Absence of gratitude

Every day, historical events are celebrated at the same moment in time albeit in different places, but for personal reasons, the holiday remembrance of Errol Barrow and Martin Luther King and the inauguration of President Barack Obama turned out to be memorable, reflective and full of mixed emotions.

Errol Barrow is a national hero, the “father” of Independent Barbados, and a Prime Minister whose legacy is inscribed in almost every home, every school, every village, and every chapel. Indeed, it is impossible to peruse post-Independence period of our history and not see the finger prints of his genius.

Now it is not for me to tell Barbadians how to celebrate but as I witnessed coverage of the beginning of term two of the presidency of Barrack Obama I felt that we should certainly do more to record our history and celebrate ourselves. Errol Barrow Day is a case in point.

I cite a few examples which some may consider extreme.

The preservation of the plate which the President used at lunch, the attention and discussion given to the dresses of the first lady as they relate to fashion and designer impact, the replay of the moment when President Obama stopped and said “Let me look again. This is the last time I am going to see this!” and the deliberate similarity of the inaugural speech and that of Martin Luther Kings.

I therefore ask, at the end of Errol Barrow Day, how many were now better informed and understand that one of the founders of the DLP transformed a society by implementing two things most thought were impossible.

I ask again: How many toured his home or the house in Crumpton Street? Do we know where his car is or his straw hat? Where are his diaries? Did a single parent sit the grandchildren down for a few moments and explained that finding schools fees and lunch in those days were as hard as nails?

As I watched and listened to the proposed agenda of President Obama, to the gradual acceptance and adjustment of Americans to a black president, to the expressed fact that America was the greatest place in the world because the transition of power was smooth and without civil war, and I felt proud to be Bajan, but concerned with the absence of gratitude — not as a silence but by the exhibits and artefacts we preserve. Then I wondered: How will we handle the transition to a different kind of person like Obama or a Prime Minister who is a white person?

Then with a happy heart I wrote this poem:

A Son Has Risen

Out of the vast vault of history,

out of the British waves which swept our rocks;

Out of the journey which changed names and broke spirits,

Out of ever changing sands of times that bash our shores,

A light was born, a son has risen,

A dawn, a start, for every day is a beginning,

All because the chattel house moved across the nation;

All because trash was mashed, and cane juice relieved starvation

All because the doors of schools are eternally open.

A light was born, a son has risen,

From the village to a castle — Ilaro;

from pot hole, and tot, to four wheel truck and Bentley.

A sun, hidden behind clouds of silence;

a sun shaped by stars of thought, and, sea shells of freedom.

A daughter, nurtured by independence, pride and industry,

A family challenged by the bars in parks, and terraces.

A light was born, a son has risen,

A dawn, a new start, for every day is a new beginning.

So why didn’t the clocks stop for a moment of silence? Why didn’t the children stand along the streets with flags and sing? Why didn’t our church bells ring?

Maybe it will happen next time.

Happy birthday Errol

Long live our sons and daughters.


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