This week we salute our Prime Minister for seeking to forge ties with some of our ancestors in Africa. This can most certainly help us some more in trying to ascertain who we are as Caribbean people since by virtue of our history we are the offspring of different people who came. As a former school teacher, he must have a good idea of the books written by Carter, Digby and Murray –History of the West Indian Peoples and other books from which lessons are taught in schools.
We agree with him that the signing of this partnership agreement with Africa is the beginning of the significant progress we need to make between Africa and its diaspora; because, as he said, that is what we are largely in the Caribbean. However, it is our hope that while we focus on our ancestors we would also be mindful to avoid marginalizing races in the process. The first book in the series of History of the West Indian Peoples is called Our Heritage. That book was designed for children around the age of eight or nine to help them get an understanding of the Caribbean where a mixture of races belonging to the same story, live in peace.
In addressing the large crowd, the Prime Minister should be mindful that there may be a mixture of peoples in the audience and so craft his words carefully in a bid to welcome everyone. He chose to quote Jamaican artiste Peter Tosh: No matter where you come from as long as you are a black man you are an African. But wasn’t it Haile Selassie, the Emperor of Ethiopia who said in addressing the League of Nations, “Until the colour of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes there will always be war?” Jamaican artiste Bob Marley has that in one of his songs.
The American actor Morgan Freeman also in modern time expressed the hope that people will be referred to as just that and not by colour.
In the Caribbean, the book says, besides the people from Africa who may be in the majority – there are Chinese, Indians, French, Spanish and Dutch. It may be a good idea to not stop at Africa, but try to establish our diaspora in other parts of the world. There are a lot of people here who are offspring of the Indians who came to our shore as indentured servants after emancipation.
A man from Trinidad was this week on The BBC’s Outreach programme expressing how emotional and fascinating it was for him to reconnect with his relatives in India. He revealed how he spent years putting together broken up family trees for many people in Trinidad. He used neglected records and oral stories to unite people including a former Prime Minister –Basdeo Panday with relatives who are still living in India. In another series used in schools the writer Lennox Honychurch has a chapter called A people disappears. In there he speaks of the Spanish treatment of the Indians when Columbus came, referring to it as one of the saddest events in the whole history of mankind. In the case of the Arawak-speaking Indians of the islands, a whole ethnic group of people was destroyed as two cultures, one more powerful than the other were meeting for the first time. Imagine men from the stone-age meeting up with men from the iron and steel age!
Mr Prime Minister we may not all be prejudiced by Western Europe that we hold baseless views of Africans, our children are now pursuing Anthropology and one day, they will be the ones to make better sense of our Caribbean story. We would love to change our travel patterns, if we can afford it, to visit our ancestors as we examine ourselves in a bid to explore who exactly is the Caribbean man. It may even serve our country well to have our doctors trained on that side of the world too; after all, the people who came must have brought diseases that our doctors need to recognise and be able to diagnose the right treatment.
We know now, based on Prime Minister’s address to the House of Representatives that our government has recognised that our trading, travel and banking pattern in the Caribbean is still based on the era of slavery and colonization being dominated by Western Europe. We also agree on the Agreement for the Establishment of a Partnership between Member States of the Caribbean Community and the African Export-Import Bank Bill, 2023.
As the Prime Minister said “importance of the bill cannot be understated” …”I want to underscore the last part of the sentence; ‘restoring the dignity of African people wherever they may be in the world’ and that restoration of dignity applies equally to us in Grenada, and it applies equally to us in CARICOM.”
As we examine our history over the last 500 years, it is our hope that in a similar manner as our children are taught in schools, all the parts of our story will be told. They may be in the minority, but wouldn’t it be nice too to explore an Indian diaspora one day?
We await the change!