After viewing the Grantley Adams Memorial Lecture hosted by the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) with feature speaker Ms Marsha Caddle last night, I was left with a feeling of “schupse.”
The opening remarks spoke of the man, Grantley Adams, who in assessing “his” (meaning the lot of the African Descended people), created revolutionary change in the island by his willingness to stand against an oppressive system that kept his people poor and subjugated. He fathered a group of people who fought with him for the betterment of his people and thus the BLP was born. Before I proceed, it must be made clear that what Adams fought against was a post independence colonial grip that the island’s former colonisers had on the African descended people of the island at the time. This was not stated in the opening remarks, but the history of the island speaks for itself.
Then Ms Caddle steps up to discuss the notion that we as a nation can choose to either continue to survive as we do now or we can transform to attain real social and economic growth. She clearly put on the table that this transformation requires a revolution – a revolution that would entail a change in how we view economic enfranchisement, democratic governance, education and culture, and environmental sustainability if we are going to tap into the full potential of our youth resources. So far so good, so I made myself comfortable and continued to listen.
As her words of revolution filled the room, she talked about the idea of greater involvement of the people, not only in exercising their voting rights, but in the overall governance of the island. However, I noted that a key element of her revolutionary idea of social and economic development and empowerment was missing. As she spoke of what culture was, my previous thoughts of so far so good were becoming ones of oh no another talk shop to facilitate promise politics, well presented dabs of government bashing (which is expected from any worthwhile opposition agent) and tons of political brown nosing. Not my cup of tea.
Ms Caddle ended her presentation without mentioning the contributions of Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Charities, Community Based Organisations (CBOs), Grass Roots Organisations and other entities that do the ground work that the society needs in order to grow. She did say that community organisations were a lot stronger when she was younger and the decline of these organisations has contributed to the present situation (crisis, really) that our young people face.
Readers familiar with The African Heritage Foundation would be aware that this charity is seeking to engage all the political parties in Barbados. We want to provide the various organisations with the opportunity to describe how they can be better assisted by government, by government officials in and out of parliament. I do hope that when the BLP is invited, they will afford us the same opportunity to engage with them as Ms Lynette Eastmond and the United Progressive Party is doing.
Please note the venue of this event is “Plaza Central, 126 Roebuck St,” Next to Chicken Galore, Upstairs and not The St Michael School as seen on the poster
I was having a discussion with someone more knowledgeable about Barbadian politics than I am (which I might add is not hard to find) and I was told that all NGOs and CBOs have the ability to become the government of the people and the political parties know this and purposely keep them underdeveloped by providing minimal funding. I was also informed that there is really no special registration or application process that has to be completed to become a political party. This caused me to dive into another dimension of why party politics can be hazardous to the development of a country. I will say what I have to based on the sentiments I am getting from the people. It seems that the politicians think “I am not actually willing to do anything unless I am put in power, but I can give you my promises.”
Ms Caddle spoke of revolutionary change in education in spaces such as Finland, but did she take any time to see how she and her party, even out of parliament, could assist NGOs that are working without pay to create models that would assist with the same revolutionary change in education? Mind you – most of these people in and out of political office have the resources and access to resources that could empower the real revolution of positive, sustainable change. In most cases, these people have access to information that could boost NGOs, CBOs, Grass Roots Organisations and the lot. So I am left asking myself what is this revolution that she speaks of?
Even though Ms Caddle stated she wanted the “lecture” to be more of a discussion, only a few minutes were allotted for the question and answer period, which did not permit any significant time for a real dialogue with the audience. The talk of revolution was clearly just talk. The plaster for that one was that this was the first of many of these types of meetings (nothing new). How could you structure the evening away from discussion, but you say you want it to be more of a discussion? I don’t get that at all.
In between the political posturing, a man got up and put it to Ms Caddle that problems that underpinned the economic issues that we (African descended people) faced was a notion fed to us by colonial religious institutions (churches) that it is ok to be poor and the only thing one must strive for is to reach heaven. People in Africa say, “When the white man came to Africa, he had the bible and we had the land. He said let us pray and we closed our eyes. When we opened our eyes again, we had the bible and he had the land.” The same thing is happening now. The man noted that while some of the religious congregation is serviced in small ways by the church, the majority of the congregation remains poor, while the church leaders grow rich. Of course, since a lot of these politicians endorse the church and its beliefs, combined with the fact that white people were in the room, this issue was addressed in a very roundabout manner and there was no substantive response. Revolutionary, she says!
The man also spoke of fair distribution of government contracts. He provided an example of the government wanting to build a fence and having access to 10 fence building companies. He suggested that the government should divide the contract among the 10 of them or as many as possible. He contended that not only the large white owned companies should be granted contracts. Again, with many white ears present, this drew no response. Lastly, this same man who really did not busy himself with much politicking said the notion of a developed Barbados must not mean the underdevelopment of its masses, which has been the case in my opinion for more than the past 30 years.
Overall, I am left very disappointed in the lack of spine shown by those who call themselves worthy leaders of the Barbadian people. How does one talk revolution then retreat into the shadows when the real hard questions are asked? The revolution must start with the unveiling of white supremacy in this island. We cannot overlook the residue of our colonial past that still chokes us to this very day or there will be no real development.
Since the basic tenet of this lecture was transformation by revolution, I am going to end this article with a few quotes from Fred Hampton (August 30, 1948 – December 4, 1969), who was chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party. Before he was murdered in a predawn raid by the Chicago Police Department, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation while he slept in bed, Fred said: “You have to understand that people have to pay the price for peace. If you dare to struggle, you dare to win. If you dare not to struggle then goddamn it, you don’t deserve to win. Let me say peace to you, if you’re willing to fight for it.”
He also said “So we say – we always say in the Black Panther Party – that they can do anything they want to us. We might not be back. I might be in jail. I might be anywhere. But when I leave, you’ll remember I said, with the last words on my lips, that I am a revolutionary. And you’re going to have to keep on saying that. You’re going to have to say that I am a proletariat, I am the people. I am not the pigs. You’ve got to make a distinction. And the people are going to have to attack the pigs. The people are going to have to stand up against the pigs. That’s what the Panthers are doing here. That’s what the Panthers are doing all over the world.” In his time he called the police the pigs. If we understand what the man asking the questions was putting to Ms Caddle, we have a new breed of pigs bred from the old stock we need to address if we are to talk revolution.
My advice to the Barbados Labour Party is given is this last quote from Fred: “We don’t think you fight fire with fire best; we think you fight fire with water best. We’re going to fight racism not with racism, but we’re going to fight with solidarity. We say we’re not going to fight capitalism with black capitalism, but we’re going to fight it with socialism.” If you want a solution to the issues faced by the people, talk to the people and the organisations of people who truly work in the interest of the people.