By Dennis Kabatto, New York.
The Krio Descendants Union (KDU) Global will hold its Family Reunion Weekend from September 2 - 5, 2011 in Maryland, USA. Organizers say all activities except where indicated will take place at the Sheraton Washington North Hotel located at 4095 Powder Mill Road in Beltsville, Maryland, USA.
“What we hope to achieve with our Family Reunion Weekend is a celebration of our culture and heritage, our own acknowledgement of our country’s 50th Independence anniversary and a reconnection for both old and young participants of the traits and values that have made and continue to make us who we are – Sierra Leonean and Krios,” said Melbourne Garber president of KDU Northeastern Chapter.
The theme for this year’s Family Reunion Weekend is Celebrating Salone @ 50. Speaking on African New Dawn Radio show on WRSU, 88.7 FM at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey Mr. Garber told host Sheila Van Diver the Reunion Weekend agenda will start with a Meet and Greet on Friday, September 2nd. On Saturday, a Symposium featuring an “Akintola Wyse Lecture” followed by an Awujoh/Luncheon Sale at First United Methodist Church Hall. The day will culminate with a Dinner/Dance, Cocktail Hour preceeded by a Banquet.
A Thanksgiving Service will be held on Sunday at the First United Methodist Church at 6201 Belcrest Road in Hyattsville, Maryland. The KDU Global Family Reunion Weekend will wrap up with a Family Picnic at the Green Meadows Community Park, Sligo Parkway, Hyattsville in Maryland.
There are different schools of thought of whether the Krios or Creoles of Sierra Leone are an ethnic group. The history of the Krios as written by many scholars including J.A.B. Horton, Arthur Porter, T.C. Luke etc suggests that being a Krio is a way of life having a core set of values that is distinct from the indigenous groups with which they co-existed.
On the contrary, the Creoles or Krios are described as an ethnic group in Sierra Leone comprising of descendants of West Indian slaves from the Caribbean primarily from Jamaica – known as the Maroons; freed African American slaves from the United States; Black Loyalists resettled from Nova Scotia; Liberated Africans or Recaptives from various parts of Africa and through intermarriages with educated Africans.
They are said to have arrived in Freetown, capital city of Sierra Leone between 1792 and 1855. An estimated 90% of the total Krio population is Christian and about 10% of the Krios are Muslims. The Krio Muslims are predominantly found in the Freetown suburb of Fourah Bay and the Western Area city of Waterloo. They make up about 5.4% of the Sierra Leone’s total population.
According to an online encyclopedia, there are also Krio/Creole populations in Nigeria, the Gambia, and Fernando Po. The Saros in Nigeria, Fernandinos in Fernando Po, and the Aku in Gambia are descendants of Krio traders and colonial officials from Sierra Leone.
In a brief interview for this report, Mr. Garber responds to some critical issues pertaining to his organization’s Family Reunion Weekend:
DK: How long has the KDU been in existence?
M. Garber: There isn’t just one Krio Descendants Union. The parent body Krio Descendant Yunion in Freetown has been around for over 30 years. Here in the US, there are currently 6 different Krio Descendants Union organizations with the youngest being the North Carolina chapter. The Northeast chapter started off as the Krio Heritage Society in the late 1990’s. The Texas chapter came into being in 2008, the Georgia chapter started in earnest in 2009, the California chapter was originally called the Freetown Overseas League and the Washington Metropolitan chapter was originally the Rokel Club. The last two have been around also for more than a decade.
DK: What is your reaction to critics who say having a KDU Family Weekend is a form of Tribalism?
M. Garber: In my view those critics who want to bandy about the tribalism charge have not taken time to find out what the organizations are about. Our primary focus is to ensure that our history, heritage and culture, which is very unique and derived from the freedom of being released from slavery, either through fighting with the British (Nova Scotians), fighting against the British (Maroons) or being set free by the British on the way to being slaves (Liberated Africans), is passed on to our children and their children, especially for so many of us in the Diaspora. I actually looked up the definition of Tribalism and there were two definitions: 1. The customs, beliefs, and social organization of a tribe or social group and 2. Loyalty to a tribe or social group. I think this applies to everyone who identifies with a tribe anywhere in the world. So, I know the connotation usually associated with tribalism in the Sierra Leone community is almost always negative, but as I stated above this is not what we are about. I wonder if people also refer to tribalism when other organizations like the Kono Descendants Association, Foulah Progressive Union, North America Madingo Association, Tegloma, etc also have similar functions and events. We are not competing or trying to be isolated from any and all of the other myriad of Sierra Leone “tribal” organizations, we are Sierra Leoneans and Krios first and foremost and proud to be so.
DK: Not so long ago, the Krios literally ran the Foreign Service, Judiciary, Academia, Civil Service and other government sectors of Sierra Leone. But in the past few years, most Krio leadership roles in Sierra Leone have diminished, in your opinion what are the contributing factors for the decline?
M. Garber: It depends upon how one regards your question – the glass is half full or half empty conundrum. I do not see it as a decline. I see it more as a recognition that since independence Sierra Leone has been educating more indigenous Sierra Leoneans, who are in the majority, in these different fields and thus by sheer numbers are more likely to now assume more of these positions. Also this has not only occurred in the last few years but since the 1970’s there was a drive by successive governments to ensure all these fields reflected the makeup of the country. As much as we Krios may have desired to continue to be at the helm of a lot of these, and there are many Krios who still contribute significantly in all these fields, it was inevitable that as the country asserted its independence our leadership roles would diminish. Of course another contributing factor is that the brain drain from Sierra Leone to the Diaspora is probably greatest among the Krios and this may also have a large impact on the “decline”.
DK: What is your group’s response to people who say Krio is not an ethnicity but a way of life?
M. Garber: I am happy that people will define Krio as a way of life and it is. However, it is a fallacy to think we are not an ethnicity. The Krios are an evolved ethnic group that coalesced from a shared history of slavery and a determination of “never again”. I will end with two interesting statistics pertaining to Krios. One the Krio language, which was the first one in Sierra Leone to have its own dictionary, is spoken either as a first or second language by about 90% of the Sierra Leonean population and secondly apart from the two major tribes in Sierra Leone, the Mende and Temne (latest statistics indicates that these two tribes may have switched positions in terms of population size), Krios are the largest of the minority tribes, larger than even the Limba or Loko tribes.
For more information on Krio Descendants Union Global Family Reunion, please contact Mr. Melbourne Garber at email@example.com or Manstravel the official agent for this event at firstname.lastname@example.org Call the Sheraton Washington North Hotel (301) 937-442 ext. 7998 or Direct Line (240) 965-4229. Visit the event’s website at http://kdureunionweekend-eorg.eventbrite.com/
Melbourne Garber - president of KDU Global, Northeastern Chapter.