Michigan State University students to visit St Vincent to learn about the Garifuna people
A professor of History at Michigan State University (MSU) is in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) planning a study abroad program to this country which would be centred around the Garifuna people.
Director of African American and African Studies at MSU, Dr Glenn Chambers, spoke to SEARCHLIGHT on Tuesday about the university’s plans to bring a group of students on an excursion here next May.
Certainly, the professor indicated that the exercise, which is part of the Caribbean History course included in the pursuit of an undergraduate degree, will be a learning one.
“This is an opportunity in some ways to get outside of the books…you know…it’s one thing to read about a place, you can read a hundred books about a place, but until you actually see it, I think it doesn’t mean as much,” Chambers explained.
The Professor noted that he would like to facilitate the students’ realization that “there is at no point in the history at least within the last 500 years that, in some way, whether politically, economically, culturally, the Caribbean doesn’t play a role, and so I want them to get, to see that, move beyond the superficial tourist commercial type of thing. This is a real place, with real history, and it’s really a microcosm of the world in so many ways.”
He noted it would be good if he could get students to understand that the Caribbean is more than just palm trees, beaches, and rum.
Chambers and his colleague from MSU’s College of Social Science have been speaking with officials from the Ministry of Tourism and The Garifuna Heritage Committee.
Chambers, as part of his studies on emigration throughout the Caribbean between the World Wars, for his doctorate, had travelled to Honduras. There he met the Garifuna population, “but it’s really when interacting with them that I got to learn a lot about their culture, and looking at their culture, and just talking with them…what would always come up was their origins in St Vincent.”
“The memory of St Vincent is something that’s passed on from generation to generation, since 1797, when they arrived in Honduras,” Chambers disclosed.
Therefore, for the study abroad trip, which will take place over a 10 to 12 day period, much of it would be centered around the Garifuna people.
Therefore, Chambers wishes that the students can get a chance to interact with the community here, and he also mentioned, “they have to go to Baliceaux because of the significance of the Garifuna people, and that history.”
He added, “I would also like for them to get a sense of the history of just how the British and French colonialism work, and its connection to other parts of the world. The history of sugar and slavery, plantations, and everything that goes along with that.”
The students will have to complete a paper at the end of their study abroad, and the topic will be largely in their control, within the boundaries of the material they cover here.
There will be a review of the course, and the experience, when the students return to the University. Chambers hopes that the excursion is something that will grow in the coming years, which will be achieved if the material is conveyed well, and the students have a good experience.
The History professor disclosed, “I don’t get excited about much, but I’m excited about this.”