Monday, November 14, 2016


On the night of November 7, 1841, Madison Washington a 22 year old enslaved African man seized control of the slave ship “Creole” which was transporting him and 134 other enslaved Africans from Virginia to be sold in New Orleans. Washington led a group of 18 other enslaved Africans in seizing control from the White captain and crew of the “Creole.” Washington first demanded that they sail to Liberia then changed that plan to Nassau, Bahamas.
The British had colonized the Bahamas in 1649 and made it a British Crown colony in 1718. Following the successful American rebellion against British rule (1765-1783) some of the British Loyalists had fled to the Bahamas taking the Africans they had enslaved in the USA. Britain abolished slavery on August 1, 1838 after a four year “apprenticeship” for the Africans from August 1, 1834. On November 7, 1841 when the Africans on board the “Creole” seized control of the vessel they first demanded to be taken to Liberia in West Africa. Liberia had been developed as a colony in 1821 by the American Colonization Society to settle formerly enslaved Africans. The American Colonization Society was a group of White people who did not want to share space with Africans who were not enslaved. They felt that all freed Africans should leave the USA and be taken to Africa even though they were born in America as were their ancestors for several generations. Liberia, West Africa was the first choice of resettlement for Madison Washington after seizing control of the “Creole.” Some of the other Africans on board wanted to try for the Bahamas which was much closer. They had heard about the slave ship “Hermosa” which had been shipwrecked in the Bahamas in 1840 and that the enslaved Africans onboard had been set free. On October 22, 1840 the American slave ship “Hermosa” was towed to Nassau, Bahamas with 38 enslaved Africans on board. The Africans were freed once they landed in Nassau because slavery had been abolished by the British six years before.
When the “Creole” landed in Nassau, Washington and his 18 co-conspirators were jailed because they were accused of killing a White man during their bid for freedom on the “Creole.” Inexplicably, of the 135 enslaved Africans on the “Creole” three women, a boy and a girl choose to remain onboard to return to slavery in New Orleans. Several of the people from the “Creole” who escaped slavery choose resettlement in Jamaica. Washington and the 18 people he led during the uprising on the “Creole” were tried and found not guilty. The Admiralty Court of Nassau held a special session in April 1842 to consider the charges. The Court ruled that the men had been illegally held in slavery and had the right to use force to gain their freedom. They were released on April 16, 1842 and disappeared into history. Madison Washington is said to have escaped slavery two years before the “Creole” incident but was recaptured when he returned to the USA to rescue his wife. It has also been said that Washington was reunited with his wife, who according to legend was on the “Creole.” Perhaps Washington and his wife settled in the Bahamas after he was released because there was a substantial free African community in the Bahamas. This free African community had grown after the British abolished the international slave trade in 1807. Thousands of Africans liberated from slave ships by the British Royal Navy were resettled in New Providence, Grand Bahama, Exuma, Abaco, Inagua and other islands in the Bahamas.
The incident of enslaved Africans who rose up and seized their freedom on the “Creole” is regarded as one of the most successful “slave revolts” in American history. Enslaved Africans resisted their enslavement by any means necessary wherever they were enslaved. Africans were enslaved by Europeans in every country in the Americas (Central, North and South) and on the Caribbean islands. Their resistance included sabotage, such as breaking tools or setting fire to buildings and/or crops. They sometimes pretended to be too sick to work, worked as slowly as they could or pretended not to understand instructions. Some enslaved Africans poisoned their enslavers. There were some cases of enslaved Africans accused of poisoning their owners, who were tried and executed. In 1755, a group of enslaved Africans were accused of killing their owner. Phillis an enslaved African woman in Cambridge, Massachusetts was accused of poisoning her owner and executed by being “burned at the stake.” Mark an enslaved African man who was accused of conspiring with Phillis was hanged and his body gibbeted (left on display.) An article published in the September 25, 1755 issue of the “Boston News-Letter” described their execution: "Thursday last were executed at Cambridge, pursuant to their sentences, Mark and Phillis, two Negro Servants belonging to the late Captain John Codman of Charlestown, for poysoning their said Master: They were both drawn from the Prison to the Place of Execution, attended by the greatest Number of Spectators ever known on such an Occasion; where the former was hanged by the Neck until dead, after which the body was Gibbeted; and the latter was burned to Death." In 1681, an enslaved African woman named Maria tried to kill her owner by setting his house on fire. She was convicted of arson and burned at the stake in Roxbury, Boston, Massachusetts. An enslaved African man named Jack, convicted in a separate arson case, was hanged at a nearby gallows and his body was thrown in the fire with Maria’s body as she was burned at the stake.
