Barbados at 50: A Year of Celebrations Marking Independence Day on 30
As Barbados approaches the golden anniversary of its
independence from Britain, the Caribbean island nation of almost 300 000 people
- and many more comprising its extensive diaspora – is reflecting on almost 400
years of recorded history.
The year of celebration – with activities in Barbados and
across the Bajan diaspora - focusing on a theme of Pride and Industry – began
officially in January this year with the launch of Barbados We Come From, at Independence Square in capital city
Bridgetown, under the country’s broken trident adorned blue and yellow flag. Of course, this year’s Crop Over was extra
special and anniversary festivities have continued with art exhibitions, literary
festivals and book fairs; artistic and creative performances; tributes to the
island’s seven Prime Ministers and recognition of the role of the workers and
labour movements in Barbados’ campaign for democracy and independence.
2016 also marks the 200th anniversary of the pivotal
anti-slavery rebellion for freedom led by Bussa at Bayley’s Plantation, St.
Philip. This signal event, though
unsuccessful, laid the basis - along with Caribbean-wide rebellions - for
Emancipation throughout the British Empire in 1838.
Barbados’ culture and traditions have their foundation built
on the heritage of the indigenous people - Caribs and Arawaks decimated
following initial Spanish/Portuguese intervention - as well as the culture of
peoples of predominantly African descent who make up its population and –
significantly - on the islands near 400-year association with solely English-British
colonial institutions and rule.
Unlike many other Caribbean islands, Barbados did not face the
intermittent wars and military rivalry between Dutch, French, Spanish and
English colonial powers, which befell the wider Caribbean region.
Although this unbroken connection with England and Britain – that
begun in 1625 near Holetown and ratified by King Charles I in 1627 - has
undoubtedly influenced Barbadian social and political life and culture, a
distinctly Caribbean identity and culture has evolved in the island and its
most famous sons and daughters are acclaimed globally. In Caribbean’s agitation
for freedom from enslavement, racial equality, the campaign for independence,
development in sports, music, literature and culture, Barbados is well
The career of Barbados’ most famous son and the country’s only
living National Hero, Garfield Sobers - who marked his 80th birthday in July
with a 20/20 cricket match - with Sobers Celebrity XI defeating Brian Lara’s
team - paralleled the independence of the majority of Caribbean nations with
the domination of the West Indies cricket team.
The cricket legend is joined by Labour leader and the country’s
Premier Grantley Adams, the Father of Independence and national hero Errol
Walton Barrow, social campaigner Nita Barrow, together with entertainers Edwin
Yearwood, Alison Hinds, superstar Rhianna, Olympic athlete Obadele Thompson,
outstanding intellectual and Vice Chancellor of the University of the West
Indies Hilary Beckles. Others include eminent Barbadians include notable writers
such as George Lamming, Kamau Braithwaite and Frank Collymore. Many
personalities from the entertainment world also claim Barbadian heritage including
hip hop pioneers Grandmaster Flash [Joseph Saddler],
Doug E. Fresh, LL Cool J, actors Cuba Gooding Jr., Jada Pinkett, Meagan Good
and Stacey Dash.
Reflecting on the golden anniversary celebrations Bajan
resident Alan Springer observed that: “What happened in 1966 is something to be
celebrated, at the same time looking for someone like [Errol] Barrow to take us
forward into the next 50.”
Talking about the late Statesman’s vision for the island he
recalled: “Barrow saw the agricultural decline and gave us a choice: invest in
modern farming or switch focus to modern technology to provide the platform for
international business. Errol Barrow was a statesman of the first order whose
administration in fact ushered in much of what he envisaged for Barbados going
forward - a Barbados that had the right to determine its own governance,
elected by Barbadians… a progressive Barbados driven by modern infrastructure,
able to compete on a more even footing with nations far more developed,
development that was achieved mostly on the backs of nations like Barbados.
Barrow wanted an education system able to turn out the next generation of
academics to steer the nation into a brave new world.”
With discussion well underway to establish Barbados as a
republic and to end the British monarch’s role as the island’s head of state,
Tee White a Barbados based educator proposed a wider debate which visualizes a
political system which can meet Bajans’ needs for empowerment and
democracy. He pointed out that universal
adult suffrage was achieved only 15 years before independence and that the
current Westminster style system of ‘representative democracy’ on which it is
based was established in Barbados by the slave masters in the 17th
century. In this regard he stressed the
need for more debates.
He said: “There is no doubt that our move to a republic is
Whilst that debate continues, five decades of formal
independence from the United Kingdom will be marked on Independence Day,
November 30, with a military parade and a mega concert - all to be held at the
capital city’s iconic Garrison Savannah.
When the blue and yellow flag is raised and the national
anthem accompanies the unveiling of the much-anticipated national monument,
Barbados will have achieved a landmark golden anniversary.
Hutchinson is TheNewblackmagazine.com’s deputy editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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