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It’s All About the Rice – The Sierra Leone/South Carolina Connection

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It’s All About the Rice – The Sierra Leone/South Carolina Connection

It’s All About the Rice – The Sierra Leone/South Carolina Connection

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Since I met Joseph Opala and Amadu Massaly in 2006, when I was first really introduced to Bunce Island in Sierra Leone, efforts to preserve and stabilize its Slave Castle has become one of my passions. As I learned more about its history during the slave trade, I also got to learn about the connection between Sierra Leone and the Low Country of the United States, centered in South Carolina and Georgia.

In January 2017, as Director of Building for Gedeon GRC Consulting, I got the opportunity to go to Bunce Island to do a structural re-assessment of the Slave Castle. In addition to this Rupture Marketing accompanied me to Sierra Leone to film and take drone images of the island and areas in Freetown. We worked closely with the Monuments and Relics Commission (MRC), the statutory body responsible for overseeing all historic sites in the country.

Ms. Isatu Smith, Chair of the MRC was invited to a workshop in Charleston between February 28 and March 4 and so it was an ideal opportunity for me to also visit Charleston and research more about the connection between Sierra Leone and South Carolina.

Arriving in Charleston, the first port of call was Sullivan’s Island, where ships carrying enslaved Africans were moored and a medical doctor would leave from to board the ships to check for diseases and the health of those onboard. If any of the enslaved Africans were found to have any ailment, they were quarantined in “Pest Houses” on the Island.

Figure 1: Sign at Sullivan’s Island

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Mr. Melbourne Garber was raised in Freetown, Sierra Leone and attended the Prince of Wales School. He obtained a B.Sc degree in Civil Engineering and Mathematics and a Masters degree in Construction Management from Leeds University in England. He is a professional engineer and a member of the Institution of Structural Engineers, UK, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the Sierra Leone Institute of Engineers. He is currently the Director of Building at Gedeon GRC Consulting. He has been involved with the design of numerous projects, notably The British Library in London, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, New Jersey, the John F. Kennedy International Arrivals Terminal, the Frank Sinatra High School of the Arts, the African Burial Ground National Monument and the United Nations Permanent Memorial to the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade in New York City. After the terrorist attack at the World Trade Center on 9/11, he was among the first group of engineers to assist with search and rescue operations. He is the President of the Prince of Wales Alumni Association, New York/New Jersey Chapter, President of the Krio Descendants Union (KDU) Northeast region and immediate Past Chair and Historical Archivist of the KDU Global Leadership. He is a member of the Board of the National Organization of Sierra Leoneans in North America (NOSLINA) and a member of the Sierra Leone Community of New Jersey (SLCNJ) organization. He is actively involved in efforts to preserve the Bunce Island Slave Castle and a member of the Management Practices in Construction committee of the Construction Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

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