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Remembering ET Joshua

Remembering ET Joshua

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With eloquent speeches and robust singing and drumming by members of the Spiritual Baptist faith, the life and times of working class hero and St Vincent and the Grenadines’s (SVG) first Chief Minister Ebenezer Theodore Joshua were memorialized at his graveside at the Kingstown cemetery on Tuesday afternoon.{{more}}

The event was organized by the Ministry of Culture and Labour as part of activities to mark Heritage month.

In sharing an overview of the life of Joshua, trade unionist Joseph “Burns” Bonadie said that the former Chief Minister did more for the working class and under privileged than any other leader of his time. “He has touched all our lives and we are better off today because of him”, he added.

General Secretary of the National Workers Movement Noel Jackson made a call for E.T. Joshua to be made a National Hero, citing benefits that were achieved for workers through Joshua’s struggles. “Joshua died a pauper. He was not engaged in any corruption to make extra dollars”, he said.

Spiritual Baptist leader Reverend Johnny Jones also called for Joshua to be made a National Hero. “If next year around this time he is not made a National Hero, we’ll be sending out the call to all Spiritual Baptists and we’ll be taking to the streets of Kingstown,” Jones said. He then broke into singing “I’ll be on the battle field”, followed by “Across the bridge”.

Also addressing the gathering was Lafleur Johnson, Joshua’s daughter, who reminisced about the times her father took her and her siblings to meetings and other events he organized. Johnson said that her father loved politics. “Politics was his food”, she said. “He went into politics with nothing and he left with nothing”, she said.

The playing of a recording of Joshua speaking about defying a colonial magistrate was followed by a passionate presentation by Minister of Culture Rene Baptiste calling on the beneficiaries and inheritors of Joshua’s struggles to come forward. “He laid the foundation and blazed a trail for the Trade Union Movement. If I alone can do it (making Joshua a national hero) I will do,” Baptiste said.

“Excuse me and thank you are not the only values. We must honour the contributions of fellow Vincentians”, Baptiste said.

Baptiste related a story about when she was a child growing up in Kingstown in the 60s. She said when Joshua won an election against the Labour Party, he drove up to P.H. Veira’s residence in an old Station Wagon, dressed as a sheriff, and called out “PH, ah win yo”. “That was the Vincentianess in our politics”, Baptiste said.

Ebenezer Joshua was born in Kingstown on May 23, 1908. After working as a teacher, he went to Trinidad where he learnt much from Militant Trade Unionist Uriah “Buzz” Butler. Upon his return from Trinidad, Joshua organized agricultural workers throughout St Vincent; he was a thorn in the sides of the plantocracy and the colonial authorities.

Joshua entered Parliament with the victory of the Eight Army of Liberation in 1951. His parliamentary role ended when he lost his seat in the 1979 general elections. Joshua died on March 14, 1991.

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