Our Readers' Opinions
November 20, 2009
Reflections of Vincy Homecoming

by Maxwell Haywood 20.NOV.09

Vincy Homecoming 2009 is now being assessed to learn from the experience. There would be much to say. Indeed, there is much to do also.

Where do we go from here? I see two broad strategic directions. It is important that relations between St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) and Vincentians living abroad must now be formally strengthened as recommended in the National Homecoming Framework of Action.{{more}} Furthermore, the recommendations found in the Framework for Action must now come alive with programmatic substance.

Before looking at the process of follow-up to the Homecoming recommendations, I would like to make a few observations.

Vincy Homecoming 2009 was never going be an easy task, especially when it was to be the first effort, and especially when seen in the context of the political, financial and social conditions surrounding it. Those of us involved in organizing it knew quite well that it was going to be difficult. Yet we took on the task with full confidence, commitment, and vision because we were convinced of the wisdom of the idea. To a large extent, the efforts were successful, while there were many shortcomings.

It was with this background in mind that I read the Vincentian Newspaper’s editorial of October 29, 2009, entitled “Homecoming”, which was quite passionately critical to the Homecoming activities. It raised some relevant issues that the organizers should integrate into the planning process of the next Vincy Homecoming. Two major arguments of the editorial are firstly the extent to which the entertainment events brought us any closer to “fostering an identification with the unique ‘Vincentianness’”; and secondly, the existence of social divisions which exist in SVG and in the Diaspora, and their negative impact on the Homecoming process.

The following week, an article was published in the Searchlight newspaper entitled “A review of Vincy Homecoming”. This article was also meaningfully critical in the sense that while it points out some of the achievements, it also highlights the weaknesses and failures of Vincy Homecoming. It is with this spirit of positively highlighting the good and the bad that we need to move ahead and consolidate these Homecoming processes at home and abroad. We need to avoid sowing seeds of doubt, negativity, and defeatism. Instead, we should in a responsible way inspire our people to greater heights instead of beating down without trying to uplift.

For sure, the Homecoming was not perfect. Many things could have been done better. As a result of my direct involvement as one of the organizers of the Diaspora dimension of the Homecoming, I am uniquely poised to shed light on the Homecoming. From this vantage point, I saw the entire process unfold. It took a lot of work on behalf of many people at home and abroad to bring it to where it is now.

Vincentians in the Diaspora focused their efforts on making sure that after many decades of reaching out to SVG in various ways a foundation was established that would make it easier for SVG to improve its relations with its sons and daughters who have migrated. In response to the call for the Diaspora to contribute to this Homecoming process,Vincentians living abroad in the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Barbados organized conferences in which they reflected on how best to improve relations between themselves and their homeland SVG. This process was successful, despite some weak spots. All these conferences have submitted their reports to the Regional Integration and Diaspora Unit.

During the Conferences in the Diaspora, Vincentians displayed a high sense of purpose in sharing information and ideas from an individual and organizational perspective. As a result, the Diaspora Conference process was informative, inspiring, developmental, and action-oriented.

The organizers and participants in the conferences held in the Diaspora shared completely the view of the Vincy Homecoming theme which is: “As one people in many lands we shape our nation with many hands.” Vincentians living in the US, Canada, UK, and Barbados responded enthusiastically to this broad based philosophy expressed by this theme.

During two days of Diaspora discussions of the Vincy Homecoming Conference, October 22-24, Vincentians at home and abroad reflected on the state of their relations and then discussed and finalized the draft National Homecoming Framework of Action. This Framework contains recommendations and ideas that emerged from the conferences in the Diaspora and meetings in SVG. The Framework also indicates the actions needed to implement the Homecoming Framework of Action.

Space does not permit me to continue, but in a subsequent article I will discuss the content and follow-up recommendations of the National Homecoming Framework of Action.