Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Floyd Green, says he wants more structures built in Black River, St. Elizabeth, similar to the Zong Monument, to serve as tangible reminders of the African ancestors and the town’s significant place in the country’s history.
The Zong Monument was constructed to remember those who lost their lives in the Zong Massacre of 1781, when, during the journey from the western coast of Africa to Black River, on the Zong slave ship, 132 of the 440 African slaves were thrown overboard to lighten the vessel.
On returning to Britain, the captain of the ship filed an insurance claim for loss of property since the enslaved Africans were seen as property and cargo.
Minister Green, who is the Member of Parliament for South West St. Elizabeth, said he is seeking to embark on a programme “to do more work around the Zong, more work around ensuring that each time you come to the town of Black River, you know that this is part of our history.”
“I want us to spend the next few years building up, in and around Black River, the sort of edifices that are needed to tell the story of the Zong, but not just the Zong. We need to tell the story of the slaves, the story of the Jamaican people… about how we have persevered since slavery,” he added.
He was addressing a webinar on Tuesday (Dec. 22) to commemorate the Zong Massacre.
Minister Green noted that this would be crucial “in better telling our own story and ensuring that the stories are not told from the other side of history”.
“Despite the passage of time, the story of the Zong is still relevant and I think, for me, what came out during all the presentations (is that) it is a story that’s based on inequality, it’s a story that’s based on the struggle of black people, it’s a story that is based on what we need to do to change the world,” he said.
He commended the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, in collaboration with the National Council on Reparation (NCR), for hosting the webinar, noting that such events help in continuing to tell the stories of the country’s history and the lessons learnt.
Portfolio Minister, Hon. Olivia Grange, for her part, said that the Zong Massacre is “one of the most horrific incidents suffered by our African ancestors at the hands of white colonial mercenaries and oppressors as part of the trans-Atlantic trade in Africans”.
“The incident reinforces the general sentiment that the transatlantic trade must be seen as a crime against humanity. These historic gestures of racism and racial discrimination showed that slavery rendered African people as property and less than human,” she noted.
Ms. Grange said she salutes the heroes of Africa for their “resilience…their sacrifice, their willingness to live as well as to die so that we, their children, would not only be free today but also be conscious of their heroism and proud of their African ancestry.”
“I am committed to working with all (stakeholders) to ensure reparations, to ensure that we get the respect worldwide and to ensure that as a nation, Jamaica can be proud of its black ancestry as its legacy,” she said.
Earlier that day, Ministers Green and Grange participated in a floral tribute at the Zong Monument.
During the webinar, entitled: ‘Lessons in Racial Discrimination: The Journey Continues’, presentations were made by Chairman of the NCR, Laleta Davis-Mattis; Professor of History at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, Director of the Centre of Reparations Research at UWI, and NRC member, Professor Verene Shepherd; and President of the Universal Negro Improvement Association in Jamaica (UNIA), and NRC member, Steven Golding.
Specially invited guests from overseas, Barrister, United Nations Fellow and community activist, Ife Thompson; and Attorney, United Nations Fellow, artist, human rights expert and author, Marissa Jackson Sow, also made presentations.
The first segment of the webinar was moderated by State Minister in the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Hon. Alando Terrelonge.
The commemoration of the Zong Massacre is within the context of Jamaica observing the International Decade for the People of African Descent, declared by the United Nations.