Present day Barbadians are the proud inheritors of the legacy of freedom struggles, and the activism and unarticulated dreams of countless persons of many past
STANLEY BROOKS Ph.D.
The nation of Barbados has been in the news quite frequently this year because of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of gaining its independence on 30 November 1966. Festivities were launched in Barbados since January 2016 by the country’s Prime Minister, the Honourable Freundel Stuart. The celebration of an event like the golden jubilee of the birth of nationhood is indeed momentous. On Saturday, 15 October, over 400 Barbadians and friends joined Barbados House Montreal at Schofield Hall TMR, in paying tribute to Barbados for reaching this milestone. Distinguished guests included Her Excellency Yvonne Walkes, Barbados High Commissioner to Canada; Mr. George Grant, Honorary Consul for Jamaica to Canada; Honourable David Birnbaum, Member of the National Assembly, D’Arcy McGee, Honourable Frank Baylis, MP Pierrefonds/Dollard, and Dr. Myrna Lashley, Honorary Consul for Barbados to Montreal.
History is a great educator, and no nation or people can know the worth of its independence without knowing the value of its past. So as Barbados prepares to celebrate the golden anniversary of its nationhood on 30 November, 1966, it is fitting that Barbadians also celebrate their past, namely, the rough road along which they proudly trod to reach that destination, and look to the future with hope and confidence.
Barbados was claimed by the British and was first occupied in 1627 by a party of 80 settlers who landed at what became known as Holetown. For some 325 years or so before independence the history of Barbados was essentially a history of settlement on a grand scale and colonial rule. During that period, Barbados witnessed the establishment of large sugar plantations, and the growth of a huge African slave workforce to satisfy the needs of the sugar plantocracy. Barbados’ history reflected the racially segregated social order whereby people with strong social connections and powerful financial backgrounds from England dominated, and Africans and blacks as well as the very poor descendants of Irish prisoners and white indentured laborers were relegated to a position of inferiority. Barbados remained within the grip of colonialism until internal autonomy was granted in 1961.
Fearless and heroic slaves were the first to begin the march toward the freedom and self-determination Barbadians celebrate and enjoy today. 150 years before Barbados claimed its nationhood, our first freedom fighter emerged in the person of the slave called Bussa. Discouraged by the injustice and brutality of slavery in the island, he coordinated the rebel groups in the 1816 Easter revolt. His bravery, daring and tenacity are memorialized in a statue that is proudly displayed at one of the round-a-bouts on the ABC highway in Barbados. Bussa was an interesting character. He held the position as the overseer of slaves at Bayley’s plantation in St. Philip where the uprising began. His actions were motivated by two factors in particular: first, the creation of the new Republic in Haiti which became the symbol of freedom for slaves, and second, powerful resistance to the anti-slavery campaign in England by the sugar aristocracy in the West Indies.
History records that Bussa’s Easter Sunday revolt succeeded in spreading to over half the island, but was ruthlessly suppressed by the militia within three days. British sense of justice resulted in the execution of 111 enslaved workers and four free people of mixed race for inciting the rebellion. Bussa’s uprising was doomed to fail, but although the rebels had lost the battle, the flame of struggle for freedom continued its flicker.
The next significant milestone in the journey toward independence occurred 103 years after the abolition of slavery in 1834. This time a major riot was triggered by social unrest among working class Barbadians whose frustration was vented at the ruling plantation and commercial class regarding gaping social disparity, poor economic and working conditions in the island. This riot was also ruthlessly put down.
The single notable social and politically significant outcome of the 1937 riot was the founding of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) by Sir Grantley Adams who did his best to bring about political and social reform. Universal adult suffrage was won in 1951, and full internal self-government ten years later in 1961. The British sponsored Federation of the West Indies between 1958 and 1962 was a failure, and the Island of Barbados became independent, with Errol Barrow as prime minister on November 30, 1966.
From the 1625 landing when Barbados was claimed for King James to 1966 when independence was gained is a period of almost 350 years. Barbadians will never fully comprehend the depth of gratitude owed to every man and woman, slave or free, who in some way contributed unknowingly to the eventual coming of nationhood. Many contributed to independence with their sweat, tears, blood and very lives. Many, because of their ability to educate, and many because of the values, and social ideas that had been instilled; many, through patience, prayer and faith; many, by pressing forward with a vision. Present day Barbadians are the proud inheritors of the legacy of freedom struggles, and the activism and unarticulated dreams of countless persons of many past generations whose names they will never know, and whose faces they will never see.
