Mandela Freedom Park ‘in two weeks’
A monument to Nelson Mandela, in the form of a park, will be completed in two weeks, culminating a black Barbadian struggle ranging back to the 1990s to honour this African leader.
Vice-chancellor designate of the University of the West Indies, Sir Hilary Beckles, who led that fight to find a place on the island for this African liberator and worldwide symbol of freedom announced on Monday night that this monument would be there for all to enjoy shortly.
“Right now at the Cave Hill Campus there is a Nelson Mandela Freedom Park that is two weeks to conclusion, and in three weeks we will formally announce Nelson Mandela Freedom Park in Barbados,” he said at the Errol Barrow Centre For Creative Imagination while delivering a lecture on Politics, Academics And Public Advocacy In Barbados: A Personal Reflection.
Sir Hilary recalled the mass Barbadian rally of 1990 on the release from prison of Mandela that attracted some 20,000 at Farley Hill.
He spoke of a push-back against this Bajan enthusiasm for Mandela, and a let-down by the Government
of the day.
“We could not get the political parties to come on board and join in the celebration of Mandela’s release.”
He said the reason for political hesitancy was because “there was still a perception on this island that Nelson Mandela was a terrorist, and to associate with his memory, and his history, and his cause was a backward step, and so we could not get political parties to come on board and join in this celebration of Nelson Mandela”.
But the supporters of the African cause were not deterred.
“Then we called for the renaming of Farley Hill as Nelson Mandela Freedom Park. A man who had spent 27 years because of his democratic impulse had paid the greatest price,” Sir Hilary said, and asserted: “Barbados understood that more than any other place in the world because this was the nature of this land for decades. The people wanted to rename the park.”
This Barbadian writer of Caribbean history, with some 30 books under his belt, pointed to the shadowy controllers of post-Independence Barbados.
“A very organized section of the white community, because of their minority influence but their majority power, was able to scuttle what was a public approved concept.
“The argument at the time was that Farley Hill, which was named by the slave owner family of Thomas Briggs –– an Irishman who owned the slave plantation and had named it Farley because of some relation to island –– and we could not replace Farley Hill, of Irish origin, with Mandela, on an island where 96 per cent of the people are African.”
He said those calling for the renaming were accused of “trying to erase white history and replacing it with
Speaking to the irony of that accusation, the noted historian and academic said: “I remember that day when the campaign started and I was driving through Bridgetown, and I counted in St Michael 46 streets named after members of the British Royal Family –– St Philip Drive, Mary’s Row, George this . . . and then there was Lord Nelson.
“The entire landscape was named after people from Europe, and all we did was to ask for one space on this island to be named after a person of African political leadership.”
Sir Hilary said that the influence on the behind-the-scenes minority figures had consumed the elected representatives of the majority.
“The Government had agreed to me informally, then the Sandiford Government backed down under the pressure from a highly organized group of white, probably opinion makers and academics.
“But I vowed there and then, before I leave God’s Earth there will be a Nelson Mandela Square on this country,” Sir Hilary said to applause as he announced the coming Nelson Mandela Park.