Slavery in Canada was abolished on August 1, 1834 as elsewhere in British colonized countries at the time. There was no “apprenticeship” period to be served by the emancipated Africans in Canada unlike in the Caribbean. Slavery in the USA was abolished 31 years later in 1865. The history of enslaved Africans is rife with examples of African resistance which led to the end of the practice of enslaving Africans by Europeans. There are many stories naming White abolitionists and hardly is credit given to the Africans who resisted in various ways including armed struggle like the Africans on the “Creole.” The African struggle to end their enslavement is often ignored, underestimated or forgotten. African resistance was documented by Europeans only when there was substantial damage to European interests such as uprisings on slave ships and arson.
The African resistance movement included fleeing plantations and establishing maroon communities (Brazil, Jamaica, Suriname etc.,) from where war was often waged against the Europeans. In Europe, African abolitionists launched or participated in civic movements to end enslavement of Africans. They delivered speeches, provided information, wrote newspaper articles and books. Using various means Africans in Africa, the Caribbean, the Americas and Europe were consistently involved in the struggle to end the slave trade and slavery. The abolition of slavery was very much the result of African resistance and incidents such as the uprising on the “Creole” hastened the end of slavery.
The descendants of those enslaved Africans continue to struggle against the White supremacist cultures in the Americas and Europe. Racial profiling exists in workplaces, educational institutions, housing, policing etc. The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) has recognized that: “As racial stereotyping and discrimination exists in society, it also exists in institutions such as law enforcement agencies, the education system, the criminal justice system etc., which are a microcosm of broader society.” Madison Washington and the other freedom fighters from the “Creole” are lost in history, seldom remembered. There are names of our freedom fighters (including Charles Roach, Dudley Laws, Sherona Hall) that must not be lost, who we must never forget as we continue the struggle.


Research has shown that the sound of a baby crying triggers certain physical reactions including activating parts of the brain involved in fight-or-flight responses. Scientists have found that our brains are hard-wired to respond to the sound of a crying baby making us more attentive and priming our bodies to help whenever we hear it. Reading about the abuse of children can send some people into a frenzy accompanied by thoughts of revenge on the perpetrator as evidenced by some of the posts found on the internet. Children are defenceless, helpless and vulnerable in a society ruled by adults. Many countries have laws in place to protect children and their rights are recognized by the United Nations. On 20 November 1959, the Declaration of the Rights of the Child was adopted unanimously by all 78 Member States of the United Nations General Assembly in Resolution 1386 (XIV). Article # 9 reads that children have: “The right to protection against all forms of neglect, cruelty and exploitation.” Over the decades there has been much progress in detecting and addressing the issue of child abuse.
Children are not the only group in our society that is vulnerable to abuse. The elderly are also defenceless, helpless and vulnerable in many cases even though they are adults. In spite of the fact that many elderly are almost as helpless as children, progress in all areas of research, causes, consequences and interventions of elder abuse has been very slow. According to information on the Canadian ( government website: “One in five Canadians believes they know of a senior who might be experiencing some form of abuse. Seniors from all walks of life are vulnerable to elder abuse and it is happening in communities across Canada.” The website defines elder abuse as: “Elder abuse is any action by someone in a relationship of trust that results in harm or distress to an older person. Neglect is a lack of action by that person in a relationship of trust with the same result. Commonly recognized types of elder abuse include physical, psychological and financial. Often, more than one type of abuse occurs at the same time. Abuse can be a single incident or a repeated pattern of behaviour. Financial abuse is the most commonly reported type of elder abuse.” A few months ago a friend who is a social worker raised the alarm as she told me that elder abuse was on the rise with many elderly people being defrauded of their property and life savings by relatives or people who pretended to be relatives. At the time I thought it was an interesting subject but there were many other interesting subjects to write about. More recently my siblings and I have had to actively deal with that subject as our elderly father was defrauded of his house and land in Guyana by a triumvirate of two women and a man who slithered their way into our father’s life.
Our first inkling that all was not well was a desperate message from my father’s nurse (in Guyana) that an eviction notice on my father’s house and property had been served by a man who lives in New York City. My father had suffered a stroke in 2012 and had made great progress over more than a year of therapy. He travelled back and forth from Canada to Guyana where he has/had a house that was supposed to be a place where he could enjoy months away from the winter each year following his retirement. A nurse lived in my father’s house in Guyana to take care of my father. It was with great shock that we realised that Compton Scipio, a man who lives in New York along with his sister Carlotta Scipio Bowman who lives in Toronto under the alias Carlotta Caesar and her daughter Tamara Bowman who lives in Guyana had colluded to defraud my elderly and vulnerable father of the proceeds of his hard earned life’s work. We could not believe how easily these people had gained possession of my father’s documents including his Canadian passport. The passport was not difficult to recover because after the woman in Guyana refused to return my father’s passport we contacted the Canadian government representative in Guyana who demanded that she surrender the passport to the Canadian embassy or face the consequences.
