A rare chance

Dr. Irvine Burgie
Dr. Irvine Burgie

Over the past few days, I got yet another opportunity to observe how Barbadians in the Diaspora celebrate – or “not celebrate” – themselves, and, I am now prepared to document a concern that I have had for along time.

Before I pose the question, one can be sure that there is an excuse awaiting me, but, unless it changes the current reality, we will continue to misstep into the future.

I ask: Why are we such a reluctant – or is it conservative – people when it comes to the celebration of a history that is rich in achievement and iconic human capacity?

In Bob Dylan’s song, Blowin’ in the Wind, part of the lyrics may better describe my point of view: “Yes, how many years can some people exist, before they’re allowed to be free?

Yes, how many times can a man turn his head, pretending he just doesn’t see?

The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind.”

Over the weekend, and last Tuesday, an open house, a church service and an evening with Dr. Irvine Burgie – the father of calypso – presented opportunities for Barbadians in the Diaspora to acknowledge the contribution of our National Heroes. The events were reasonably well organised and attended but there was no cutting edge so to speak or everlasting memory.

At the open house, which was held at Albany Manor, the weekend stomping ground of Caribbean ballroom dancers, without question the food was tasty and in good quantity. Thanks to Bajan Caf√ restaurant lead pipes and salt breads were readily available but these foods are always accessible.

Numerically speaking, Team Barbados was in almost full attendance and had a good presence when they were presented. Additionally, the new vendors included, Marcia Weekes – Step by Step productions (HUSH 2 and 3).

Among the first time visitors were Lynette Taylor, Sonji Phillips, a journalist turned corporate communications specialist with LIME, and Henderson Holmes, a former BIDC employee and now Executive Director of Barbados International Business Association.

Holmes, who was admired by most when he worked in New York, was still as direct and profound in his views. When asked if he had any regrets leaving the public service, he unhesitatingly said:

“I became aware of what I was worth after I joined the private sector.”

He further stated that at times job certainty and security act against true performance and believes that Barbados should strive to become the business hub of the Caribbean.

Clearly if Open House remains attached to the heroes weekend, it needs an upgrade.

On Tuesday evening Barbadians had a rare opportunity to meet and interact with Dr. Irvine Burgie. It is clear that those in attendance will treasure the experience. The video presentation which summarised his life and work was well received. And it is indeed remarkable – and perhaps an insight into his character and lifestyle – that a descendant of Barbados who was born in the United States, could so truly share Caribbean folklore in an authentic and unique manner.

When asked if he had a mentor, he paused, released his trademark smile and chuckle and then said deliberately:

“There is always something inside of you. If you look at yourself, you may discern where your talent lies. You follow that star. When you do that you are being yourself. It is the total experience that produces the world as you see it.”

Burgie, who stated that he never complete a degree – but has received honorary doctorates from three distinguished universities – listens to all kinds of music but prefers the classics. He believes that it was the treatment of Blacks and his activism at that time, that perhaps provided the context for the writing of the Barbados National Anthem. He attached significant value in seeing Barbados from outside and believed that:

“If were born in Barbados, I may not have written the songs in the way I wrote them.”

Truth be told, there are many Bajan New Yorkers, who do make a difference, and, I have said before, have stories to tell. Dr. Irvine Burgie is one of them. So why was the audience size just bigger than a book reading and wasn’t this kind of evening sold to Caribbean people and not just Barbadians.

Bob Dylan argues that the answer is “Blowing in the wind”. If that be so, let us hope it is not hurricane wind but the north-east trade winds that directly blow across Barbados.


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