Friday, April 12, 2024

JEFF BROOMES: Grateful to the black inventors


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THIS IS FEBRUARY, the month that is most associated with love (the Valentine’s month).  February, however, is also celebrated as Black History Month. As such, I wish during this time to acknowledge the outstanding contributions of black people to world developments.

As the revered black civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King said, “by the time you leave for work millions of people have depended on the inventions from the minds of Blacks”. This dependence continues in the world of work and in general societal functioning.

Let us begin at home. Our trusted refrigerator that has positively impacted our quality of life was invented by John Standard. The ironing board came to us thanks to Sarah Boone, while George T. Simon invented the clothes dryer and Walter Simmons the comb. I am thankful.

We also benefit from the fact that Lewis Lattimer gave the world the electric lamp and Michael Harvey the lantern. Out of darkness into light! The innovative genius of Frederick Jones impacted us with the air conditioner. How did we ever live without it?

Communication has always been crucial to the upward mobility of every civilised society. Here again the thoughtful minds and explorative actions of black people took life to a more expansive place. Thanks to William Barry, we have the postmarking and cancelling machine, while William Purveys invented the hand stamp.

Our writing instruments did not miss the ingenuity of the black intellect. William Purveys showed his innovative ability by also inventing the fountain pen. This was complemented by John Love’s presentation of the pencil sharpener, Lee Barrage’s invention of the typewriting machine and W. Love’s advanced printing press.

Of course, our gardeners and curators also benefited. Joseph Smith invented the lawn sprinkler and John Burr the lawnmower. We need to give immense thanks to them for our now well-manicured lawns and hedges.

The roads are now replete with vehicles that often need to be controlled to prevent chaos or even tragic endings. In both cases, the hand of the black man is prevalent. Richard Spikes invented the automatic gearshift and Joseph Gambol the supercharger system for internal combustion engines.

We know the potential dangers of cars and vehicles of all sorts travelling unrestrained and unmitigated from and to their various points. Garrett Morgan has allowed us to impose some semblance of discipline by presenting us with the traffic signals.

As we move from the ground floor to the different heights of our increasingly tall buildings, we need to say a word of thanks to Alexander Mills. He was the visionary inventor of the much used and absolutely necessary elevator.

Did you really appreciate the fact that black people gave all of these life-driving inventions to the world? Well, they, or should I say, we did. Hold your head up high with pride and just imagine what the world would be like without these pioneering black people.

Don’t disparage your colour, but, as one much smarter than I am advised, “believe in yourself and have an attitude of gratitude to those who helped along the journey, then live simply, love generously, care deeply, speak kindly and leave the rest to God”. He made us as we are.

Jeff Broomes is an experienced educator, principal and community organiser who also served as vice president of the BCA and director of the WICB. Email


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