At first there was denial/disbelief: "You could not just take someone's house; that is impossible!" However, there it was in the Official Gazette of Guyana in black and white; this man who lives in New York City had gained possession of my father's house, his name was on the transport and the date he gained possession, October 10th 2015. I stared in disbelief at the words that meant all the hard work and sacrifices my father had made working his entire youth and adult life to secure his future and his old age had been wiped out by a crooked family. The date now seems to be seared into my memory; this man had fraudulently gained ownership of my elderly father's property (56/57 Atlantic Ville, East Coast Demerara, Guyana) on October 10th 2015.
I was in shock, still am. There have been sleepless nights and tears hoping to wake up from this nightmare. My emotions have vacillated between grief and anger. Various thoughts race through my mind including: How did this happen? It could not be true. Surely no one could be this wicked, this evil to rob an elderly man of the results of years of hard work. Surely Guyana has laws against this kind of fraud/elder abuse. Papa used to be a police officer surely there would be help from a fraud squad. This cannot be happening to my Papa who worked so hard to make provision to ensure comfort in his old age!
Over the past few months I have found that the sound of my elderly father crying triggers certain physical reactions including activating parts of my brain involved in fight responses. I have found that the sound of my elderly father crying triggers thoughts of revenge against the trio who defrauded him of his house. I had seen my father cry twice before; when his mother transitioned (he was her last child and they had a special bond) and when my mother transitioned. This is different, now Papa is defenceless, helpless and vulnerable in a society that does not seem to care about the vulnerability of the elderly.
As of August 31, 2016 my elderly, vulnerable father had to be removed from his house which had been fraudulently obtained by a man who lives in New York City and whose niece and her children now occupy my father's house. It is distressing when he does not sometimes understand that he cannot go back to his house because someone else is living there. I am here in Toronto feeling helpless and just hoping that I do not ever run into the third party of the triumvirate (who lives in Toronto) who stole my father's house. I am not sure I would be able to quietly watch her and not publicly expose her perfidy! I have to hold on to the good thought that “justice will prevail!!”
My father did not survive the shock of having to be moved from his home and one month later he transitioned. He was distressed and I hold Compton Scipio of Far Rockaway New York, Carlotta Scipio Bowman alias Carlotta Caesar of Toronto and Tamara Bowman who now lives in my father's house at 56/57 Atlantic Ville on the East Coast, Demerara, Guyana directly responsible for my father no longer being alive. They stole his house and his life.


“United Nation General Assembly designated October 1, as the International Day of older persons; Guyana has opted the entire month to celebrate and recognise the elderly. The theme this year is ‘Take a stand against ageism.’ According to the World Health Organization (WHO), ageism is stereotyping and discriminating on the basis of person’s age. Ageism is widespread; it is a negative practice which has harmful effects on the health of older adults. The WHO has also posited that older people who feel they are a burden may also perceive their lives to be less valuable, often putting them at risk of depression and social isolation.”
Excerpt from an article entitled “Guyana observes month of the elderly” published in the Guyana daily newspaper “Kaieteur News”
It is ironic that during this Guyanese “Month of the elderly” my elderly father who was a victim of elder abuse and fraud succumbed to the stress and distress of losing his home. My father was in his eighties when he succumbed to the effects of months of distress after being defrauded of his house and land at 56/57 Atlantic Ville, East Coast Demerara. My parents were married when my mother was in her late teens and my father in his early 20s. My mother transitioned many years ago so my siblings and I only had one parent since we were all very young.
My father had worked since he was a teenager; he joined the Guyana Police force in the 1950s where he served on the coastland and in the Rupununi. He resigned from the force and moved to Canada where he returned to school to attain Canadian qualifications. My father worked for decades in Canada planning to retire and divide his time between Canada and Guyana. To that end he saved his money and built a house at Atlantic Ville on the East Coast of Demerara. He rented out his house at Atlantic Ville while living in Canada. Upon retirement he divided his time between his home in Atlantic Ville and Canada. In March 2012 my father suffered a massive stroke which left him incapacitated. He spent eight months in hospital in Canada recovering which included speech therapy and physical therapy. He made tremendous progress and within a year was walking but never regained all his faculties. Papa had excellent penmanship which I always admired but could never imitate try as I might. Following the stroke he could no longer write legibly and his speech deteriorated because there was no speech therapy follow up while he was in Guyana.
My father was at his house in Guyana when disaster as we could not even imagine struck in the form of Compton Scipio who lives in Far Rockaway, New York, Scipio’s sister Carlotta Scipio Bowman (who lives in Toronto under the assumed name Carlotta Caesar) and her daughter Tamara Bowman who lives in Guyana. In August 2015 Compton Scipio (who had several aliases when he lived in Guyana) traveled to Guyana and somehow obtained what he alleges is my father’s thumbprint on a document transferring ownership of my father’s house and land at 56-57 Atlantic Ville to Scipio. By some devious sleight of hand Scipio became the proud owner of 56-57 Atlantic Ville on October 10, 2015. A mere two months passed between August 2015 when Scipio visited Guyana and bamboozled my elderly, vulnerable father and October 2015 when Scipio’s name was registered in the Guyana Gazette as the owner of 56-57 Atlantic Ville. Sometime between August 2015 and December 2015 Scipio’s niece Tamara Bowman who lived at Martin Luther King Housing Scheme in Berbice was in possession of my father’s Canadian passport and his pension book. She was using these documents to gain possession of my father’s pension and doling out groceries at her whim to feed my father. While we waited to sort out this catastrophic situation my siblings and I had to financially support our father. We had to contact the Canadian government authorities in Guyana to recover my father’s Canadian passport from Bowman. To add insult to injury my father was no longer allowed to live in his house as of August 31, 2016. As of September 1, 2016 Tamara Bowman, Scipio’s niece and her brood of four children have been occupying my father’s house at 56-57 Atlantic Ville while my father lived in my brother’s house (his eldest son) in Berbice.
During this Guyanese “Month of the elderly” my siblings and I travelled to Guyana to lay our father to rest. We are left to mourn Papa. As I shared my memories of my father in the eulogy I had prepared I looked across the podium into the eyes of Carlotta Scipio Bowman alias Carlotta Caesar who lives under an assumed name in Toronto, Canada. We had heard rumours that the woman was in the country; then there were reports of sightings of this woman in Berbice. I could not fathom that she would be so disrespectful and presumptuous as to crash my father’s funeral. Yet there she was where she had positioned herself to ensure that she was highly visible surrounded by the father of her children and her daughter Tamara Bowman who now occupies my father’s house at 56-57 Atlantic Ville with her brood. Summoning almost superhuman self-control I shared with the mourners in the church my memories of my father and controlled the impulse to sob out my anger and frustration at the sight of two of the three people I hold responsible for my father’s passing. There was some drama after the church service and I am forever grateful to my youngest sibling Ingvar who “had my back” during that trying time. He was beside me, his arm around me ready to take on anyone in my defence. I firmly believe my father had many more years to live if he was not distressed and stressed by members of an evil notorious (Scipio) family who defrauded him of his hard earned livelihood. My father comes from a family known for longevity. His grandfather Kelly Murphy Jonas (after whom my father and I are named) was over a hundred years old when he transitioned. Some of my father’s relatives are still going strong in their 90s.
I spoke about Papa’s love of storytelling, his artistic bent, his effervescent personality. Papa was an extravagantly handsome, charming man who would light up a room with his laughter. He was always impressively, immaculately dressed (pants creased sharply, shoes with mirror like shine) He had a wonderful singing voice but would frequently forget the words of songs; he would never let that stop him from singing! As a child I thought the sun rose and set in my Papa. I could hardly contain myself as my brothers and nephews laid his casket into the tomb. I knew he was gone; I had seen him at the mortuary as they were transferring him to the funeral home. As I talked to him and touched him he was so cold that I lost control of my usual calm. At the cemetery as he was laid to rest amidst his ancestors, his siblings and various other relatives I felt some comfort that he was in a familiar place. There are generations of Papa’s family throughout the cemetery in the village where he was born on the Corentyne Coast. The village was established by Africans after slavery in Guyana was abolished through a four year process from August 1, 1834 to August 1, 1838. I had heard stories from Papa about his grandfather who is still famously remembered as “Pa Kelly/Big Jonas.” I will ensure that my grandchildren and great-grandchildren know about my Papa who is gone but will never be forgotten.
We left Papa peacefully laying with his “generation.” My father was the youngest of his parents’ children and the last to transition. I read some of the tombstones, sometimes surprised at familiar names and dates of birth. I am back in Toronto occasionally weepy, numb, distracted, distraught, moody, angry, missing the first important man in my life, my father, my Papa.