R. Rose
September 24, 2004
The march to Independence

Please tell me that I am wrong, but I can’t help being gravely concerned about the manner in which, as a nation, we are approaching our 25th anniversary of the achievement of Independence. It is a matter I had raised since last year and again did some weeks ago, but, to me at least, little has changed to quell my disquiet.{{more}}
This is not just another anniversary; it marks a quarter of a century of our march along the road of nationhood. A national mobilisation ought to be in order.
That is all the more an imperative, given the manner in which we proceeded to independence, and the still gaping hole in our national consciousness.
Twenty-five years after raising the new flag, only to change it post-independence, we are still uncomfortable about a number of symbolic matters: our flag and anthem to give two examples, and the lack of universal respect for them. Simply speaking, October 27, 1979 came without widespread recognition of the importance of the occasion.
One can excuse this partly by the fact that, unlike many countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, indeed unlike the United States of America, we had no modern day literal battle for our independence. When it came, our battles were mainly internal political ones. There was little connection between October 1979, October 1935, or Chatoyer’s wars in defence of national sovereignty. Not for the vast majority of our people, though there were some of us around at the time, too few in number to be sure, who valiantly tried to make that connection.
After all these years, not enough of us are aware that on October 27, 1979 what we were doing was RECLAIMING OUR INDEPENDENCE. It was an independence that had been brutally snatched from us by the British Conquest.
While a similar fate befell our neighbours, the case of St Vincent and the Grenadines was special in that its original inhabitants, once vanquished, were eventually exiled from their own homeland. Really, shades of ethnic cleansing in the 20th century! Our loss of sovereignty was accompanied by an attempt to erase the very existence of our ancestors.
The failure to understand this, is what leads to the uninformed response of so many of our people, even the “educated” ones, to calls for reparation. In the case of St Vincent and the Grenadines, not only does it apply to the evils of slavery, but also to the grave injustices committed against the Callinago/Garifuna people. The achievement and reclaiming of our independence cannot be complete until those historical wrongs are put to right.
What have we done these past 25 years to re-write our history? Have those persons born post-1979 been brought up, educated, exposed to an accurate account of our history? Save for the noble efforts around National Heroes Month, what have we done with our educational system to get at least the upcoming generations to understand our past? It cannot be enough to teach them the Pledge, the Anthem and an account of history which gives the impression that we were “born” as a nation on October 27, 1979.
The Callinago wars of liberation, the slave revolts, the anti-colonial agitations, the works and teachings of McIntosh, Mulzac and Joshua, the uprising and stubborn resistance of October 1935, all are part and parcel of the long march towards independence.
Adult suffrage, trade union rights and freedoms, the end to child labour, emancipation from chattel slavery, are all milestones along the way. We have a proud and rich history. Our celebration of it should be fittingly dignified!