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If we had stayed on course that we started back in 1960 we would be celebrating almost 60 years this year as The West Indies Federation. But then as Sparrow reminded us "it was Jamaica wey start it;" followed by Doctor Eric William's funny math, "1 from 10 leaves nothing." And so it was that our noble experiment dreamt of by our own T Albert Marryshow and others, fizzled away.
But are we not West Indians even without a country to show for it? Our cricketers continue to believe it. West Indians on the Parkway in New York, those in Toronto, and Notting Hill in London among others would rather die than not gather to celebrate their oneness.
That we are. And while Peter St. Paul is doing a fantastic job in bringing us Grenadians and specifically Gouyave folks up-to-date about our ancestry, I am suggesting that we spread our sights a little further in appreciating our being West Indians.
As I've said before, I have very little appetite for research. Let folks like Peter with that type of fortitude do the research so that we can rely on it to write our commentary.
Should we stop to examine some of our old calypsos, we'd be surprised how much of a learning tool about ourselves they were. We can use "Jean & Dinah" as the post-WW11 starting point of how we evolved into who we are.
"Well de girls and dem feeling bad,
Not ah Yankee in Trinidad
They had to close the base for good
Dem girls have to make out how they could."
"Doh make a row,
The Yankee gone and Sparrow take over now."
Therein lies a microcosm of the changes that began to occur and helped shaped our lives throughout the Caribbean. As we regard the departing Yankee and the closing of Chaguaramas Base in Trinidad as a synonym for the departing Colonial masters, we soon found ourselves with little choice but to make out how we could on our very own. Socially, Sparrow took over, but Dr. Eric Williams did the same in Trinidad politics. Jamaica saw Alexander Bustamante and Norman Manley. British Guyana as it was called back then saw Cheddi Jagan and Forbes Burnham. Barbados saw Grantley Adams, and Grenada saw Eric Matthew Gairy. Throughout the colonial world the same thing was occurring. Among others Ghana saw Kwame Nkrumah, while Nigeria saw Abubaka Tafawa Balewa, and Kenya saw Jomo Kenyatta.
The question that those former colonists had to answer was, would they be willing to "take two shillings with a smile" or devise other ways and means to establish themselves as truly free and independent peoples. Nkrumah was kicked out of Ghana for embarking on a bold new path in answering that question. Patrice Lumumba lost his life in a similar attempt in what was then the Belgian Congo. And make no mistake about it the later attempt by Maurice Bishop and Bernard Coard in Grenada was also their answer to that question.
We were confronted with it then, as we are still continuing to figure out which direction we should follow. So while Peter St. Paul's research is commendable, and he seems to be suggesting that we take pride in those before us in order to understand our Grenadianism, we should take a step further and ask "Where do we go from here?"
There is no meaning to independence when all we ever did was move back to the Colonialist home base to use his resources and work for him. It is easy to change that argument and say “well he owe us” for all the free slave labor we generation gave him. But that is not good enough anymore. Our new younger generation is demanding better of us. WestIndian ‘togetherness’ cannot happen until each island know what made us what we are today. And each island is unique and the same in many ways. It is offensive to think that each island should give us its unique cultural development for the sake of some fake idea of all ah we is the same. We are not. And that is NOT to say we should use those differences in a divisive way.
The Afro people of Trinidad are who they are today because of events that happened in Grenada and the Grenadines 300 years ago. But you would never know that today based on the disdain they were allowed to develop towards Grenadians. Whose fault is that? Ours. Not Massa’s. If you use the WWW and do a simple research on Trinidad’s most notable leaders and movers - past and present, you would see a connection to Grenada. A very rich culture they have inherited from us. After reading chapter 3 of the Second Part of Gerard A. Besson book “The Cult of the Will”, it was no surprise that he showed the connection between Eric Williams and Domingo Comissong, the Genoan sail maker and a African woman around 1799. All the D’Arceuil in Trinidad today can trace their connection to our Clozier D’Arceuil from Gouyave. Trinidad’s Charles Preudhomme David K.C, can trace his origins to the Preudhommes of Gouyave. All the well-known Philips – to include Michel Maxwell Philip- in the history of Trinidad can trace their beginnings to Petite Martinique and Gouyave. And they were Afro-French Creoles. All the Dolabaille of Trinidad started in Grenada and in the village of Gouyave. To include Danielle Dolabaille Miss T&T and Miss Earth. That is a tremendous untapped resource that we can develop. People are curious about where they came from. Gouyave should be a place too to accommodate this desire to know from where has thou comest. It could be the Mecca of all Gouyavians regardless of if there are a composite of Massa, or what seems to be pure European or African Element of the community. There is little to be gained today by encouraging the sanctity of the suffering while we stay divided and still live in the shadows of Massa’s house as we hang on to the scars we bear from Massa as we go about living in his world.
We need to bring the business and celebrations back to Gouyave! Create a revenue stream and local sustainable businesses around this celebration. Reclaim the names of the streets of Gouyave! Be truly proud of your Afro-French Creole heritage by doing something locally about it. Encouraging togetherness and not scaring people away with guilt and blame because of their genetic makeup they had no control over.