study our history to put all into perspective..And the learned Justice Bruce Lyle is right on the money with his comments.
    Dexter E.M. Rose

    Posted by Dexter E.M. Rose | August 15, 2011, 17:38
  3. Problem is our ancestors were sold by African Kings and Chiefs to Europeans. Africa was no friend to our ancestors and it is they that should be paying compensation. Ghana was very much involved in the slave trade.

    I have been to Africa and know very well that West Indians are not considered Africans, in fact there is some racial hatred towards us. I was told that we are mongrels and not the pure breed like Africans.

    Posted by Peter | August 15, 2011, 21:39
  4. Co-sign to the comments of John J and Peter. We as Black people are taught that the Europeans came to Africa and kidnapped our ancestors, and that that is the only way we came to be enslaved. We are reluctant to tell the other side of that coin… that our own African people sold many of us into slavery AS WELL.
    While I agree that many of us Caribbean blacks try to deny our African heritage (but are quick to lay claim to any other ethnicity that may be lurking in our gene pool, no matter how recessive)… Bruce-Lyle needs to acknowledge that it’s not as if Africans are generally waiting with arms wide open to welcome us back into the fold! So I can understand why a Caribbean black person would want to distance him/herself from the motherland… that being said, the ignorance needs to be dispelled on BOTH sides… it’s not just Caribbean people who need a pulling up.

    Posted by Baxter | August 16, 2011, 09:48
  5. We must be wise says Oscar.

    Much may have been done to by my African brothers and may still continue in the present, but does that mean I must forsake my heritage, my roots.

    I am reclaiming my mind; and I encourage others to make the effort. Its a powerful feeling. Look back, learn; and you will have a much clearer path as you move forward.

    Posted by Nolram | August 16, 2011, 13:22
  6. West Indians are NOT different from any1 else…..EVERYONE IN THIS WHOLE WORLD HAS MIXED ANCESTRY no1 is a pure race….but guess what, do Indians, Asians, Whites not claim their roots?…It’s not about going back to Africa…..MANY Black People are NOT proud to say they are from Africa, they don’t know themselves……but that is because of MENTAL SLAVERY…..Peope are QUICK to say they are mixed with this & That…when the majority of their genetic makeup is black.but yet they will NEVER acknowledge it, b/c they are brainwashed about what Blackness means……….it is an incessant cycle of mental disease from slavery…….People are MYOPIC and they know NOTHING about their history, they listen to the te LIE vision. HEGEMONY is dangerous…..u cannot grow as a tree when ur roots are ignored……Guess what My ANCESTRY is mixed as well…but when people ask me, I say i’m black as of today it doesn’t ignore my ancestry ….the point is not about constantly saying where u are from…but not denying it….it’s the reason why here are so many issues are still prevelant, it’s the reason why blacks HAve YET to come in power & rise …”emancipate yourself from mental slavery”…..I do agree with ur last comment though but since this is a discussion on race, it’s a skapegoat comment ….& u can message me on FB, cause I doubt i’ll see your response.

    Posted by Alrene Slater | August 17, 2011, 08:09
  7. i totally agreed with the judge…I am in Venezuela as an international student and i have meet different people from different parts of Africa…each country is unique..we are often shown the bad side of Africa on TV but i was given the opportunity to experience the good, modernized side of Africa through class presentations on their countries…my fellow vincentians colleagues and i was so speechless at the sight of amazing infrastructures, parks, tourism & so much more that we all decided after finishing our ingeneria here in 2016, we having a tour to all countries in Africa where we have friends… we have a long way of planning to go…May this be reality.the presentations changed our perspectives on what Africa is all about…..oh and africans are some of the best people you can find in the world!!!…..i have friends from SENEGAL, GHANA, NIGERIA, GUINEA BISSAU, KENYA, & ETHIOPIA..They are great people… here, its the africanos y the west indians that work together…One family!!!!!!!1

    so people shouldnt be offending at the statement that we are africans…my mom is a negro and my dad is a carib but i am proud to associate my self with country africa….Proud kalingo tambien…:)
    so much more to say but little time

    Posted by Unique | November 4, 2011, 06:54

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