History will forever recognize the Honourable Errol Walton Barrow as the Barbadian who chartered the course to our island’s national independence. This fearless visionary championed the struggle for Barbadian independence from British rule, and was a fervent advocate of the Caribbean’s ability to proceed with becoming a prosperous area based on its own resources, rather than eternally depending on external assistance. In fact, he dedicated his entire political career toward the advancement of Barbados and the Caribbean as a whole. Errol Barrow was a firm believer in regional togetherness, regional integration, and an English-speaking Caribbean with strong political, social, and economic relations. He was a leader in the creation of CARIFTA, which later became CARICOM – the Caribbean Community that was formed in 1976 to provide a forum for representatives from the English-speaking Caribbean to strengthen relations and economic ties.
As first prime minister of an independent Barbados, Mr. Barrow transformed Barbados into a proud nation in which slave descendants like myself were no longer second-class citizens. He successfully created a new social democratic state and expanded the island’s tourism and industrial sectors, introduced National Health Insurance and Social Security schemes while expanding the provision of free education for all citizens at all levels within the country. Succeeding prime ministers have all courageously followed in this statesman’s footsteps to strengthen and safeguard Barbados’s nationhood and Caribbean integration.
When Barbados declared its sovereignty 50 years ago, this declaration meant that the island was independent in its political affairs, was economically viable and capable of territorial security. It meant that Barbados had the right to choose its own government and conduct its own affairs within its borders without other nations interfering. From a domestic point of view sovereignty brought with it important obligations such as responsible and inclusive government, accountability to the people, and assurance of the rule of law. Since sovereignty is not just a domestic challenge, Barbados had to recognize its interconnectedness and the need to be a good regional and global citizen, capable of exercising its right to enter freely into relations with other governments without the approval of any other power.
Looking back over the past 50 years should bring a sense of pride to Barbadians for the accomplishments they have achieved as a nation. At independence, the population of Barbados was about 250,000. It is now almost 300,000 because of its attractiveness. Government has established diplomatic missions in London, Brussels, Havana, Brasilia, Washington, Geneva and Beijing, and consular missions in several key cities in Canada and the United States. Barbados is a member of the United Nations and other international organizations. Barbadian, Dr. Leonard Nurse of the University of the West Indies was a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which jointly shared with Albert Arnold (Al) Gore the Nobel Peace Prize of 2007.
Barbados has bilateral agreements with other countries, especially Canada. To its credit, the nation has a highly educated, professional work force thanks to free university education, and an exceptionally high ‘quality of life’ ranking for a developing country. Even the United Nations Organization recognizes this. The economy, formerly a sugar monoculture, has been reshaped over the past three decades to achieve a balance between social development and economic growth diversified into three main sectors: services, light industry and sugar. The international business and financial services sector, launched in 1985, has become the nation’s second biggest source of foreign exchange after tourism. Investment in renewable energy has made a significant mark in the housing sector.
However, despite the appearance of prosperity, Barbados is experiencing economic stagnation due to the global financial crisis of 1993 and 2008. Unfortunately, Government has had to call on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for economic adjustment support and has subsequently introduced austerity measures.
Many challenges face our beloved Barbados as it embarks on the next 50 years of national independence. With high population and a small open economy, Barbados lacks the necessary scope for further diversification and remains vulnerable to economic downturn in its trading partners. Budget deficits remain high, and contribute to growing arrears and debt. Continued large deficits pose risks to the fixed exchange rate with the US dollar. Action against drug-trafficking since the 1990s has made security and defence a significant item of expenditure. Social reform has meant deep cuts to expenditure on free university education, and other social programs. But Barbadians remain positive because they are a proud, educated and industrious nation.
Canadian and Harvard Professor Michael Ignatief contends that political independence is not just an interest, but also a value. This piece of political wisdom should undergird the love of Barbadians for their country and its independence that was built on the hard work of slaves, freed men and women, and its present day citizens. The nation’s independence should not be taken for granted. Its future survival is not beyond question because Barbados is a very tiny state, a mere 166 square miles, with few natural resources at its disposal.
