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Revitalize National Heroes’ Month

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Another National Heroes’ Day has passed with the now traditional wreath laying ceremony at Dorsetshire Hill in memory of our lone National Hero, Paramount Chief Chatoyer, being the solemn highlight. Adding to the importance of the occasion has been the organization of the 4th Garifuna International Conference, spearheaded by the Garifuna Heritage Foundation.

The activities of the Foundation help to accentuate the memory of the heroic Chatoyer and the brave resistance of the Garifuna people to British colonialism. They represent a significant contribution towards the observance of National Heroes’ Day and Month, and the organizers and those Garifuna descendants who journeyed here to participate in the activities deserve high praise for their efforts. Though we have officially recognized Chatoyer, we still have a long way to go in raising awareness and consciousness about the Garifuna people and their contribution to our national development.

While we observe National Heroes’ Day annually, it is to be noted that there has been no resolution to the ongoing debate, as to whether we should have other national heroes besides Chatoyer, and if so, who they should be. It is instructive to note that one of the prime candidates for hero status, George Augustus McIntosh, was himself born in the month of March, on March 6, 1886 to be exact. Another candidate for the exalted status, Ebeneezer Theodore Joshua, died on March 14, in 1991.

Yet, despite all our song and dance about National Heroes’ Month, not much mention is made of these pioneers, neither officially, nor by the society as a whole. So, how serious are we about honouring and preserving the memory of those who have contributed so much to our social and political development?

The recognition of Chatoyer and the institutionalizing of National Heroes’ Day were important steps in our political evolution. But there remains a certain lack of clarity, as to how best to commemorate the historic month of March. Should it not be a month when, in addition to Chatoyer and the Garifuna, we also acknowledge, publicize and celebrate the contributions of other outstanding Vincentians, such as those whose names have been put forward as being worthy of being granted hero status?

Having taken the initial bold step to institutionalize March 14 and even to extend the commemoration to the entire month of March, it is time for further impetus and development. The Prime Minister himself has acknowledged that we need to go beyond lip-service. Let’s breathe new life and meaning into the occasion and re-energize and revitalize it.

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