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.
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.
“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.