Round Table with Oscar
March 24, 2015
Joseph Chatoyer in Atlantic context

The Kalina movement of people and the rebellious African captives were to become the mothers and fathers of Joseph Chatoyer and the Kalinago Gasinahu Carib Garifuna nation. They were part and partisans of an Atlantic class struggle which has given us our revolutionary national hero in SVG. 500 years ago, before our present century, one European leader handed out the Caribbean and American ocean, seas and continents in a little deed to the kings of Spain and Portugal. That Pope didn’t even call the Mayan, Inca, Cherokee, Arawaks, Kalina and other peoples of our world to discuss/negotiate the dead with them.{{more}} He, the Pope, was God’s land and maritime surveyor and divider. Europe’s elites owned us. In “We Want tTo Become Wise”, on page 5-6, a reading book written 15 years ago, I offered this opinion on “How Europe came to control the Atlantic.

This (decentralized) weakness in Europe’s governance gave rise to rising and restless classes on groups of people who were eager to strike out as inventors, sailors, and scientists in new directions. For them, the Atlantic Ocean became a place which to expand. This slowness of Europe in one sense enabled it to ‘reach out’ in the Atlantic, while the African and American continents with stronger governance, did not have the rising classes that were hungry for wealth and glory. So, Europe took over the Atlantic.

Around the time when Joseph Chatoyer was born and was growing up, the Nanci stories and metanarratives in Europe spoke highly of the greatness of Europe’s nations and of nights for its classes. In Britain, this nursery rhyme of 1740 was quite popular

When Britain first at Heavens’ command

Arose from out the azure main

…guardian angels sang the strain

Rule Britannia, Britannia rule the waves

Britons never never never shall be slaves.

Even today, the racist hype of this verse tends to taste bad on the tongue.

The Atlantic enterprise of expanding productive forces stirred up Europe to bring wealth, and new developments and ambitions and rivalries among Europe’s classes and groups. On our side of the Atlantic too things were changing. On the North American continent, the British colonies, particularly the business groups and property holders, cut their ties with Britain in a declaration of independence. The French and others helped them in battle and they made what Howard Zinn calls “A Kind of Revolution,” which did not give constitutional equality to “slaves and masters, properties and property holders, Indians and whites.” He adds that “As many as half the people were not considered by the Founding Father… They were the women of America.” It was that elite kind of revolution: different strokes for different folks.

And where was Chatoyer and the Kalina Garifuna people in this clash of Atlantic classes? This extract from p 23 of “We Want To Become Wise” evokes the narrative of this Atlantic horizon.

In the first 100 years of the (Atlantic) sugar revolution, between 350 BP (before the present 21C) and 250 BP between five and six million Africans were brought to the Americas as slaves.

…. At that time, 350 BP, the Youroume in Republic (SVG) was still ruled by the Garifuna-Carib people, who were defending it from the covetous Europeans. Using Youroumein as a base, they were also sailing out to attach the British colonies in the Leeward Islands. Chief Chatoyer was the head of the last Caribbean republic, Youroumein of Youlou in 205 BP. Nine years later, Toussaint L’Ouverture’s African army took Haiti from the French and set up the first ‘black’ republic in the Caribbean.

From small, Chatoyer has sat, listened and learned the stories and songs that the Garifuna men told and the Carib women sang.

Those stories filled his heart with pride. Those sweet songs of the coming of his ancestors and their years of struggle and victory put stars in his eyes, and the eyes of his friends.

One day, he and his friends too would tell stories.

One day, the people would sing songs about them.

One day, their lands would be free again from

Alligouana to Youroumein

The night of the next day would be a time his people would always remember. The whole Garifuna nation was going to be in place and, with the French under his command, they would drive the ‘Englishers’ into the ground, into the sea and over the sea where they belonged.

The night of the next day would be the first night of the new world. Chatoyer took inspiration from his pride, put it away and rose to lead his nation to their position.

He was ready.

“WISE” p 23

To be continue Connecting the Atlantic Struggles