High point of Black March & Vigil is laying of wreaths ‘by the rivers of Babylon’ to commemorate 17 lost West Africans

Seventeen wreaths – in remembrance of the 17 souls confirmed dead or lost in the March 28 boat tragedy – were “laid” in the waters of the St. John’s Harbour last night by representatives of the United Progressive Party and the Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union, with other conscious residents paying similar tribute.

The laying of the wreaths, comprised of green, red and yellow flowers – the colours of the Cameroon flag – took place while the crowd of mourners sang By the Rivers of Babylon, at the mid-point of the Black March and Candlelight Vigil held on Thursday, April 13.  

And at the waters’ edge, clergyman and teacher Darryl Josiah prayed for forgiveness for the Nation of Antigua and Barbuda for the part it has played in the making of the tragedy.

The sombre event was held to remember the West African migrants who appear to have perished in the deep waters off St. Kitts, as they attempted, reportedly, to make their way illegally into the US Virgin Islands.

The procession began at the Multipurpose Centre with a prayer and blessing by Pastor Paul Andrew, of the Christian Assembly Ministries, and proceeded onto Market Street to the strains of Carlene Davis’ This Island Needs Jesus.

At the V.C. Bird Memorial, prayers for the people were offered, this time by the Rev. Dr. Joseph Nicholas of the Greenbay and Five Islands Moravian Church, while, at the third stop – the St. John’s Police Station – Pastor Alphonso Crump prayed for the spirit of justice to be revived among the Christians of this country.

The final stop for the black-clad, light-carrying “congregation” was at Government House, where Pastor Andrew delivered a full sermon, warning residents against the evils of blood money and hush money, and a prayer that called for answers and comfort for the families of the victims of the tragedy.

He also prayed for change to come to Antigua and Barbuda and for that change to include an about-turn for Governor-General Sir Rodney Williams, who, to date, has refused to institute a Commission of Inquiry into the Antigua Airways fiasco.

One mourner took to the airwaves, following the event, to express her disappointment at the low turnout of clergymen and church-goers who profess Christianity.

However, the organizers of the March and Vigil tell REAL News they were very pleased with the response of those ordinary citizens and residents who rose to the occasion and demonstrated their sense of consciousness and sympathy.

Meanwhile, one attendee, Dr. Ronan Matthew, said he had to show support in an effort to honour those who had lost their lives – and for his ancestors, as well.

Given this country’s history – its era of the slave trade and the fact that King Court was broken at the wheel for fighting for freedom –Dr. Matthew said he finds it unconscionable that the Gaston Browne Administration is now embroiled in the West African migrant-moving debacle.