STATEMENT BY H.E. EDWARD TURAY, SIERRA LEONE HIGH COMMISSIONER AT BLACK HISTORY EVENT, HOUSE OF PARLIAMENT ORGANISED BY T.T.F

Statement by His Excellency Edward Turay at the Black History Month Event organised by TONY FERNANDEZ At the British House of Commons – London 26th October 2016

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Good Evening;

I. OPENINIG

It is indeed a great pleasure and an honour for me to be here today to celebrate Black History Month with all of you.

While living in forced political exile in the United States of America, I was fortunate to become acutely aware of the importance of celebrating Black History Month. Thus I wholeheartedly commend my good friend, Tony, for promoting today’s initiative.

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I am gratified to see that through the celebration of Black History Month, the contributions made by peoples of African descent throughout the world, continue to be remembered and honoured.

When discussing the importance of Black History Month, inevitably the legacy of slavery still holds a haunting place in our collective memory. For Africans residing in the Diaspora, especially those in the United Kingdom and America, it is an opportunity to understand the impact of slavery on the lives of those of African descent, and how this experience has impacted their perceptions about the continent of Africa and its peoples.

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II. TRANS ATLANTIC SLAVE TRADE AND Sa. LEONE.

I will now limit me to brief commentary on the nexus of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade and Sierra Leone.

A). Sierra Leone slave experience

Sierra Leone is a country in West Africa, that is bordered by Guinea to the north and east, Liberia to the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west and southwest. It covers a total area of approximately 72, 000 km 2 (28,000 sq mi) [ and has a population of 6.5 million ]

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European contacts within Sierra Leone were among the first in West Africa. In 1462, Portuguese explorer Pedro da Cintra mapped the hills surrounding what is now Freetown Harbour, naming shaped formation Serra de Leão (Portuguese for Lion Mountains). The Italian rendering of this geographic formation is Sierra Leone, which became the country's name.

Soon after Portuguese traders arrived they were joined by the Dutch and French; all of them using Sierra Leone as a trading point for slaves. In 1562, the English joined the trade in human beings when Sir John Hawkins shipped 300 enslaved people, acquired 'by the sword and partly by other means', to the new colonies in America.

Between about 1750 and 1800, Bance Island in Sierra Leone was one of the major slave trading operations on the Rice Coast of West Africa. Bance Island (now Bunce) is located in

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the Sierra Leone River about twenty miles above modern Freetown. It is a small island, only one-third of a mile long and uninhabited today, but in the days of the Atlantic slave trade it was an economically strategic point. Because Bance Island was at the limit of navigability for ocean-going vessels, it was the natural meeting place for European slave traders arriving in large sailing ships and African traders following the rivers down

from the interior.

As early as 1672 the Royal African Company of England established a commercial fort on Bance Island, also concentrated heavily on supplying slaves to one particular market—Charlestown, South Carolina where local rice planters were eager to purchase slaves from Sierra Leone and the neighboring areas.

It should be noted that In 1787 the British helped 400 freed slaves from the United States, Nova Scotia, and Great Britain return to Sierra Leone to settle in what they called the "Province of Freedom. This settlement was joined by other groups of freed slaves and soon became known as Freetown.

In 1792, Freetown became one of Britain's first colonies in West Africa. Thousands of slaves were returned to or liberated in Freetown.

Most chose to remain in Sierra Leone. These returned Africans- or Krio as they came to be called– were from all areas of Africa. Cut off from their homes and traditions by the experience of slavery, they assimilated some aspects of British styles of life and built a flourishing trade on the West African coast.

A). Effects and Legacy of Sierra Leone slave experience

Sierra Leone was not immune to the dastardly effects of the slave trade. The effects included:

Loss of population:

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 Millions of Africans were lost. The strong, fit, young individuals were mostly desired.

Society was disrupted:

 Tribal wars were frequent

 Laws were changed, making crimes punishable by slavery

 People felt insecure

 Little development or modernization took place

Cities were destroyed:

 Population in cities decreased as people fled the cities to avoid being captured

 Without cities civilization suffers It was dangerous to live in large groups

Africans were looked upon as inferior:

 Africa was seen as a source of cheap labour

 Blacks were thought of as being less intelligent

Overall Impact:

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Slavery destroyed our civilization, which is a root cause of the underdevelopment of the continent of Africa today. No society can afford losing its youth for four hundred years without paying an enormous price.

