Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs

Friday, July 30, 2010

Sam Sharpe: One person changes a place

A changed place can't transform an individual, but a transformed individual can change a place. (Africa)

Dear Zayda,

Any change starts with just one person who believes change can come. On August 1 we celebrate those who believed slaves deserved to be free. Many, like Sam Sharpe, gave their lives to bring about change.

Sharpe was born in Montego Bay in 1801. Because he was able to read and write, he found out that people in England wanted to end slavery. He became a Baptist deacon, and believed in what the Bible said about all being equal. He therefore preached messages telling people they had a right to be free.

Now, it is one thing to talk and another to act on a belief. So Sharpe suggested to the slaves that they refuse to work till they got paid. He knew the best time to carry out this plan was at Christmas when the planters needed to reap the cane or they would lose money.

Sharpe’s plan was peaceful, and some followed it by just stopping work. However, many slaves felt too angry to protest by sitting still. So in late December 1831, slaves burnt down some sugar estates, and some estate owners were killed.

British soldiers were sent to the estates to protect the owners. As a result, slaves were captured and killed. Others were tried and hanged. Sharpe gave up himself and was tried and then hanged in the market square in 1832. Just before he was hanged, Sharpe said, "I would rather die in yonder gallows, than live for a minute more in slavery."

Although this Christmas rebellion seemed to have failed, Sharpe still managed to transform a whole country. The British, who governed Jamaica at the time, realized that slaves were determined to be free. They saw that slaves were willing to come together to fight for justice. As a result, the British abolished slavery not just in Jamaica but in all parts of the world where the British ruled.

Sam Sharpe’s vision of freedom transformed his world well beyond Montego Bay.

Remember that, like Sharpe, your vision backed up by passion can give you the power to transform your world.


Your shangazi

No comments:


When the occasion arises, there is a proverb to suit it. (Proverb from Rwanda and Burundi)

Welcome to this space where we can talk about proverbs that we can relate to (or not), and proverbs that make sense to us (or not). Most of all we can discuss how proverbs make us think about life and living. We can also share experiences of proverbs that have provided us with lifelines or just the chance to reflect.

Some of the proverbs here may also be found in "Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs", published by Random House and authored by Askhari Johnson Hodari and me. The foreword is written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

One of the unique features of our book is that we arranged the proverbs according to life cycle, in sections including, Birth, Childhood, Love, Marriage, and Intimacy, Challenge, and Death.

For more proverbs and for information on Lifelines: the Black Book of Proverbs, please visit us at