Yesterday I joined Valerie (founder of Jacaranda) to the 246th anniversary of Phillis Wheatley’s visit to London near Dorsett City Station. The sunny and head-throbbing heat of yesterday was a good one. As the finger-foods and water and wine were served, many interesting people gave speeches on Phillis Wheatley’s legacy and the determination she gives black people across Britain, and all the way to the US.
One of the things that stood out for me in the plaque release was a woman representing the US Embassy. One of the first things she said was that she didn’t want to be introduced as a representative of the US government, which in my sense of humour, was the first joke of the event. But another thing she said that stuck me was that she believes Phillis Wheatley is a black historical figure more empowered in memory in Britain, than in the US. I found this interesting, because when I first wanted to satisfy my curiosity on my history, so called African-Americans were the first black figures I came across. Years after that, I characterised America as the hub for acknowledgment of black people. So to hear someone on the other side of the coin say the opposite of what I’ve thought for many years was thought-provoking.
The event was accompanied by students from Canons High School too, who brought an array of poetry dedicated to Phillis. I wasn’t a stranger to why a group of young people in identical red and black uniforms were at a plaque reveal, but their performance of their poems made the crowd even more joyful with the quality of their poems.
All in all, the event was a joyous success. I appreciate Tony Warner who organises the black history walks to enlighten the black diaspora on our part in history which is too often ignored.