Dr. Fraser- Point of View
July 29, 2022
It was one hundred and eighty four years ago

I begin my column this week with a brief tribute to Nigel Greaves whose sudden death on July 17, at age 63, sent shock waves throughout the nation. The instant tributes through social media and on radio bear testimony to the type of person he was. This was followed by the large numbers that attended his funeral to pay their last respect to a man who, in different ways, touched their lives. His role as Director of the CK Greaves Group of Companies, with its supermarket chain, distillery and bakery, stood out. His generosity through sponsorships and contribution to community causes is well known and was very much appreciated. This appreciation came from all sectors of the society.

Despite his company’s contribution to the broad community, Nigel, as the leading light since the death of his father in 1996, was on occasions the victim of evil political talk. It was as if he was an alien and not a staunch member of the Vincentian community. He however bore his grind and with his family continued to invest in SVG, providing employment for large numbers. On the occasions on which I chatted with him I got a sense of the kind of person he was and his commitment to this country. He died at a relatively young age, but certainly left his mark. What he did was not on his own, for his family was a vital part of CK Greaves’ contribution to the people and economy of SVG. He has left, but CK Greaves and Company will live on and continue to make its mark on the development of the country and on the lives of many Vincentians. Rest in Peace, Nigel.

Tomorrow, we start a long holiday weekend where we commemorate the fact that on Wednesday, August 1, 1838, our enslaved ancestors began a new journey as “freed” people. It appears to me that we are becoming more conscious that August 1st should not be just another holiday, but that there is some meaning to it about which we have to reflect. With talk of Reparations very much in the air, we need to become even more reflective about the occasion. I am not sure that many of us realise that SVG despite its late start with the establishment of a sugar economy, became between 1807 and 1829, the second largest exporter of sugar after Jamaica. And of course, this was made possible by the fact that the lands that had belonged to the indigenous people was put in the hands of government that turned these into eight estates which were sold for the cultivation of sugar. It was this fresh, fertile land that made a difference. So, the banishment of the Garifuna served the planters in good stead, while the indigenous people who remained in SVG were largely left without land of their own.

Some of us still hold on to the view that “Emancipation Day” was 1 August 1834. It was advertised as such, but the enslaved had to undergo a period of apprenticeship where they were still obligated to continue to serve those who had been holding them in bondage. In fact, even when laws were put in place to offer a measure of protection from the horrors of slavery, they were often not carried out by the proprietors and even the Stipendiary Magistrates whose role was to ensure that the laws put in place were observed, turned a blind eye.

After a two-year absence because of the Covid-19 epidemic, the Daniel Cummings West Kingstown Emancipation Day Fair is now back on stream.

I will once more make my presentation and will speak about the role of the enslaved in ensuring their own emancipation. In the past the emphasis had been on the role of William Wilberforce and the humanitarians, but it is time we focus on the enslaved for they never accepted slavery and resisted in many different ways. Nelly Ibo from Mayreau was executed along with three other women for murdering their proprietor. While slave emancipation was being debated in the British parliament word reached them that the enslaved on estates in the ‘Carib Country’ were in a state of rebellion. Setting fires to the estates was also part of their strategy of rebellion and this was particularly evident at the Fairhall/ Brebner estates.

So that will be the focus of my conversation on Emancipation Day! Join me and be part of the conversation!

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian