Barbados To Facilitate Travel for Barbadians Willing to Make Connections in Liberia

Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley assured Amb. Witherspoon that the resources of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. would be made available to assist in making these visits a reality, as well as facilitating Barbadians who wish to make the connection.

ILARO COURT, Barbados – Amb. Lorenzo L. Witherspoon’s Portes Find a New Home in Liberia has taken a further dimension with the Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Amor Mottley, giving him the assurance that her government will help facilitate citizens of her country wishing to make Liberian connections.

Witherspoon, the great-great-grandson of John Prince Porte, who migrated from Barbados to Liberia in the mid-1860s, told the Barbados delegation that included Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Dr Jerome Walcott, and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office with responsibility for Culture, John King, that the warmth of Barbadians and the many similarities with Liberia made him feel at home.

Portes Find a New Home in Liberia Project is a Story of the Post-emancipation Emigration of the John Prince Porte Family from Barbados, West Indies, to Liberia, West Africa, in 1865 & The Family’s Quest for Ancestral Citizenship, is complimented by the Passenger Manifest of the Brig CORA, the vessel that brought the emigrants from Barbados to Liberia on April 6, 1865. It includes A History of Crozierville, the first-ever Porte Family Tree, a Porte Family Photo Gallery, and two separate documents portraying the Prominent Roles played in Liberia and internationally by Direct Descendants of John Prince Porte and Prominent Positions held in Liberia and internationally by other 1865 emigrant families from Barbados and their descendants who settled in Crozierville.

Over the weekend, the Ilaro Court, the Official Residence of the Prime Minister was filled with stories that embraced the Barbados-Liberia connection with nostalgia and discussion of the extensive social and economic potential that could be tapped into with greater cooperation.

The occasion was a courtesy call on Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley by retired Liberian ambassador Witherspoon, who is visiting the island to continue his extensive research project and connect with his Barbadian roots.

The former ambassador, who has written extensively about the Barbados-Liberia connection, was planning to visit the island with his family for We Gatherin’ 2020 when COVID-19 struck. He revealed, though, that with the world starting to settle and the interest among Liberians to learn more about their Barbadian roots growing, there were already initiative taking shape to facilitate visits.

The former diplomat also complimented Barbados on its maintenance of the world’s second-largest archive of slavery-era records, second only to the United Kingdom’s, and urged the Government to take steps to preserve it in a manner that would make it available to future generations using modern technology.

The Prime Minister assured Witherspoon that the archives project was a priority of the Government, and considerable discussions had already taken place with a view to digitizing the records.

During his meeting, Witherspoon presented the Prime Minister with the results of one of his research projects, a paper titled: Portes Find A New Home in Liberia — Story of the Post-Emancipation Emigration of The John Prince Porte Family from Barbados to Liberia, West Africa in 1865.

In the document, Elfric K. Porte, Sr., the eldest great-grandchild of John Prince Porte, wrote: “Coming 150 years after the arrival of our forebears in Liberia from Barbados, the family is proud of this initiative, which firmly and finally connects the dots of our family’s origins and paves the way for the reunion with our living relatives in Barbados….”

From the hundreds of Barbadians who returned to Liberia in the 1860’s that country has produced two political leaders, including President Arthur Barclay, who, as a boy, spent the first dozen years of his life in Barbados.

Pronouncement by the Government of Barbados 

In January 2020, Prime Minister Mia Mottley designated and introduced 2020 as the year for Barbadians and those who love Barbados to come home and reconnect with family and friends and to invest in rebuilding and development of Barbados.  Under the theme “We Gatherin 2020”, it is a clarion homecoming invitation symbolizing a recommitment to the core Barbadian values that define who we are as a people. It is an event to reunite all Bajans

Monthly activities were planned for the 11 Parishes across the island, culminating in a nationwide month long celebration in December. However, COVID-19 put a monkey-wrench in those plans, leading to a postponement. 

“We Still Gatherin”

With thousands of Bajans at home and in the diaspora watching virtually, the Prime Minister announced that “We Still Gatherin” during the virtual 54th Independence Day celebrations on November 29, 2020.

Immigration and Citizenship Reform Act 

During the eight-hour long virtual independence celebration, the Barbados Minister of Home Affairs, Information and Public Affairs, Hon. Wilfred Abrahams, announced the decision by the government to enact new and transformational legislation that will extend citizenship rights to all direct descendants of citizens of Barbados, irrespective of generation. This is a fundamental change from the current citizenship law which restricts citizenship rights to children and grandchildren.  

The plan hopes to boost its population, currently 290,000, by availing multi-generational diaspora descendants citizenship of the island. The change would mean that, providing they can prove it, descendants of the island who settled in Liberia beginning in April 1865 and after could be in line for citizenship of Barbados.

The bill is expected to be debated in the Barbadian parliament this year.

Both countries share ties which date as far back as 1862 when the Liberian Parliament extended an invitation to persons of African descent from the islands of the West Indies to come and settle in Liberia. A follow-up invitation was sent in 1864.

The invitation led to a total of 346 emigrants from Barbados sailing to Liberia on April 6, 1865, following the signing of the Treaty between the two countries. Among them was John Prince Porte, the patriarch of the PORTE family of Liberia, a natural born Barbadian, and five members of his family.

Ironically, while conducting the project research, it was discovered that Bishop Emeritus, John Holder of the Episcopal Diocese in Barbados, had relatives listed on the manifest of the CORA, and, astonishingly, had a striking resemblance to Honorable Burleigh Holder of Crozierville.

Similarly, the name of a James W. Blackman was also discovered on the Brig CORA 1865 Passenger Manifest.  That the current Ambassador of Barbados to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland is His Excellency Mr. Chad Blackman, (and there are Blackmans in Liberia today) is no coincidence. 

The entire Project can be read here.