Decolonization and National Heroes Month
March 11, 2022

Decolonization and National Heroes Month

We are already more than a week into National Heroes Month and will commemorate its high point next Monday, the anniversary of the date on which our sole National Hero, the Right Excellent Joseph Chatoyer, was reputedly killed.

During this month of March, we also honour the memory of two of the nominees for National Hero status, George Augustus McIntosh, born March 6, 1886, and Ebeneezer Theodore Joshua who transited this life on March 14, 1991. The descendants of the indigenous people, the Garifuna, also take the opportunity to hold the annual Garifuna Conference to coincide with the month.

For more than 20 years now we have been having a national ritual at Dorsetshire Hill, the presumed site of Chatoyer’s death, as the focal point of National Heroes Day activities. But it has become somewhat stale, for little mobilisation is done to try and attract a large audience, though the location will provide challenges in that regard. But there is much more to it than that. We are yet to have a more meaningful national monument to Paramount Chief Chatoyer in our capital city for all to see. The major national monument still remains the one to the victims of World War 1 which was not fought on our behalf.

In addition, we cannot talk of National Heroes Day/Month without a focus on the decolonization process. We in the Caribbean are good on talk but rather tardier on action. Constitutional reform, at least meaningful ones, is one such area where we are more bark than bite. It is of course laudable that at the level of republicanism and Heads of State some progress has been made, but collectively, Caribbean countries and the conservatism which guides our politics have been slow on the adoption of more relevant constitutions which reflect our evolution and needs.

Let us take two outstanding examples. At the national and regional level, cricket still remains our most outstanding contribution. We have given the world cricketers of the highest order, from George Headley, through Garfield Sobers right on to Vivian Richards and Malcolm Marshall, to mention some of the most outstanding. But our recognition of them is yet to have a Caribbean flavour. We have “Lord” Learie Constantine, and the other cricketing knights – Sobers, the three Ws etc. What is Caribbean about these accolades?

It even goes deeper into our most prestigious schools. All have ‘Houses’ which compete for sporting superiority. Very few of these carry the names of our local academic or sporting geniuses. That is not to say we must not recognise the contributions that others played in our educational and sporting development, but can’t they be recognised otherwise, allowing our young ones to be proud of Vincentians who preceded them at those institutions. This is not disrespect for those after whom buildings and ‘Houses’ are named; just reshaping our future in our own image.

When we talk reparations, we must set the stage so our people can begin to see our history through the prisms of our own experiences.