R. Rose
May 29, 2015

Contribution of Black Power

It is ironic and often sad to hear or read so many ‘just-come’ advocates of Black Power today in their political assertions of political power today and judgement on the suitability of persons to hold leadership positions based on skin colour.

Wrong and opportunistic as this might be, one can only ask where were the majority of these “just-comers” when it took sacrifice and pain to stand up and be counted?{{more}}

Two non-white (in skin colour terms) prominent individuals bear the brunt of the attacks of the modern-day Black Power advocates, former PM Sir James Mitchell and current PM Dr Ralph Gonsalves. I have had disagreements with both, as indeed I have had agreement with some of their policies and actions, but never on the basis of skin colour. Perhaps excusable 30/40 years ago, but not in today’s world, not after all that Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King exhibited and taught.

Indeed, it is instructive that it was the non-white leadership of Sir James, not the ‘black’ leadership of his immediate predecessors, which began to forge ties with black African states. We may disagree with the choices of Jammeh in Gambia or Kaunda in Zambia, we may question the motives or the timing, but it is an undisputable fact.

Similarly, where were those ‘just-comers’ when Ralph Gonsalves was one of the foremost regional advocates for the cause of African liberation, when the people of southern Africa were crying out loudly for support in their struggle against racism, both in apartheid south Africa and, yes, against racist Portuguese colonialism in Mozambique, Angola and Guinea Bissau? Wasn’t Ralph a so-called “white” Portuguese then? On which side was he? As the biblical saying goes, “Were you there?”

So, we cannot confuse or mix-up our political preferences with such fundamental issues, nor in a 21st century world attempt to justify those preferences on the basis of skin colour. It is true that elections are nigh and all gloves will be off in the heat of the contest, but there are fundamental issues which cannot be skirted.

The Black Power movement in this part of the world is much maligned. No doubt, some of us, in the forefront, contributed to it by irrational statements and actions, often attributable to over-enthusiasm, over-exuberance and the reaction to centuries of colonial and racist oppression.

Ironically, many of those in the forefront of the condemnation of Black Power, are among those who benefitted greatly from that advocacy and the sacrifice of the early advocates. It is Black Power pressure which led to ‘dark’ skins at last winning deserved promotion, especially in the world of business, and to the grudging acceptance of blacks in managerial positions.

The contribution of Black Power has been massive in many aspects of social life as well. The search for identity led to young men and women seeking knowledge, drop-outs from school grappling with the works of Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Walter Rodney, Kwame Nkrumah and others, which would not have happened otherwise. Alongside this was the flowering of arts, craft and culture – drumming and drum-making, poetry, new pride in pan and kaiso. It is in this context that the New Artists Movement, led by ‘Blazer’ Williams and exhibiting such excellent dramatists as ‘Darkie’ Williams, ‘Chico’ Ellis, Jeff James, ‘Pick’ Charles, the late Carmelita ‘Camo’ Williams, Claire Haynes and the Ralph couple, Glenford and Anita, to name just a few, flourished.

Many other artistes revelled in this cultural renaissance, an indisputable contribution of Black Power to our modern society. But there were others as well – respect for our women folk, advocating for the rights of the indigenous Calinago and Garifuna people, extolling the role of paramount Chief Chatoyer, later to become our sole National Hero – all of these and more are grounded in our Black Power experience, as was the determination to be rid of colonial domination and achieve national independence.

We have much of which we ought to be proud of this Black Power movement and those who laid the basis for our progression as a confident, modern, developing country. They must not be swept aside or forgotten in our intensive political rivalries of today. We all have gained from the Black Power Movement.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social com-mentator.