Sisters grounding with Rodney
by Oscar Allen
The first book that Walter Rodney published bore the name “Grounding with my Brothers”.
It is still a refreshing and relevant book, although it seems to be out of print. When the ‘Grounding with Rodney’ gathered last month in Guyana to celebrate his life work and to reflect on his death and his legacy, the sisters were grounding too, lighting up the place. Here I reconstruct part of the women’s voice, from three women whose names do not feature; and from Patricia Rodney.##M[more]##
1. I was just seven years old when I heard that a man named Walter Rodney was killed, and I asked my father who was this Walter Rodney?” His answer was clear. “He was an evil man who wanted to blow up the prison in Georgetown.”
I believed that answer all these 25 years. It is only now, since I have been attending these Rodney groundings that I understand who Rodney really was and what he wanted for Guyana. I wish I could have been around him. What a different Guyana we would have
if Rodney and the
WPA (Working People’s Alliance) had been able to complete their struggle! I want these groundings to go further.
2. We in our Red Thread Group have begun an education programme among ourselves as working women. We want to understand our world better and lift ourselves up. One day, Andaiy and Karen, who are working with us, said that they would like us to consider naming our education programme after Walter Rodney. We told them no.
Today, after we have been at these groundings, we want to tell Karen and Andaiy that we agree to name our classes after Walter Rodney. Karen and Andaiy let us go ahead with the naming.
It Hurts To Be
I have chosen to be black in Jamaica. I wear my black identity on my head. I cultivate my identity in my thinking and in the way I face the world. I try to represent and promote my black female identity as I relate with my family, friends, students and community. And everywhere I turn, I meet hurtful assault for choosing black. My students are young and intelligent, but they laugh at my natural locks and my pride and satisfaction in being black. “No miss that is no kind of hair for a bright ambitious head that is going places. We are not interested miss. You are old stuff”.
In my family, my relatives give a lot of attention and other resources to becoming less black skinned with straightened styled hair. They choose to be not black. They claim that my choice makes no sense; it only makes me ugly and offensive. The media too, takes every opportunity to make the black woman either invisible or a background token.
Today’s mobile middle class Jamaica joins together to help isolate and slaughter the black woman. I tell you I am hurting deeply as a black woman in Jamaica.
(This grounding above opened up an exciting discussion of issues.)
Patricia Henry from Guyana married Walter Rodney in London in 1965. They had three (3) children. When Walter was killed in 1980, Shaka their son was 13 years, Kamini was 11 and Asha was 9. Dr. Patricia Rodney now teaches at a black medical school in the USA in the new Morehouse school of Public Health.
âAt home, Walter was a handyman; he built all our bookcases and a beautiful dollhouse for our girls. Although he was always a friendly person and overgenerous with his time and mine, Walter loved family, spending time with the children and participating in any game they choose. Daddy was often the fun person while mom was the disciplinarian. Life without Walter was very difficult ……… I feel privileged to have shared his life.
âReturning to Guyana after 25 years was not easy to do. We were tentative, uncertain and apprehensive. We came back because of friends from all over the world who organised this event, but I didn’t feel any great emotion as if I was coming home. I never felt comfortable and safe in Guyana (from 1974- 1980) because of the constant pressure my family, both my husband and I faced.
âIt interfered with our children as well. Now that we have returned in the company of friends, sharing in these events and visiting our old home, some semblance of peace has come to us, but it is necessary that a definitive enquiry be held to settle the facts about Walter’s assassination.â
Asha Rodney, a medical doctor joined her mother in describing Walter as “the greatest and best of men”, but the mother warns, “we would be doing him a disservice if we made him into this super-human being, someone whom no one can emulate. He did not want to be a martyr and we must not turn him into a saint. 10-07-05.
l Next: How they killed Walter Rodney, and why.