Governor-General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Professor Kenneth Hall, has said that African slaves should be credited with the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.
The Governor-General was bringing a message to commemorate the bicentennial of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade at the signature event for the Caribbean Canadian Literary Expo (CCLE), which honoured acclaimed Barbadian-born author Austin Clarke, in Toronto, Canada.
“We salute our ancestors who undermined and destabilized the system of slavery and oppression; our indefatigable predecessors who, against all odds, fought something which seemed impenetrable and impossible to defeat; a system which seemed invincible and inviolable,” Professor Hall told the audience on Thursday, June 7, at the Toronto Reference Library.
The Governor-General stated that “our ancestors, who survived the Middle Passage, fought courageously so that we could be free. We celebrate the gallantry, the heroism, the tenacity of our ancestors whose faith enabled them to burst through the prism of racial oppression and degradation imposed by chattel slavery.”
Professor Hall said the commemoration of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, is necessary because “the ancestors of slaves are survivors who have crossed many rivers and have been down many valleys, but have always risen to the top.it is that history of struggle, resistance, creativity and daring, which gives us the confidence that we can face the future as conquerors and not as wimps. That is what we celebrate when we mark the Bicentenary.”
Professor Hall thanked the literary artists for not allowing the world to move on and forget about Africa. “You have stubbornly refused to be silenced or intellectually castrated or circumcised. You have raised your voices loudly in the literary pages against centuries of dehumanization, marginalization and oppression.”
Mr. Clarke was being honoured for his more than 40 years as an author who has won many awards for his novels and short stories, including: ‘Growing up Stupid Under the Union Jack’, ‘When Women Rule’, ‘Nine Men Who Laughed’, ‘Pigtails n’ Breadfruit: The Rituals of Slave Food’ and his most recent novel, ‘The Polished Hoe’.
Trinidadian author Earl Lovelace, in presenting the CCLE Award to Mr. Clarke, described him as a “brother and a warrior” who has uncovered a language, depth and integrity of a people.
Jamaica’s Consul General to Toronto Anne-Marie Bonner who is also Chair of the CCLE Board, said the literary expo, under the theme ‘Word Waves’, has encouraged the sharing of the different languages of the Caribbean on the same stage.
The Consul General noted that Toronto has a nurturing literary environment and every culture has a corner in the city that is distinctly its own.
“It is the diversity that gives it this flavour, the diversity of nations, ethnicity and language, that the Caribbean shares with Canada. As we search for our voice and self-identity, as our ancestors did when they were displaced and brought to the West Indies, the process has contributed to the richness of our literary expressions.”
Thanking the CCLE’s sponsors and partners for helping to showcase the Caribbean’s literary works, Ms. Bonner said that through their support the Expo has been able to reach students, young people and a broad Canadian audience with its multitude of programming.
The Expo highlighted four generations of Caribbean writers and books at various book launches, book readings, storytelling sessions, workshops and discussions, across the Greater Toronto Area.