Nationality Law Change Could See Barbados Grant Citizenship to Descendants Of Settlers in Liberia

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The Bajan 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.

Monrovia – One hundred and fifty years after their patriarch, John Prince Porte, led his young family and joined 240 other citizens of Barbados, braving the cold and turbulent waters of the Atlantic, the story of the Porte emigration to Liberia has been recorded and published.

The multi-year collaborative project was the brainchild of Ambassador Lorenzo Witherspoon, great-great grandson of John Prince Porte who served as Project Director and Executive Director, and his daughter, Loyce Beryl Witherspoon, as Lead Researcher and Producer. 

It was produced thanks to the support of family members across the globe, as well as indispensable contributIons from family elders, Elfric K. Porte, Kenneth Y. Best and Ina D. King, in addition to Rodney D. Sieh and Lindiwe Khumalo.

Portes Find a New Home in Liberia – 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.

The current patriarch of the Porte family, Elfric K. Porte, lauded the product by saying “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. I applaud wholeheartedly the hard work and enduring dedication of all who contributed to the realization of this project.”

Elfric’s late father, Albert Porte, had always cherished the opportunity of visiting his ancestral home, but his lifelong and enduring writing, political activism, social justice and teaching work in Liberia would combine to deny him the one goal he had so profoundly yearned for. 

In dedicating the project’s achievement, Ambassador Witherspoon said: “This work is dedicated to the memory of the Patriarch of the Porte family in Liberia, John Prince Porte, his descendants and descendants of the Porte family in Barbados, and furthered, “May the knowledge of our families’ diverse and epic ancestry experience increase as we connect and evolve contact that should endure, indeed outlast, generations”.

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.

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