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Bajans of note

On Friday November 30 at 12:30 p.m., Marti Markowitz, the president of the Borough of Manhattan, in New York, will sponsor the annual flag raising ceremony, which this year symbolically acknowledges the 46th anniversary of an independent Barbados.

Barbados’ Consul General at New York, Lennox Price, will again lead a group of Barbadians, some of whom will join him in the programme.

On Saturday there will be a “Blue Yellow Blue” fund-raiser at the Resorts World Casino in New York City and on Sunday a service of thanksgiving at the Bedford Central Presbyterian Church on Dean Street.

Unlike, back home in Barbados, except occasionally for organisations, there is no formal structure or expectation, to honour Barbadians living away from home, who, by virtue of their actions, preserve our heritage. May be, political leadership – on both sides – does not see the value of connecting with the many thousands in a structured way. But that’s another matter for discussion.

What cannot be disputed is the fact that the DNA of any culture not only survives but evolves for the better of all concerned. What is certain is that at some time in the far off future, Barbadians will remember Gabby’s Emmerton. Few will remember who was Prime Minister when it was written. The work of William Shakespeare provides a perfect example.

Often, one comes across very interesting cultural threads and beads.

Some, for example, insist that their coconut bread must be baked hard and it must have coconut in the middle. Then, on weekends, others cook typical Bajan food and sell it to others. Still, others, hold seasonal or Friday night “fish fries”, formally sell food, or cater. Needless, to say, one often hears: “Man I don’t like she food!” or “Dat cou cou was not good!”

Then, on Friday nights and Sundays, there is dance hall – Liberty style – including ballroom dance moves, and Sunday-go-to-meeting dress down, pictures and food.

I hope sooner rather than later, the Diaspora will find a way to acknowledge persons like those mentioned above, together with others who will walk a mile for a piece of Bajan cheese or flying fish.

As for now, since I do not have authority to honour, I would like to at least draw attention to some persons and organisations that over the past year, in some way or another, kept the Bajan culture alive, namely:

* Winston Wharton Photography – for his relentless drive to photograph every thing that is Bajan from.

* Artist Pierre Nigel – for his use of the cricket theme. Pierre, known for his life size photos in Barbados, currently has a life size picture of Sir Gary on display in Nottinghamshire, England and is in search of a basement to rent to complete a planned Europe explosion.

* Historian Dr. Calvin Holder – for his September public lecture which presented many Barbadian and other Caribbean people as significant contributors to the pre-1965 history of New York. We now know that CLICO insurance company is an off shoot of a company which was started in New York.

* The Combermere Alumni Association of New York – which organised the first International Reunion of Bajan Alumni in New York, and, by example continues to demonstrate the power of a song – their school song – as an instrument for rallying a cause and people.

* The YPBS organisation – for celebrating their seventh anniversary in grand style and telling John Public how the money which was collected was used.

* All the Bajans from Panama and Cuba – who attended the Diaspora conference in Barbados.

* The non-Barbadians who, sometimes after recognition of our accent, go out of their way to sing our praises.

Without doubt, there is much we have to celebrate. In 1964, we were a “bicycle society”. Harrison College at that time had an active bicycle shed, which housed the bicycle of one of our knights who rode to school from St. St. Philip. Today, children drive to school.

So why are we so reluctant to show some measure of gratitude? Why are we so silent with regard to our achievements? Why do we unashamedly look to Government to give us most things and still argue that we are independent?

Without question we need a new national conversation. Maybe, that conversation may have to come from the outside since we still seem not to understand the spirit of the late Errol Barrow – our Father of Independence.

Peter Morgan, in his book, The Life and Times of Errol Barrow, wrote about the building of the DLP auditorium in this way:

“Everyone told him it couldn’t be done. It would cost too much. Every kind of reason why it couldn’t be done. But when the skipper had an idea in his head, no one could turn him back.”

The same tune – where will the money come from – was sung when Barrow introduced free secondary education and Independence. Let us celebrate every day for there are enough honours to have an Errol Barrow year.


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