Local Vibes
November 25, 2005
Ras Oba’s book signing – A family affair

Ras Oba Chatoyer, Vincentian international social activist, accompanied by his wife and six children, was in Montreal on Saturday 19th November to launch his book, “Oba’s Story”. The intimate ambience at Ethnic Origins Book Store, across from the Lionel Groulx Metro Station, was the perfect setting for a lively discussion, engaging an audience of families that ranged in age from babies to great-grandparents. {{more}}

Chatoyer shared his experiences of the Black Power movement in the United States, highlighting the pride he felt in the example of the caring family man with a social conscience that Malcolm X demonstrated by the decisions he made and the actions he took in the last hours before his 1965 assassination. Glancing at his wife, Ras Oba said that he found his personal balance and ability to become a better husband and father by tempering the male militant approach with the gentle strength of woman.

Ras Oba congratulated the young men in the audience, many of whom were accompanied by their wives and children. He said that this display, of the young Black male’s united and participatory role in family life and in their children’s upbringing, strengthens his view that our community’s future is being placed on a solid foundation.

Chatoyer’s recounting of events and personages surrounding the assassination of Professor Walter Rodney in Guyana had the youth in the audience listening with wide-eyed intent, the mature members displaying dawning understanding while some of the senior members nodded on remembering those events.

Walter Rodney was a Professor at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica. He had presented, through his lectures, writing and actions, an analysis and re-interpretation of the relationship between the colonized and the colonizer.

In October 1968, the West Indian Student Association of Montreal, in collaboration with the wider Caribbean Community and the Montreal Pan-African Committee, invited Rodney to deliver a lecture at the historic Congress of Black Writers in Montreal. When Rodney returned to Jamaica he was banned from entering the country and dismissed from his post.

Ralph Gonsalves, who is now Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, was a Political Science student at UWI then. He organized a student march protesting the dismissal of Rodney. The grass-roots movement in Kingston, with whom Rodney worked, having issue with the public transportation system at the time, took up the protest. Using the occasion to demonstrate their displeasure they proceeded to burn several Public Transportation vehicles. Gonsalves continues his history-making activities; he recently concluded a historic visit to Ethiopia with four members of the Rastafarian Community where he negotiated equal Ethiopian status for the Rastafarians living at Shashamane – land that had been set-aside for them by His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie. They are now able to own land and start businesses.

Ras Oba congratulated the children on their behaviour then proceeded to co-sign copies of the book with his twelve-year old daughter Myra, who asserted her right to do so, claiming that she was on the front lines with her father during his activist work. The evening ended with private conversations between Ras Oba and members of the audience.

I.B. Punnett