As Barbados moves into the next 50 years of independence and nationhood, its leaders and people need to determine what values and interests policy should serve, what challenges policy must address, how policy can meet these challenges, and how government can co-ordinate the implementation of policy across its institutions, the private sector and the external international community. The key to future success depends upon government’s capacity to clearly articulate sets of interests and values that will allow this industrious nation to develop and effectively allocate human and material resources to address the hard choices and challenges the nation faces. While Barbados needs to stand up for itself, government must partner with honest and progressive countries which can enhance both its commercial and political interests. However, effective public management, the rule of law and the protection of human rights remain key to carrying out any of its development goals to meet the needs of its people and the strengthening of its sovereignty.
The 50th anniversary of Barbados’ nationhood is a great, national historical achievement. All Barbadians – overseas or in the island must pray that the nation is blessed with the confidence to face the challenges that lay ahead, and the commitment to the success that they are capable of achieving. I congratulate the Government and peoples of Barbados wherever they reside, and wish them peace and stability, happiness and prosperity for many years to come.
Influential Barbadians in Montreal
Over the years Barbadians of all walks of life have added to the growth and development of Montreal and Quebec by their achievements and contributions. And they continue to stand as a source of pride to our community and beyond.
* Rev. Stanley Brooks, PhD (Religion/educator) * Dr. Glyne Piggott (politics) * Winston Nicholls (educator/community service) * Dr. Trevor Payne (music) * Dr. Adelle Blackett (professor of law) * Ricardo Gill (public servant/community service) * Vere Graham (educator) * Charlie Daniels (entrepreneur) * Dr. Tony Byer (dentist) * Vere Rowe
(Religious and community service) * Margot Blackman (educator/community service), * Horace Goddard (educator) * Myrna Lashley (educator) * Nigel Clarke (public servant/community service) * Ken Scanterbury (educator/community service) *Gus Hollingsworth (public servant/community service) * Hedie Taylor (public servant) * C.C Walker (public servant/music/community service) * Phillip Alleyne (public servant/community service) * Irvine Smith (religious and community service)
From the Bay Land to cricket’s highest kingdom
The Great Sir Garfield Sobers
Cricket glorious cricket.
A gentleman’s game, highlighted by technique, speed and grace that can be over a couple of days and allows players to pause for lunch and for afternoon tea.
A game that carried such global prestige that at the height of its reign as the world’s dominant power, England is said to have professed that it would rather lose a battleship than a test match.
Yes cricket was indeed, the sport of kings.
And to many who played the game or who harbored a passion for cricket, if one man had to carry the title of “greatest cricketer ever” none is more deserving than Barbados born Sir Garfield St. Aubrun Sobers, who elevated from the humblest of beginnings to excel at all levels of the game and inspire generations in the Caribbean and around the world.
On November 30, Barbados culminates a year of activities as part of the celebration of its 50th Anniversary of Independence, and among the many things the nation look to as a source of pride, are the achievements of Sir Garry, who has lead the country and the regional team The West Indies to dominance in the global arena.
At the end of July, to mark his 80th birthday, Barbados staged a weekend of activities that included a celebrity cricket match that included some of the legends of yesterday, a Gala Reception and celebrity golf tournament.
And in London, England, which is still the Mecca of international cricket, BBC Radio (5Live Sports) hosted an hour-long documentary on his achievements and contributions to the game.
Both events offered fans another look at a spectacular international career that started when he was 16 years-old, spanned 21 years and produced some of the greatest moments in cricket that include the most runs in an inning when he scored 365 runs not out (an international record that stood for 36 years) and the first person to hit six sixes in an over in 1st-class cricket.
Sir Garry played 93 Tests for the West Indies between 1954 and 1974 and attained the record against Pakistan in 1957 when he was only 21-years-old, it stood until it was broken by Trinidad and Tobago’s Brian Lara, who scored 375 for the West Indies against England in 1996. In total he scored 8032 runs, and took 23 wickets.
And he was equally impressive in his 383 first-class matches, scoring close to 30,000 runs and taking over 1000 wickets.
Today, Sobers stands in the highest esteem among his countrymen, his peers and the cricketing world.
In 1975 he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth for his contributions to cricket and earned the designation of Officer in the Order of Australia a few years later.
In 1998, he was among 10 Barbadians of historical significance to earn the designation of National Hero and awarded the title “The Right Excellent.”
