Thursday, 31 March 2011

Reminder: Virtual Sports Day on Saturday

Ready, Set, Go!  Don’t forget to post your athletic photos tomorrow.

Calling all athletes come showcase your stuff
No water boys or bat boys, just the ones who score
Kickers, receivers, high jumpers, skaters and more
Post your pics;  not for fame nor glory
Just for fellow Antoines to love and adore

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

St. Francis of Assisi Church and Antoine Connection

The Belmont Antoines are Roman Catholics and attended mass and other religious services at the St. Francis of Assisi church on Belmont Valley Road.  The church was completed in 1902 and official records state that it’s limestone most likely came from “the quarries that operated in Laventille”. We also discovered that some of that stone came from the Antoine yard delivered personally by Papa. No wonder the church was so beautiful!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Belmont and Free Africans

In Trinidad, we call Belmont home. Belmont is a suburb of the capital, Port-of-Spain, lying on the eastern side of the city at the foot of the Laventille Hills. It is an area known for narrow streets and winding lanes with houses sitting close together. Belmont's development essentially began in the 1840's and 1850's when the British Royal Navy started to stop illegal slave ships and rescued the captured Africans who were on these ships. There is reason to believe that Robert Antoine would have been on one of these ships. The rescued Africans settled in Belmont which at the time was on the outskirts of the city's boundary. The map above shows where the various Africans settled. The sketch of the compound refers to the Antoine compound.

In the 1880's and 1890's the population of Belmont increased significantly as the black professional class began to build large homes in the area. Many of these homes survive to the present either as residences or business places and Belmont is one area in Trinidad where it is easy to see the varied architectural styles of the late 19th and early 20th century.

The sketch came from Andrew Carr's book, "A Rada Community in Belmont".

Monday, 28 March 2011

We've Come a Long Way

Look how far we have come? Not too long ago many of our relatives were called pejorative names, teased or ostracized because of the African rituals they practiced. Even the local Catholic priest discriminated against us on a number of occasions. A few family members also consciously distanced themselves from this part of their heritage due to ignorance or embarrassment. However, if the Trinidad and Tobago government can acknowledge Robert Antoine on a plaque on Piccadilly Street it’s time for us to reclaim our pride in our name, ancestors and heritage! 

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Tribute to Robert Antoine on Piccadilly Street

Here’s a sign in Yoruba Village, Port-of-Spain paying tribute to our Robert Antoine as the pioneer of free Africans who came to Trinidad. The village is on Piccadilly Street and this is what the plaque says:
For many years during the 19th century a part of east Port-of-Spain was known as Yarraba Village or Yarraba Town. This was so because of the large population of Yarraba speaking people who were to be found in this section of the City of Port-of-Spain. The Yarraba People or Free Africans had come originally from the West Coast of Africa.  Taken by slave traders from their homes they had been liberated at sea by British Navy who in the period after 1838 operated a blockade against the slave trade. They were brought to Trinidad where they were landed as free people. They formed societies for their protection and well-being and maintained most of its important elements. The pioneer of their family in Trinidad was Acojori Zahwru, who when he arrived in Trinidad adopted a French name of Robert Antoine. He was born in Dahomey in 1800 and was among the last group of African immigrants to come to Trinidad. He arrived here in 1855 and lived to a great age.

A special thank you to Andre Antoine and Kendall Millington for bringing this to our attention.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Vivian Baptiste

Here's Vivian Baptiste, son of Anthony and Irene Baptiste. Uncle Sedley described Vivian as the head drummer for our family’s rituals in one newspaper interview. Vivian owned a small shop across from Albert Lane on Belmont Valley Road. I was a regular customer of Vivian's shop; purchasing candy on my way home from school. Unfortunately, he is no longer with us.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Virtual Sports Day on Saturday, April 2

Calling all athletes come showcase your stuff
No water boys or bat boys, just the ones who score
Kickers, receivers, high jumpers, skaters and more
Post your pics;  not for fame nor glory
Just for fellow Antoines to love and adore

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Trinidad and Tobago a Jeopardy Category!

Our beautiful island, Trinidad and Tobago, was a category on the game show Jeopardy. The episode was aired on February 2, 2011. How many questions would you have answered correctly?

Papa loved Cricket!

Today the West Indies Cricket team will take on Pakistan for a semi-final spot in the World Cup. A few of our ancestors, especially Papa, will be cheering for the Windies. Our Papa was a huge cricket fan and in particular of the West Indian allrounder Garry Sobers. This is best demonstrated by the fact that he documented Roberts’ statistics in the same notebook as he recorded the family’s births, deaths, and other important events. The above photo shows a page from the said notebook in Papa’s handwriting! Notice just above Garry Sobers’ record is his mother’s maiden name and the year she came from Africa. Garry Sobers deserves to be declared an honourary Antoine!

Uncle Sedley shared Papa’s passion for cricket and continued to play late in his life for a Montreal team. Sedley even requested to be buried with his bat. The family had a cricket club called Spartan. Practices were held in the empty field across the street from the family compound, their meetings were held in the tent and they played at the Savannah every Sunday. I’m told that Spartan was quite a good team. Its members included Papa, Uncles Sedley and Theophilus; and the women’s team included my mother, Empress.

I know we have elite football/soccer players (and entrepreneurs), basketball and hockey players. And others, I’m sure. Who’s our current cricket star? Let’s have an online sports day to showcase our athletes! 

Monday, 21 March 2011

Tribute to Gloria by Yoruba/Orisa Group

It’s now 2 months since our dear Gloria passed away. Here’s a tribute which was posted by a Yoruba/Orisa group Gloria was involved with. The article also includes some family history. FYI-Agba means elder in Yoruba. Not sure why we are referred to as the Dangbe Comme community. If you know, please inform us.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

In 1966, The United Nations proclaimed March 21st as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. This day honours the lives of anti-apartheid demonstrators who were killed by police on March 21, 1960 in Sharpeville, South Africa.
On 21 March 1960 at least 180 black Africans were injured (there are claims of as many as 300) and 69 killed when South African police opened fire on approximately 300 demonstrators, who were protesting against the pass laws to start at the beginning of April 1960.
The pass laws required non-whites to carry pass books with them when outside their compounds or designated areas. Failure to produce your pass resulted in arrest and any white person, every a child, could ask to see your pass.
By 10 in the morning almost 5,000 protesters had congregated in the centre of Sharpeville, from where they walked to the police compound. . Only 300 or so protesters were still in the vicinity when the shooting started (this means, however, that the police managed to shoot almost all those near to the compound).
The Sharpeville Massacre, as the event has become known, signalled the start of armed resistance in South Africa, and prompted worldwide condemnation of South Africa's Apartheid policies.
Our family is a great example of not just racial tolerance but racial harmony; just take a look of the vintage and contemporary photos! Let’s continue to be a positive example!

Saturday, 19 March 2011

500 Days to Go!

It is 500 days to August 1, 2012 and it’s time those of us who have to cross the Atlantic to get serious with our budgets. I don't have a money tree so I have to budget for the Family Reunion. Do consider the duration of your trip and how many family members you are financially responsible for. The most cost effective plan is to stay with family members. But if family stay is not available; there are accommodation options to fit every budget- hotel, motel or guest house. If you reserve about 11 months in advance, you can get a great price on a room. I was able to get a room at the Hilton Hotel for USD$139 for this year’s carnival by booking early. Start doing your research around August or September this year. Similarly, book and pay for your airfare early. Not only will you get a better price but it seems less painful by the time you travel.

Finally, think of the little things that you can cut back on. Spring cleaning in a few weeks? Consider having a yard or garage sale. What can you sell on eBay, craigslist or kijiji? Subtly suggesting cash for birthday and Christmas gifts.

It’s early enough and with some creative budgeting you may only need to save about $2 per day to be in Trinidad 2012! See you there!

Anthony and Irene Baptiste

Here are photos of Anthony Baptiste – son of Louisa Antoine, sister of Abojevi Zahwenu/Robert Antoine/Papa Nanee and his wife Irene whom we all call Mama Irene, I believe that Louisa had 2 children, Anthony and Julian. Julian suffered from epilepsy and died in his late 20s or early 30s.  Anthony, who was known as Da and Mama Irene had 5 children – Vivian, Vernon, Clifford, Lincoln, and Rita (Cox). Vivian is no longer with us. But Clifford and Vernon live in the US. Rita and Lincoln still live in Belmont. I understand that Clifford has some health issues and our thoughts and prayers are with him and the rest of the family.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Strange Omen! Ronnie and Caro and Japan

Strange omen! Ronnie and Caro also launched their band Survivors on October 23, 2010 in Japan. And yes there was a section called Earthquake and another called Tsunami!

Sweet, Sweet Trinidad and Tobago

With all the chaos going on in the world right now it's a perfect time to pause to remember what a beautiful country we have. All the best things to do and see in Trinidad and Tobago are included in this video. How many can you recognize? I can’t wait for next August!

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Today is St. Patrick’s Day and we share some history with the Irish. The British forcefully enslaved both Irish and the Scottish people. Prior to 1619 (beginning of the African slave trade) the Battle of Kinsale between the Irish and the English resulted in some 30,000 military prisoners, in which they created an official policy of banishment. The policy would mean slavery for the Irish and the Scottish in the Americas.  The white slaves were of very fair complexion and did not do well in the sun so it was in the slave masters interest to make sure the African slaves and the Irish/Scottish slaved procreated. European slavery ended in the late 17th century but between 1600 to 1699, more Irish and Scotts were sold as slaves than Africans. The Irish slaves were cheaper and were treated worse than the Africans.  Only after the African Slave trade had become more profitable did the Irish and Scottish became Indentured servants and given an option to earn their freedom.  
As a result of this slave trade the Caribbean has a large amount of people of Celtic and African descent, including Antigua, Nevis, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and most noticeable on the Island of Montserrat where it has the highest population of redheads outside of Ireland, it is also known as the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean.  In Barbados they are called "red legs" because they arrived in kilts and their legs were sun burnt and later was red from the number of beatings they got from the British. It is also reported that a number of freed Africicans also owned white slaves.
Because of this history it is common for some people to have Celtic last names (e.g., Marcus Garvey) throughout the Caribbean.  
Most Irish slaves died within a few years and the small number of survivors did not speak of their slavery experience. In Trinidad, historians report that the poorer Irish people settled and built a community of their own in and around Patna, Deigo Martin, Kelly Village, Caroni and Manzanilla.
At Patna there were the Hinds, Harris, and Toyers families. At Kelly Village there was the Kelly family, after whom the village was named. The Kernahans lived at Manzanilla and were responsible for the village called Kernahan, which is close to Mayaro.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011


Abojevi Zahwenu/Robert Antoine/Papa Nanee lived in the coastal city of Whydah, Dahomey (now Ouidah, Benin). Whydah was a popular port of departure for slaves. One researcher believed that Robert left on a ship called the Senator. On the left you see an 18th century map of Whydah and on the right is the Slavery Memorial at present day Ouidah. At some point Robert purchased land in Belmont, now Antoine Lane, for $186. What can you buy today for $186?

Sunday, 13 March 2011

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