Dafida Trouble was not always so named. His name was a tame English provincial name. Charles Alexander Wood.
The Wood came from the name of the plantation owner where his father and his grand father were born and where his mother refused to give birth to him.
As soon as he could read and write, he changed his surname to Trouble.
He concluded that that name was more interesting and more likely to start conversation anywhere any day. More so in Africa where names are not innocently given.
For some time all the name he had was Trouble.
When his mother went to register him at school and the secretary asked for his first name and middle name she said “Africa Sahara” and surnamed Trouble.
Dafida Trouble dropped Africa Sahara from his names the moment his mother closed her eyes in death. Dafida was of course related to David in the Bible.
I met in Port of Spain, capital of the twin islands nation of Trinidad and Tobago, T and T for short.
His sister introduced us. She was one of those bread crust brown skins of the Caribbean. She had been chosen to interview some of us attending the writers’ conference in the city.
What did we think of the theme “Africa Meets the Caribbean: War or Peace?”
Most speakers from Africa spoke of peace at the meeting of cousins from either sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
I narrated the story of the two siblings sold into slavery by their parents.
The mother made three wraps of ekuru out of powdered pop corn and ripe plantain and fresh oil.
She gave each child one and the third she cut into equal halves and gave them one each. Holding their hands, she made them promise one another.
You, if good comes to you in the house of the Arabs you must come and rescue your sibling from the home of the Yankees.
And you, should the home of the Yankees do you good, don’t forget to come for your sibling in the bondage of the Arabs.
It is the incredible famine that drives every body crazy into selling their treasured children. And so, the siblings went into the jungle of slavery.
If today the Africans were meeting their siblings from the jungle of Yankee slavery, it should be peace all around.
Dafida Trouble had been at the final plenary session of the conference. He had not said a word throughout the conference.
Silence, one must be allowed to assume, means consent and agreement. Imagine our surprise when Susanne introduced us to her brother Mr. Wood.
He burst into saliva spitting anger, shouting at her sister and proclaiming his name. After he had been calmed, he turned from his sister unto us fellows from Africa.
There was no name he didn’t call us that day: Slave traders, Slave chasers, friends of child stealers, bosom friends of Arab killers of Africans, benefactors from inhuman activities etc etc.
Finally, he wanted to know which of us came from the town known as Gbu.
When we all claimed never to have known of a town by that name, he wanted to know which of us came from the royal house of Ogbugbu! It was then he sang a verse of the ballad of Ogbugbu of Gbu thus:
When Africa was the white man’s grave And none but fools came hither I sold my subjects old or brave
For beads and ostrich feather!
Instead of laughing at what we thought was a hilarious performance Dafida was serious, unsmiling. How could you sell your own flesh and blood for beads and birds’ feathers. Were you crazy?
One of us pleaded with him to understand that we could have asked for more but that it was not a fair bargaining situation, like they were armed and with soldiers all over place.
Shut up, shouted Dafida. I was not talking of the exchange rate. I was taking of the very idea of selling your flesh and blood never mind what you got for them.
That’s what I’m asking you: Were you crazy or sick or something? There was silence. And we were thinking of inviting you to Africa, said one of us.
Someone else was quick to interject that the last time they came to Africa, to settle in Liberia, what did they do?
Mr. Wood Trouble, what did your returning people do when they landed in Liberia? They turned the natives they met there into there slaves, working for them for nothing.
They even sold some of them to go and work in plantations in Fernando Po island. How was that different from what you are accusing us of? Dafida smiled for the first time since this discussion began.
Do you know the book UNCLE TOM’S CABIN? He looked around. After all we were writers.
Yes, someone answered and even gave the alternative title of LIVE AMONG THE LOWLY. Good, he complimented us. That novel was published in 1852 by a white woman Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811 – 1896).
It was one of the most powerful books written against the Slave Trade and slavery.
Towards the end of the book, after George Harris had escaped from the United States of America to Canada and then to France, he wrote a letter to a friend in the following words: “I may be excused for saying, I have no wish to pass for an American. . . . The desire and yearning of my soul is for an African nationality.”
You will wonder not why we reject America but why we embrace Africa. It is simple. Our souls are yearning for explanations.
Why did you do it? What did they do to you to make you hand over your babies, your strong and brilliant youth, your mature wise ones to Slave traders and traducers of the human body and mind?
More than just asking questions Dafida wanted to avenge the selling of his ancestors into slavery.
He wanted to find the royal fathers and mothers who sold princes and princesses into slavery. Only things turned out different when he arrived in Africa.
Liberia did not give a good account of America-Liberians. Ask the spirit of Sergeant Doe how easily he toppled them from power and brought the natives back to prominence. And upset the balance of the country.
It will take some time to to achieve steadiness. Nothing to do with vengeance at all Mr. Trouble.
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