ADHT Conference Starts Today

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Acting Prime Minister, and Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy, admiring the work of a vendor following the??opening of the 8th African Diaspora Heritage Trail??Conference. (C. Pitt/BGIS)?? ??

"Don’t care where you come from, as long as you are a black man, you’re African; No mind your nationality, you have got the identity of an African."

This quote from Jamaican reggae artist Peter Tosh was used by Acting Prime Minister, and Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy, to officially open the 8th African Diaspora Heritage Trail (ADHT) Conference this morning at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

"I can assure you that few words in our modern language have taken on so powerful a meaning for so many people as the word "diaspora." It connotes for most persons in the western hemisphere the mass migration of people," Mr Sealy said. He also noted that the term also "evokes a solemn reminder of Africa and the forces which ripped us away from our ancestral home of West Africa to the two continents of the Western Hemisphere and the islands of the Caribbean.

"This important day brings us together in Barbados to acknowledge and embrace our African heritage which includes the city of Timbuktu which was one of the World’s greatest intellectual centres, the mighty rivers of the Niger, the Volta and the Gambia and the great Kingdoms of Ghana, Mali and Songhai," he pointed out.

Reiterating the strength of the global African presence, the Tourism Minister revealed that "estimates suggest that between the period 1500 and 1886, approximately eleven million enslaved Africans survived being shipped via the Middle Passage to the New World," he said.

Now, centuries later, Mr. Sealy added, this presence is still felt: "Brazil and the United States have, by far, the largest modern population in the African diaspora, with approximately 85.5 million and 35.5 million persons respectively. However, several other countries, have smaller, but no less significant communities, such as the United Kingdom, Cuba and Canada," he observed.

Pointing out that there were many reminders of our heritage, Minister Sealy noted that Africa was evident in our festivals, cuisine, language, instruments and even construction methods, such as ???wattle and daub’ and stone carving.

The Acting Prime Minister enunciated that, with Africa as the origin of tools, processes and inventions – such as the microphone, which was developed by James Edward West, "should we not ask: what mirror image do we the members of the African Diaspora have of ourselves? I put it to you, it is one of character, creativity and tenacity.

"In keeping with the conference theme, I hope that by the end of the forum you will fully appreciate Our Freedom and Our Identity and the process of uncovering, recovering and discovering," he said.

Patrice Minors, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry in Bermuda, saluted Barbados’ preservation and celebration of its African heritage and observed that "we anticipate that this conference will indeed, bring renewed focus to the rich histories of the African Diaspora…Eight years is truly a milestone achievement for this conference, starting from such humble beginnings in Bermuda, this cultural summit has grown by leaps and bounds."

She further outlined that: "Bermuda’s former Minister of Tourism, the late David Allen, developed the concept of the African Diaspora Heritage Trail, which aims to appeal to that discerning market segment seeking a culturally enriched vacation experience. More importantly, this event serves as a critical vehicle to strengthen our friendships with the Caribbean and African nations by way of a mutual economical project to promote cultural tourism."

Today’s sessions included presentations from speakers from Barbados, Brazil, Jamaica and the USA.

nekaelia.hutchinson@barbados.gov.bb

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