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Give March the prominence it deserves

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Fri, Mar 2. 2012

The month of March is a very special one in the Vincentian calendar of events. First and foremost, it has been officially designated as National Heroes Month, during which time we are supposed to pay homage to the memory of those who have contributed in a large measure to our independence, sovereignty and well-being.{{more}} The high point of the month falls on March 14, the anniversary of the death of our lone national hero, Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer, a date that has been proclaimed by parliament as a national holiday in honour of Chatoyer’s heroic efforts to safeguard our national and territorial sovereignty.

This year, in addition to the National Heroes Month activities, two other major activities have been organized, complementary to those events. One such, is the International Garifuna Conference scheduled to be held here from March 10 to 13, attracting a range of distinguished visitors from the international Garifuna and Indigenous communities. The second is also intrinsically connected with the historic month of March, the month during which world-wide activities to mark International Women’s Day are held. That activity is the holding of what is advertised as the first-ever National Women’s Congress.

The Garifuna commemorations are at the very heart of our Heroes day designation. It has been a long struggle to even reach this stage, to erase the ignominy we had to suffer of a ‘Discovery Day’ holiday and the subsuming of the glorious struggles of Chatoyer’s people to the interests of European colonisation. However, having arrived at that stage, we seem unable to realize the full potential of our decolonization efforts. March 14 is now a national holiday, but we need to ‘beef up’ the commemoration activities if we are to talk of a truly National recognition of it. The annual ritual to Dorsetshire Hill, the alleged site of Chatoyer’s death, is still too reclusive, as if we are merely going through the motions.

It is more than time that we expend the effort and the resources to make March 14 far more meaningful to all Vincentians. Where are the images of Chatoyer displayed leading up to the event, what is the level of publicity and mobilization devoted to such an event? Then there are still the stereotypes of Chatoyer being repeated, including his designation as a “warrior”, more than as a “defender” of our national sovereignty. Our media portrayal of our National Hero must reflect his elevated status.

The second event, the National Women’s Congress also has significance in keeping with International Women’s Day (March 8) celebrations. With all the challenges facing women in our society today, each such effort at facilitating dialogue among women must be applauded and supported. Yet they need to have real connections with the meaning and relevance of International Women’s Day, and, importantly, must have a follow-up connected with ongoing efforts at both the official and unofficial levels to advance the welfare of the women of our country.

We urge full support for both events and call on the Government through the Ministry of Culture to take the necessary actions to upgrade the place of National Heroes day and Month in our cultural and social calendar.

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