As lovers of history, we are concerned that some people are expressing sentiments that history should only be written about positive experiences. The argument reaches close to us where a statue of Christopher Columbus is now under the microscope in Trinidad. While we understand the mood of the day, the destruction of the many statues and monuments that were erected in public places all over the world may not be a good thing. What a blow that would be for the next generation who would like to study history and even take a serious look at anthropology and they can’t find the monuments and relics to make reference to in order to understand context.
This newspaper is suggesting -remove them if we must, but let’s place them in a special park or museum dedicated to (in-depth) history. A proper account of what the figurines represent should be strategically placed for all to read. We say ‘proper account’ because there are those among us who believe that history can be painted to be kind or unkind. While that phrase is quite popular, doesn’t it sound like a misunderstanding of history which should only give an accurate account of the incidents whether good or bad? Let’s look at the name Sauteurs, doesn’t it remind us of a very bad event in our history when the first people who arrived here were brutally wiped out by the French? The event known as Fedon’s Rebellion has left names of places such as Post Royal and Battle Hill behind. The St George’s Market Square which is literally square has seen some public hangings in its time. Then there are street names we inherited after some people foreign to us; yet, their names are held in high esteem. For example, can anybody tell us who George Paterson was?
The almost four-year Revolution which saw the most heinous crimes in our modern history, is remembered by the name of a street and our international airport. Some people are of the opinion that our history was painted in a way to not represent our true struggles. Well maybe what we need are more Caribbean anthropologists and historians to tell us the story of the colonization without any bias; putting some parts in the right context so people would get the true picture and learn from past mistakes.
For most of us in the Caribbean, our history starts with the Great Triangle slave trade and there was a time that we were taught that we are all descendants of Africans who were brought here to work as slaves. That very story of that slave trade failed to highlight the strength of the African people who never accepted that way of life and struggled against it to the end regardless of how gruesome the penalties were. There was no punishment that could have stopped them from running away or rebelling. Maybe we should also be taught that slavery is really a system, which probably still exists.
In simply glossing over the earlier years in our history when the Kalinago people came, their story was simplified so strongly that it almost made them look like illiterate people, when in truth and in fact those early Indians organized their villages in a similar manner that we do today. They had their chiefs, their medicine people, their farmers, fishermen and, of course, their bows and arrows, which were deadly. They were the ones who taught us about canoes used to travel from one island to the next. Imagine their tools to make a boat were mostly stone, axe and fire; yet, they made good on the sea from island to island. Their shrewdness was hardly captured in history.
Some churches have recently exposed the part they played in the slave trade which today has created a ‘new people’. However they try to spin us, we will remain Caribbean people and one day hopefully like the ‘Latinos’ we will be recognized for who we are –the ‘platypus people’ who can teach the world peaceful co-existence. Take a deep look at some of the plaques on the walls of certain churches and see if we can wrap our minds around the time when a child dies and a plaque will be mounted in his/her honour in a church. Those were the days when the upper class could have bought pews and all in the church. Religion is another part of our history that needs to be put into context so that we will understand the part it played in our history. Perhaps it will serve the churches well to replace those plaques with an apology.
To our readers, we ask the question is it wise to get frenzied or emotional about past events in as much as to lose focus of the true story? Our scholars and well-read people should come forward now and help us to understand the A, B, and Cs of our history in a well-rounded way in a bid to say to the world that black lives matter in the same way that white lives matter. As one of our calypsonians, Brother Valentino wrote “Life is a stage and we (black and white) are the actors.” Let’s be careful that we don’t go from one extreme to the next!