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Tribute to another unsung patriot


It is with great sadness that I learnt of the passing, last week in New York, of a comrade and brother-in the-struggle, Arthur ‘Kayode’ Matthews, alias ‘Kraals’ and ‘Omo’. He was one of the early faithful in the local Black Power and progressive movement, a craftsman, entrepreneur and businessman. All three of his aliases relate to this background of his, Kayode being his adopted African name, as was the pattern in the seventies, and both Kraals and Omo being names of enterprises he initiated.{{more}}

The Black Power movement in SVG has made a significant contribution to the development of black consciousness, patriotism and nationalist identification; but except for a few more recognized figures, not enough is known about that period and the role played by ordinary folk in it. Part of the blame for this must lie with people like me, who have been heavily involved and who need to share the experiences and relate the history more by use of the media.

‘Omo’ was one of those unsung figures who, from very young, got involved and sacrificed personal well-being to make his social and political contribution. He was an early disciple of the late Jim Maloney, one of the more prominent leaders of the local Black Power movement. Indeed, it was from Jim that he learnt and honed his skills in leathercraft and he was later to become one of our top leather craftsmen, turning out a range of items from his Kraals business and Omo leathercraft enterprise.

In fact, not only did ‘Omo’ get involved in the movement, he also encouraged his sisters to get involved too, and they were among some of the early sisters helping to promote conscious thinking among our young women and involved in the early celebration of International Women’s Day here. One of his sisters, Ann Marie Venner, continues to make her contribution in the cultural field and is one of our leading dance proponents.

The young Matthews became a very valuable member of the YULIMO organization, formed in 1974 out of the merger of three local organizations. At a time when resource and technology limitations restricted us to the use of stencil machines of the Gestetner brand for printing leaflets and pamphlets, (younger folk wouldn’t even know what I am talking about, so rapid has been the technology change), Omo’s skills soon led to him being the ‘machine man’ directly responsible for printing our primitive propaganda. He was also very involved in the publication process when we graduated to publishing the “FREEDOM” newspaper.

It is true to say, that like many of us, he neglected for a long time personal advancement in favour of what we all called “the struggle” and we all paid the price for it, his sacrifices eating into his in-born entrepreneurship; but he continued to take several business initiatives until he migrated to the USA to seek better economic fortunes.

Though a migrant, he never lost his Vincentian patriotism or Caribbean identity and made use of the social media to keep in touch with the Vincentian community, to promote love for our country and support for socio-economic development here. His early background certainly stood him in good stead and he remained on the progressive track right up to his passing.

Omo belonged to a group of unheralded patriots who laid the early foundation, without which, the social and economic developments in SVG during the 21st century would not have been possible. To his family, relatives, friends and comrades in the Vincentian diaspora, I offer my sincerest condolences.

FAREWELL, my dear brother!

Renwick Rose is a community activist

and social com- mentator.