R. Rose
March 24, 2005
Not serious about our heritage

National Heroes Month is coming to an end. This year the month tapers off as the Easter Festival arrives. A good time to make connections. What connections? About the Resurrection, of the triumph of the spirit, of the conquest of death. Isn’t that what honouring Chatoyer and his courageous people all about? Or are we caught up in infantile romantics about this brave WARRIOR that we can only see the physical side of the battle but lose sight of the spiritual triumph? {{more}}

For that’s what it really is. When we declared March 14 as National Heroes Day, when we honour Joseph Chatoyer as our only NATIONAL HERO, we are in fact in the act of Resurrection. We are celebrating the triumph over Colonialism and piracy which not only led to Chatoyer’s death but to the banishment of his people into exile. We are saying today that in spite of the barrage of propaganda, in spite of the discrimination, exile, brutality and genocide, that CHATOYER LIVES.

Somehow I get the impression that most of us miss the essence, don’t quite get the message. Form, not substance, is what seems to impact on us. For if we are so sweet on Chatoyer, where is that spirit of patriotism that we claim to revere in him? How is that love for country manifested? Where is the concern for our sisters and brothers? Where is the defense of our sovereignty, our freedom, our way of life? Food for thought on a long Easter weekend.

But as we focus on Chatoyer, the Garifuna, Callinago and “Caribs”, to use the derogatory term hatched by Chatoyer’s enemies, it is quite appropriate to note the debate occasioned by the filming of the sequel to the popular “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie, done right here in SVG. Apparently parts of the script have evoked the wrath of patriots in Dominica and here at home. They charge that the script, or parts of it, depicts the “Caribs” as cannibals and that is quite unacceptable, insulting, degrading, racist, you name it! So say we all!

Well not quite all it seems. For there are those among us who trivialize the issue. After all it is “just a movie”, we claim, “fictitious characters”, “it doesn’t mean anything”, “we are making too much of it”, even making a mountain out of a molehill”. These are understandable reactions from people who don’t know better, or haven’t quite considered all the implications. Reasoning can correct this. There are others who seem to be beyond correction, permanently blinded by backwardness and ignorance. These you can ignore.

But when your Minister of CULTURE, an educated, enlightened vivacious person who clearly has quite a bit of consciousness, dismisses the concerns of those that the script is obnoxious, then we all have reason to sit up and be concerned. When the Minister further repents the lives of “just a movie” and worse goes to the extent of saying that films print disclaimers saying that any semblance to persons real or imagined is merely co-incidental, as an excuse for not taking a strong stand on the matter, then we must all bow our heads in shame.

For Minister Baptiste, knows better. Could it be that in the zeal to succeed in putting us on the film-makers map, she is prepared to accept such insults to our heritage? After all, she too claims Garifuna heritage? And the cannibalism lie was put on Garifuna and African, even as with the “Caribs”. She as a professed Christian would be keenly aware this Good Friday season, of what “thirty pieces of silver” can bring about. I understand her drive to boost tourism and our stressed-out economy, but I cannot accept this price for it. We cannot and must NEVER acquiesce in our own degradation and humiliation.

Chatoyer’s people must be proud enough to say NO! to a mess of pottage if it perpetuates the inhuman myths of past misdeeds. In the 21st century such actions are simply inexcusable. In the month of CHATOYER, they amount to CULTURAL SUICIDE!

Minister Baptiste owes the nation, the Garifuna, the Callinago people a retraction of her ridiculous explanations. She has a lot to offer our country and does not need to go down that path. Prime Minister Gonsalves and his government must show us that they are serious. We can’t want to play mas and ‘fraid powder.