March 1, 2013
National Heritage Month – deepening its significance

Fri Mar 01, 2013

The highlight of this week was undoubtedly the thanksgiving celebrations on Tuesday, for the life of SEARCHLIGHT’s founding Managing Editor Norma Keizer. Just as this was a fitting close to Black History Month, so too did it lead up to today’s start of National Heritage Month, a topic dear to the heart of the late patriot. In one week’s time to be exact, Vincentians will join the rest of the world in celebrating International Women’s Day, an occasion to which the accomplishments of Mrs Keizer and a host of outstanding Vincentian women, will be remembered.{{more}}

It is indeed a pity that there is still not yet a system of national honours, a goal towards which Mrs Keizer made her own contribution. Save for our unanimous acclaim of Callinago Chief Joseph Chatoyer as our sole National hero, we have been unable to agree on little else. In 2009, we voted against constitutional change which would have forced us to come to grips with national honours. It is to be hoped that we would get back on track soon and that Government, of whatever hue or persuasion, would at long last be able to honour our outstanding nation-builders.

The annual commemoration of the month of March as National Heritage Month has still not sunk deep enough in our society. A calendar of activities has been drawn up and published by the Department of Culture. This is praiseworthy and is in furtherance of the Department’s theme for the month of “Appreciating our identity: preserving our heritage with pride”.

The activities are varied both in content and geographical spread. They include activities to honour the memory of two former Leaders of our country, themselves still candidates for the designation as National Hero: the late Ebenezer Theodore Joshua and Robert Milton Cato; the sacred National Heroes day ceremony on March 14 and a range of cultural happenings – Festivals, calypso and gospel concerts, activities to promote film, fine arts and fashion as well as the annual pilgrimage to Balliceaux, the island to which the Callinago people were exiled by the British in a futile attempt at extermination.

There are notable omissions in this official calendar though. Two glaring ones are the absence of activities to commemorate the birth of two other candidates for National Hero status, George McIntosh and Hugh Mulzac. These two of our foremost patriots were born within three weeks of each other, on March 6 and 26, in the year 1886. We cannot just be remembering death dates, we must also acclaim their dates of arrival.

Missing too, is the inclusion of International Women’s Day in the listed activities for the month. True, this is an International commemoration, but it is very relevant to the contribution of Vincentian women. In addition to Mrs Keizer, the late fighter for women’s and farmers’ rights, Earlene Horne, passed away on March 14, 1998. The connection could have been made in this regard, since both deceased made significant contributions to national development.

Even as we salute the initiative of the Department of Culture, it is not too late to correct these oversights in an effort to deepen our appreciation of the significance of the month of March.