World Cafe: Colonial Legacy and Amnesia

Danish colonial Fort in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands

The World Cafe provides an educational forum for critical reflection on the trialogue that needs to take place among Flensburg, the Virgin Islands and Ghana, in order for an epistemology on the colonial legacy to be crafted in the context of truth telling. I am anticipating the Ghana dimension of this trialogue since it is also problematic that the Danes – and several other European nations – colonised the so-called Gold Coast, which was opened up as the gateway to access the populous interior of this beleaguered Continent. In this regard, Freire proposed the dialogue [trialogue] as a critical space for conscientisation.

The Holocaust of African Enslavement is the greatest crime that European and Arab nations committed against all humanity. However, although this period of racist underdevelopment of Africa lasted from the 15th to 19th centuries, Europeans today claim they have forgotten it and persistently encourage Africans, particularly those in the Diaspora clamouring for transitional justice, to forget it too. The bottom line is, surely, the bottom line.

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Religious institutions were intrinsic to the systematic mental and physical violence unleashed on Africans and still function as the principal obstacle to Emancipation and self-determination

Countries like Denmark and Germany are not usually referred to in general accounting of colonial crimes since they were more careful than others to guard the noising of their involvement like a state secret. Germans claim they have been too preoccupied with the Jewish Holocaust and its guilt and payout obligations to recall their involvement in African enslavement and profit making therefrom. I find this disclaimer disingenuous; there is no shortage of historians and other capable thinkers in Europe. Therefore, this capacity to forget must be directly aligned to the fact that they could have enacted the abominable institution in the first place, maintained it for so long and have no intention to act responsibly regarding transitional justice for Africans.



Governor’s quarter’s, St. John. Typically, the prison torture chambers were located below. This binary built environment arrangement demonstrated how Europeans dehumanised Africans during enslavement.

Referring to the United Nations’ declaration of 2015-24 as the Decade for people of African Descent, on the three-pronged platform of Justice, Recognition and Development, Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of this controversial institution, [which has been accused of being a puppet of the United States of America and capital generally], stated thatWe must remember that people of African descent are among those most affected by racism…[and] denial of basic rights such as access to quality health services and education.”

Of most critical psychosocial and socio-economic concern, is the pervasive identity erasure that Africans in the Diaspora have experienced as a consequence of the Holocaust of Enslavement and the associated trauma with which the majority grapple on an everyday basis.  Africans still suffer from denial and undervaluing of who they are due to institutionalised applications of white supremacy.


Popular definitions of beauty for African women  show internalisation of racist notions of self-representation, which provide profit for capitalist concerns.

This erasure was constructed as a colonial power mechanism to make Africans into slaves, as noted by the British torturer in that memorable scenario from Roots when Kunta Kinte was desperately trying to cling to his name, identity and collective memory It continues to be the primary obstacle to self-realisation in the present, which has inimical implications for sustainable development.

As Joy Leary DeGruy carefully analysed in her  memorable book, Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, many of the ways of thinking and the behaviours enacted by Africans in contemporary societies are rooted in the trauma they suffered for centuries. Self-denouncements by Africans in the Diaspora are didactic of the entrenched syndrome of internalised racism, which demonstrates the cruel success of the mental enslavement that was a major weapon of the colonial apparatus.  Self-hate prevents many Africans from accepting their skin, hair, nose, lips and body in general as beautiful.  Disastrously, capitalists are cashing in on this pathology; people of African descent spend disproportionately on so-called beauty products, which, in a twisted double whammy, actually destroy the capacity of the victims of this reverse psychology.

In desperate and vain attempts to achieve this illusion, they are duped into applying chemicals to their bodies, permanently altering their appearance. Michael Jackson epitomised this disastrous experiment; the caricature that he projected in his final years was closer to performance of a contrived white woman than an African man. Understanding the political economy of this constant engagement with embodied re-construction is important for an analysis of the present African impoverishment. Enslavement continues to haunt us in the systems that make Africans complicit with racist capitalists intent on mopping up available liquidity in African communities.

Compounding this complex problematic, many of the Europeans seem inordinately anxious to consign this criminality to the past.  This denial refuses to recognise the crisis of African self-identity ignorance. Yet this dysfunction has caused even the UN to cry out for transitional justice initiatives to be enacted to rescue the endangered African race from the dire situations in which they find themselves. The imperative for Emancipation was succintly enunciated by Marcus Garvey, Pan-Africanist par excellence and eloquently sung by Bob Marley – “Emancipate yourselves from Mental Slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds!”

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Freedom figure of the Virgin Islands, one of which is located here in Frederickstead, the St. Croix capital.


Contact: Dr. Imani Tafari-Ama








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