News / USA

Students Try to Save Slave Island in Sierra Leone

Students heading for Bunce Island, Sierra Leone
Students heading for Bunce Island, Sierra Leone

Some former slave ports in Africa are now tourist destinations, but not Bunce Island in Sierra Leone. It's abandoned and its slave castle is in ruins.

The British established Bunce Island as a slave port in the 1670s.

From here, thousands of West Africans were sent in chains to rice fields in the American south.  

Planters from colonies in South Carolina and Georgia were willing to pay extra for the expertise of the rice growers, captured on West Africa's rice coast, stretching from what is now Senegal to Liberia.

Journalists, students, staff and teachers from the Fatima Institute, in Makeni, Sierra Leone, recently decided it was time for them to look into this history themselves.

They traveled in a cramped four by four on a route that included driving on railroad tracks, and then getting on a pirogue (boat).

They broadcast their journey into history live on their radio station back in Makeni, via cell phone.

One teacher, Boniface Sidiki Kamara, expressed concern at how difficult it was to get to the island.  He compared it unfavorably to a trip he made to tourist sites in Europe. "I remember when I went to Italy, I saw the grave, the tomb of Saint Francis of Assisi. You could see thousands of people lining up just to go pay and see this place," he said.

The live commentary of their trip continued from the leaky pirogue, with one student David Ngobeh being handed the phone. "Oh, Charles, this is quite impressive," he said.

After several hours, the group finally arrived, tired but reenergized.  For most, it was their first time on an island they had read about in textbooks and even dreamed about as a link to the rest of the world.

They said the slave history tying Sierra Leone to Europe and the United States was not shameful, but instead a source of pride.

They all expressed disappointment that their own government was not doing more to conserve the island.

"It tells you about man's inhumanity to man, I mean, the cruelty of man, the evil side of our own nature as human beings. But also it tells you about the resilience of the human spirit, that I mean people survived after being shipped from this place. Because of slavery, because of this experience, so many people came out and they have done good to our world," said Reverend Joe Turay from the Fatima Institute.

Turay said turning the island into a tourist spot also could help Sierra Leone overcome its own painful past, following years of civil war. "This takes us to the new discourse of human rights. There are various forms of injustices happening in our situation, in our country, in our context today.  The slave island should serve as a symbol, as a symbol of resistance, a symbol of the fight against injustices," he said.

At the end of the visit, the group broke out in impromptu singing, feeling very much connected to world history and hoping others could also feel some of their emotions for this abandoned, but not forgotten, place.

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid