The following article was written by Fred Brooks, a member of our Facebook group Afro-Heritage of Panama. We loved it as it embodies the same sense of urgency we feel about recognizing the contributions of our Silver People of Panama. We thank Mr. Brooks for permitting us to reprint his essay here on our Chronicle. Please read it and share with as many people as possible.
On Who’s Backs
by Fred Brooks
Panamanian West Indians, are forever carved into history. We have all heard and seen the Flintstones caricature, hell we were entertained by it, well wow; have you ever heard of the Canal stones? It’s that stone that was at times dug out physically by human hands, by hands that remain in the deep crevices of one of the “Greatest Wonders” of the universe.
Each one of those Canal stones bears a face, and has the palm print of a human being that was either taken there, convinced to go there, driven by a need a to survive in a different way, and by necessity to earn a living for their families. These Canal stones can be unequivocally, genealogically traced back to someone that is at best two generations past; bearing a slave name like: Joseph, Braithwaite, Calendar, Johnson, Lindsay, Lord, Best, Parris, Welch, Jordan, Johns, Worrell, Blades, Archer, Hilton, Ford, Bennett, Thomas, Wilson, Williams; just to mention a few.
Many of us have scars that will remain. Scars that not even the most renowned plastic surgeon can hide, scars that have been made part of our genetic make up, scars that we must ensure gets passed down truthfully, forever, for this world must never forget the Panamanian West Indians. We are a nonpareil people, we are without equal. History tried to show that other cultures were instrumental in this endeavor, the French and Chinese; but make no mistake; it was built off our West Indian ancestors backs.
It is difficult for me, when I return to our birth place, specifically the communities where some of us where raised; to include but not limited to: Paraiso, Gamboa, Pedro Miguel, Rainbow City, Rio Abajo, Juan Diaz, Colon, Parque Lefevre, Chorillo, Santa ana, Calidonia, Barraza, and for most of our parents Red Tank, La Boca and San Miguel. Communities where it could easily be inferred, that our ancestors were temporarily given the privilege to reside.
This was the same divisive privilege that created a divide to this day; to make us believe, that some of us based on location where better than others. Wow, it was all a chess game and we were the pawns, that never stayed in the game, however were issued a privilege card; wow. Even though these communities to me where like an oasis, they sheltered us for the most part from certain unpleasantries. These communities will always have a distinct smell of a unique type of sweat, a special type of blood, and the sound of a cry of a special breed of people. Even though we cannot color a thought or touch and emotion; the varied indescribable mixture of chilling but thrilling emotions we will always be able to relate to, is because they were passed down vicariously to us by a proud, back breaking, particular people purposely forever. Remember, forever is a mighty long time.
Think of the size and depth of history that; neither historians, politicians, pathologist, cardiologist, nor seismologist; will ever be able to take away from us, the Panamanian West Indian people. They cannot reach our souls, because it’s impelled from within, introduced by a gradual persistence; it was poured in drip by drip-drop by drop.
I can only imagine, because knowledge is limited and imagination is limitless; what it was like living in the condition our ancestors where forced to live under. I cannot begin to conceive the pain and suffering they had to endure, the magnitude of degradation they went through, but through that process, came us; a defined intermediate product. Well folks, it’s time to leave our mark, our legacy, our crater!
Let there be no doubt, there is only one thing that will allow us to fully enjoy every second of our remaining lives; that is wellness and health. I am on it, working out effectively hard, efficiently smart, and tastefully nourishing my body from the inside out.
W.H.E.L.I.O. Work Hard, Enjoy Life, Inspire Others…Remember this it is coming your way soon.
This story continues.