Putting him among the illustrious icons of the nation including:
* Bussa, an Africa born slave who led an uprising against slavery in Barbados. He was killed during the 1816 rebellion
* Sarah Ann Gill (1795–1866) a social and religious leader
* Samuel Jackman Prescod (1806–1871) the first person of African descent to be elected to the nation’s Parliament in 1843
* Dr Charles Duncan O’Neal (1879–1936), a physician and early political leader
* Sir Grantley Adams, early trade unionist and founder of the Barbados Labor Party who became first prime minster of the West Indian Federation
* Clement Osbourne Payne, a trade unionist born in Trinidad and Tobago to Bajan parents
* Hugh Springer, another trade unionist who became the nation’s third governor general
* Sir Frank Leslie Walcott, a labor movement leader, and politician, who also served as an ambassador and
* Errol Barrow, the nation’s first prime minister and founder of the Democratic Labor Party.
Sobers is the only National Hero alive today.
He also holds the distinction of being one of the five Wisden Cricketers of the Century, a prestigious selection of the prominent players of the 20th century.
The others being Australians Don Bradman and Shane Warner, an Englishman, Jack Hobbs and Antiguan Vivian Richards.
Garfield Sobers was born in the Bay Lands just outside of Bridgetown, and made his way to cricket’s pinnacle honing his extraordinary skills on the playgrounds in and around his village.
Montrealer Charlie Daniels who grew up with Sobers in the little bedroom community on the outskirts of the capital of Barbados, remembers him to be an extremely talented teenager, especially as a left hand bowler, who was a favorite with the establishment in a country that was a cricketing hotbed.
In the BBC documentary, Sobers made reference to the multitude of talented cricketers among whom he was able to learn the techniques of the game.
“Look around Barbados, at the type of players who aspired to play the game, I don’t think you’ll find them in other parts of the world, not so many…”
And he talked about learning by watching the batch of highly talented players Everton Weekes, Frank Worrell, Clyde Walcott and George Carew, all legends in West Indies cricket.
“When I go to watch cricket, I didn’t go to see people hitting sixes and fours, I go to see what people were doing, which I tried out when I played with the younger boys.”
Charlie Daniel remembered how easy it was for Sobers to distinguish himself from the other young players in the village.
“He was not only very talented but he was a very good looking young man and was a favorite among the (Barbados cricket establishment).”
When he was 16 years old, Sobers, Daniels and one or two others from the Bay Land area were called to trials for the Barbados national team to play against India. Sobers earned a place on the team as a bowler. And so began a career that took him to the pinnacle of the game.
At 17, he earned a place on the all-powerful West Indies team, making his debut at Sabina Park in Jamaica against England.
The highlight of that career came in 1964 when he succeeded his mentor, Sir Frank Worrell, as captain of the West Indies, a role he kept until 1971 when the great Sir Rohan Kanhai replaced him.
He launched his professional career playing for Radcliffe Cricket Club in England between 1958 and 1962. He then moved to Norton Cricket Club and then joined South Australia in the early 1960s and helped them win the prestigious Sheffield Shield with some spectacular display of batting and bowling.
In 1967 he made the move to county cricket level and signed his biggest contract with Nottinghamshire.
With the inauguration of the regional Shell Shield Tournament in the West Indies, in 1966 cricket lovers at home in Barbados had opportunities to witness the glory of their favorite son, “Sir Garry.”
Sobers never missed an opportunity to express his love for his country and the Caribbean and played for his home team in almost every tournament until 1974, the year he formally retired from cricket.
In trying to recapture the glorious career, the BBC documentary called on some of cricket’s greatest personalities.
Ian Botham, a former captain of England and one of the game’s great, said Sobers played in a league of his own where not many others can even get close to. “He was the complete all-rounder…. The greatest.”
Geoff Boycott, legendary English batsman remembers him as the “best batsman’ and “best bowler” he has ever seen play the game.
He also spoke of Sobers’ presence on the field. “Watching him make his entrance was worth the price of admission…. like a panther on the prowl. He let you know he was coming. ”
Iconic West Indies fast bowler Wes Hall is unwavering in his belief that Sobers was the best cricketer in the history of the game.
Charlie Daniels, who still spends time with him whenever he visits Barbados, says his childhood friend Garfield never had a pretentious bone in his body.
“He loved the game and he knew he was good, but it was never about him.”
And that’s exactly how Sir Garfield Sobers summed up his exceptional career: “I try to adopt a style which I think can please the people who came to watch the game…. I’ve always believed that the people who paid to come through the turns-style should be entertained.”
But the final word goes to the Mighty Sparrow: “Who is the greatest cricketer on earth or Mars… anyone can tell you it’s the Great Sir Garfield Sobers.”