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Independence 34, with ‘black ignorance’

Independence 34, with ‘black ignorance’

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Fri Nov 01, 2013

Editor: “Black Ignorance” was a lament that I heard when Professor Ms Verene Shepherd delivered the 15th UWIOC Indepen­dence lecture last Tuesday. I heard her tell how we in the Caribbean try to make our “blackness” invisible and pretend to be a “colourless de-racialised” community and so keep a burden of shame loaded on our African heritage. I heard Dr Arnold Thomas dismiss the Marcus Garvey movement UNIA, and claim that his global Indian Organisation was the first international ethnic organisation in modern history.{{more}} I heard Ms Shepherd’s appeal that CARICOM throw its support behind Colombia and Guatemala to launch the Decade of People of African Descent at the United Nations. The things that I heard, some of which Professor Verene Shepherd did not say, are hurtful, shameful and eye opening and require expiation.

I heard that our nation, with a largely African based population, at age 34, has never made black consciousness and cultural liberation an official policy at home, or internationally. I don’t regard the demand for compensation for genocide and slavery, or talks with and trips to African states as cultural liberation. I heard too that writers and activists like Morris Marcus Garvey, C.L.R James, Aimé Césaire, Jean Price Mars, Walter Rodney and Eric Williams may be strangers in our schools. Even more tragically, I heard that Prime Minister Gonsalves celebrated his October 1968 birthday in politics, associated with the region’s Black Power movement, just one week before Dr Shepherd was calling for black empowerment in the region and in SVG. It must hurt us and trouble Dr Gonsalves, for neither Prime Minister Cato, nor Mitchell nor Eustace nor Gonsalves has shown unquestionable commitment to black and Kalina empowerment. True, Dr Gonsalves is rich in rhetoric on issues of historic wrongs and rectification at the level of governments, but people’s empowerment is not inherent in Gonsalves’ ideology, and so black self ignorance persists and deepens, and constrains us.

We must ensure that the Programme of Action of the UN Decade for People of African Descent must include activities to lift the heavy veil of black ignorance and shame. You know, as I watch some of our female pageants promoting beauty, heritage and intellect, I have seen only one Afro Caribbean candidate who has dared to present her hair in its natural bouncy lock sable vitality. The rest exhibited Caucasian hairstylings. On the other hand, I have never seen a Caucasian contestant display a weave, wig or other form of African hairpiece. Is African descendant inferiority a part of cosmetology too? When placed between other ethnicities, we bow our hair in shame, and ignorance. In closing, I would ask Senator Camilo Gonsalves, former UN Ambassador, why it is Dr Verene Shepherd, from Jamaica, who is encouraging our interest in the UN Year and Decade for people of African Descent? We must encourage our new Ambassador/ress Inga Rhonda King to be more on the ball. Let us move forward to our coming independences with Black Empowerment.

Oscar Allen

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