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Bussa, Fidel and Kamau

fighting goliathOn August 1, 1998 –– Emancipation Day –– I experienced the tremendous thrill and honour of sharing a public platform with one of the greatest “world historical personalities” of all times –– Comandante Fidel Castro!

And what made the experience particularly special for me was that we were both addressing a crowd of my fellow Barbadians with the imposing statue of the Right Excellent General Bussa towering over us.

In all likelihood, Fidel Castro was seeing the Bussa statue and being exposed to the inspirational story of the 1816 Bussa Rebellion for the very first time on that brilliant Emancipation Morning. But when I had the good fortune to be able to converse with Fidel later that evening at a Government House reception, it became clear to me the Right Excellent General Bussa had made a lasting impression on the great Cuban statesman.

When President Castro spoke to me at that Government House reception, it was evident he wanted to learn as much as he could about the story of General Bussa. And finally –– after prying out the relevant details of the Bussa story from me –– Fidel assured me that in the years to come, Bussa and the other outstanding anti-slavery revolutionaries would emerge as our most important historical personalities and national role models –– even more important than our outstanding anti-colonial or pro-Independence fighters.

Fidel Castro explained to me that in the years ahead, the greatest battle we would have to fight would be the “battle of ideas”, and in that epochal contest, the strongest and most compelling ideas and ideals we would have at our disposal would be those championed by the heroic men and women who were prepared to do everything in their power to destroy the evil institution
of human slavery.

And so, as far as Fidel was concerned, one of the greatest and most important historical personalities of our civilization was the great General Bussa!

Like Fidel, I too share this assessment of the importance not only of Bussa, but of the seminal historical event with which Bussa’s name is eternally linked –– the glorious Bussa Rebellion of 1816.

We Barbadians would therefore be doing ourselves a tremendous disservice if we failed to properly commemorate the looming bicentenary of the Bussa Rebellion.

We have a mere nine more days to go before the April 14 anniversary date is upon us, and it therefore behoves us to use every possible academic and artistic discipline at our disposal to acquire a profound understanding of Bussa and the Bussa Rebellion.

In the three articles I have –– thus far –– written on this topic, I have invoked political analysis and historical documentation to explore the Bussa story. Now, I wish to avail myself of the discipline of poetry and of the literary vehicle of our very own Barbadian “nation language”.

Our national master griot and poet laureate Kamau Brathwaite has produced the definitive “nation language” poem about General Bussa. Please enjoy (and learn from) this slightly abridged version of Kamau’s powerful and moving poem:

So one day leapin ahead a de governor dogs turnin militia on to itself

wrappin dem up in de hickey like hell

cutting de tongue a de backra man bell

was dis short stoutish fella who come

penny hole in sin philip

wid a big bushy head duh call bussa

gorbli he cud crack yuh cuss words like

a curnul yuh hear: no

stopping him hey since washington come

I remember de nite two days after we brek up outta dis meat

box an de war declare from evry hill top a de thundery heaven

dat ringing we rounn from long bay right away dounn to shark

rock an we cramp up an waitin under de mangrove near heddins

not a soul in de sky but a few star fish

an de scar of a bleedin moon:

not a clink in de fire fly night:

not even no stamp nor a stammer a

horse: no body not even ridin a hearse in

dis brave tomorrow, we grave yard . . . .

when dis man who tomorrow dem lick

off de horse e was ridin

an ketch an chop off e head wid a plax

at one blow when dem ready

jess grumbellin dat e getting no sleep

cause de mosskitoes bitein

wid never a scare dat de governor come

an de said white peepull vex dat we fightin

wid dem an sharein out licks instead

a flight in from dem in de crabgrass an sticks

jess because a dis short ibo man

wid dis lion eye vision who cdnt care

less about shame or blame or pain or defeat

wha name so bozie bo? e mane bussa

(David Comissiong is president of the Clement Payne Movement.)

One Response to Bussa, Fidel and Kamau

  1. jrsmith April 6, 2016 at 12:56 pm

    This is all talk 50 years of (DEPENDENCY) we are still at the cross road with tin cup in hand , borrowing and waiting on the developed world decisions for our future. What have been done to our island our people , no work, no water from the taps and we are still waiting to see the light at the end of the tunnel..

    Are we ready for the 51st year, our black history only benefitted the white man.


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