During a ceremony to commemorate the 220 th anniversary of Britain’s banning of the trade in slaves from Africa, Ghana’s former President John Kufor noted that: “ . . .through this dark era of human history, the…human spirit…could not be broken," he said. He added: "Man should never descend to such low depths of inhumanity to man as the slave trade ever again."

At the same ceremony South Africa’s jazz legend Hugh Masakela blamed the slave trade for Africa’s current economic and social woes:

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"We have seen the manipulation, the impoverishment of Africa…That is [proof of] the effects of slavery… There is no price, no price for what has been done,"

British Prime Minister Tony Blair sent a recorded message expressing "deep sorrow and regret" for Britain's role in the slave trade.

III. CONCLUSION

In concluding, I again commend TONY for promoting today’s initiative and thereby providing us an opportunity to remember and honour the memory of our people, as we often say in Sierra Leone, “If you do not know where you came from, you  sure won’t know where you are going.

Thank you for your attention.

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About Tony Tokunbo Eteka Fernandez

Tony Tokunbo Eteka Fernandez is an International Award Winner, Published Author & Poet, Broadcast Journalist, MC and Youth Empowerment Consultant . He is also The CEO of AFRICA4U and The Founder of Africans in The Diaspora People also see him as a Cultural and Social entrepreneur, which means he is skilled in working with many different communities, bringing people together in successful focused events. Tony has organised many cultural events …involving both BME and mainstream communities. He is skilled in hosting events that reinforce community cohesion and bringing different kinds of people together. He has organised events in The UK, The U.S.A, Holland, Germany, Eastern Europe and Nigeria and has visited over 18 European Countries. Tony has also organised The Black History Month Celebrations at The UK House of Parliament for three years in a row (2013,2014 and 2015). He continues to promote the true life and success stories of Africans in Europe and Africans around the world and has organised several small scale literary and awards initiatives aimed at empowering young people. He has also spent time as an International broadcaster and was The Producer and Presenter for AFRICA4U International Radio Talk Show at Reading4u Radio Station for nearly three years. Tony has interviewed high profile Members of Parliament, Distinguished celebrities and some of Africas best musicians including Ivonne Chaka Chaka and Kanda Bongoman. He has also been a guest on BBC Radio on numerous occasions to discuss the community cohesion events he organises at UK House of Parliament and also to recite some of his published work in memory of Nelson Mandela, 50 Years Anniversary of The race relations act and major community issues. Tony has also a Guest on popular Radio stations in Nigeria and The States In the last few years he has been very passionate about Youth empowerment, community cohesion and cultural intelligence. Tony was born in South London and has lived in several parts of England and Nigeria . He started writing at the tender age of nine, a habit he expressed with creative enthusiasm. Tony writes Poetry, short stories and proverbs on personal development. He is currently working on his 4th book which will also be his first novel. He is also into Public Speaking at Special events and Social functions and is a Mentor for young people in the UK Community. He completed a Bachelor of Arts degree at The University of Lagos, Nigeria in English and World Literature. He later went on to attain a teaching qualification at The Frances King International Training Institute, South Kensington London, it was here he studied Teaching English as a Foreign Language. He also studied Web Design at The City University in London. He published his first book in June 1999 called “The Beauty in the Dark” (A Collection of Poetry which received critical acclamation in many circles around the world). .Tony’s aim in life is to inspire the young generation and to encourage the youth to make the very best of their dreams and aspirations,. He published a 2nd book in June 2009 called ” The Sound of Running Water” – A Family gift book of proverbs and quotations on Personal Development and Positive Thinking . In December 2009, he published his 3rd book called “One Moment of Peace”.- A collection of Poetry inspired by personal experiences and spiritual growth. Besides the fact that the Artist has won International online awards, he is mostly inspired by Life experience, love, music and cultural awareness. He was Resident Poet at the 5th London Poetry Festival in 2009 and has been a guest on BBC Radio on very many occassions including The famous Anne Diamond Show. He has also been a guest on a few SKY TV stations and several International Radio Stations around The World On Wednesday the 30th of October 2013, Tony Tokunbo Fernandez organised his biggest event ever- The Black History Month Celebration at the House of Parliament. The Special Guest on the day was The Minister for Sports and Equalities MP Helen Grant and Key Community Ambassadors in The Black Community
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