Hailing Bolt, Sir Hilary, and oneness
Perhaps one day some psychologist or psychoanalyst will definitively explain why cricket is the only thing on which Caribbean people unite.
Maybe these men of letters might point to the sea that separates us and that gave passage to our forefathers across the Atlantic, and suggest that if Africa is one continental but yet divided mass, why should we not expect unashamed insularity to exist in these separated isles.
The Federation failed as it was destined to. CARICOM has been a success mainly in idealistic bosoms and among well-meaning politicians and old men with romantic notions. Do the masses really feel CARICOM? Other than for some personal satiation, does the Jamaican in Half Way Tree care one iota about events unfolding at Heritage Quay in St John’s or Rodney Bay in St Lucia? Has CARICOM permeated beyond regional parliaments and statutes and made its way into hearts located in our scattered villages?
One of this region’s greatest literary cynics and prodigal sons with little desire of returning, once suggested that comedy is often written at the moment of deepest hysteria. Over the past week V.S. Naipaul’s sentiments were recalled as many took to social media and provided hysteria worthy of being encapsulated into script for a great comedy. Of course, everyone is entitled to an opinion. Everyone is entitled to lay bare his or her folly. But if we may borrow from our national leader, folly which would seek to make light of regionalism or a feeling of “oneness” should be punished with laughter.
We applaud the decision of Professor Sir Hilary Beckles to recommend that the spanking new sports facility at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, be named the Usain Bolt Sports Complex. We compliment the relevant university committee which accepted the recommendation. Sir Hilary has already given sound explanation to the raison d’être behind the decision. Indeed, he had no cause to go further than to remind all and sundry that there is no University of Barbados in this island.
Usain Bolt is the greatest track athlete the region has ever produced. History will probably record one day that he was the greatest athlete that ever drew breath. That he was born in Trelawny, Jamaica, rather than Gouyave in Grenada, Choiseul in St. Lucia, Castle Bruce in Dominica, Buxton in Guyana, or Melrose Village in Barbados, is incidental. Different could have been determined by a simple change in the direction of some slave-bearing vessel just over a century and a half ago.
Sir Frank Worrell, as pointed out by Sir Hilary, was accepted and honoured by Jamaicans within and outside the walls of the University of the West Indies at Mona. The late Sir Clyde Walcott has been hailed and is still remembered with reverence in several villages in Guyana for his sojourn there in the 1950s and 1960s. In the mid-1960s Sir Wes Hall forever etched his name in the memories of many Trinidadian families associated with the West Indian Tobacco Company and the Wes Hall Youth Cricket League.
Sir Edwy Talma received a knighthood, not for work done in his native Grenada, but for his contribution to the lives of Barbadians. Dame Olga Lopes-Seale received high national honour, not for work done in her native Guyana, but for a benevolent heart shared with generations of Barbadians. And so it goes throughout the islands; Barbadians owing an eternal debt of gratitude to the late Grenadian Julian Marryshow for Crop Over; Barbadians owing their lives to the skill of late Vincentian surgeon Sir Arnot Cato. It is about oneness.
Some have pointed to the absence of sporting or other edifices in other Caribbean islands bearing the names of Barbadians. But if that be the case, why now perpetuate that oversight? Why not instead congratulate Sir Hilary and his university family for perhaps starting a new trend, for correcting history, and offering leadership to those observing from Portmore to the Essequibo?
But alas we ask too much. Naipaul has often dismissed us islanders as unavoidably divided people, even within our own villages. And we demonstrate frequently that insularity is so entrenched that we do not recognise our own hysteria when it bubbles like an unnecessary storm in a teacup.
The furore over the naming of the Usain Bolt Sports Complex has been much ado about nothing. But hopefully, it will still stir some young villager in Black Rock or Black Bess, to strive to have his or her name enshrined somewhere far from these shores but yet in our emerald isles.