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Thanks to Walter Rodney

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by Oscar Allen

When Walter Rodney was killed in 1980 in Guyana, Cecil Rajendra a well armed Malaysian poet made an ominous confession. He wrote:

More than at any

other time before

your death leaves me

fearful for the future

of every righteous man…

Now, twenty five (25) years later, every righteous cause is crucified on our sidewalks and gambled away at morning tea. Somehow, as a colleague noted in a recent discussion.{{more}}

“There is not one current cause, not one principle, not one popular issue now which will make you or me or our young people stand up and face a bullet.”

In these times, when we hear of the CSME, the CCJ, free and fair elections and the war against terror, fire does not stir in our hearts. Life today does not care for deep convictions and passionate dreams; we can get along just fine if we have a purse, a posse, a party and something interesting on the TV.

Times have changed, we have changed, our young people are unchallenged. It has nothing to do with Walter Rodney. But yet again it has everything to do with people like Rodney. In the early years after his death, we remembered Rodney as a teacher, a scholar, a people person and a revolutionary. Andrew Salky reflected:

Your easygoing excellence of mind over matter is just one of the clarities we remember you for that special backhome tone, that gift of sound thinking slipped into plain talk the remarkable tucked into the ordinary

I learned from Rodney, among other things, that courage was a very ordinary and gentle daily disposition, not something for special occasions! Well I am still learning that.

Rodney’s Time

Rodney’s 20 adult years from 1961 when he waits to study in Jamaica to 1980 – were times of people making history and also bearing the costs. Garifuna had a strong national movement until the British divided it by race! The West Indies had a Federation which folded up and led to independent islands; Cuba had its popular revolution; African states gained political independence and faced neo colonialism; the USA faced black uprising; Vietnam, Iran, Grenada and Nicaragua declared one, two, three, four … liberations; socialism reached for legitimacy; students took the moral highground in Europe; and Czechoslovakia blossomed with freedom for a spell. A new world was trying to set itself free and Walter Rodney was a living growing part of that new birth. He spent near six years in Africa saving the Tanzanian and African process, and from 1974, he spent six years in his homeland Guyana knitting back the Guyana revolution.

Since the assassination of Rodney, some causes have become stronger – the women cause, the integrity of creation or the cosmos; others have become dislocated or broken; and new brutalities and crusades bathe themselves in light as if they are anointed by God.

In just over two months, Rodney will be 25 years dead and there will be an international Grounding in Guyana to mark the memorial. Already, George Lamming of Barbados, CLR James of Trinidad & Tobago, Horace Campbell and Rupert Lewis of Jamaica, Eusi Kwayana and Andaiye of Guyana are some of the people who have enlarged our memory of Walter Rodney. They also open the book of his meaning in the 21st century Caribbean. What would I like to see come out of their first Walter Rodney Forum in the Caribbean for 25 years? Two things. I would like the meeting to critically consider the meaning of Walter Rodney as a person, as a cause, and as a paradigm in his time and for our time. Then, I would like the meeting to propose and justify to the people of the Caribbean, that Walter Rodney be a Caribbean Region peoples’ hero and symbol of our place in the 20th century world and our promise in the 21st century.

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