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Conclusion: October 21


Before I conclude with the second and final part of the contribution on October 21, started two weeks ago, permit me to pay my respects to the late football hero, Tyrone ‘Tweety’ Spence who passed away recently after a prolonged illness. He was truly a footballing giant, not only for his on-field exploits, but also for his after-career dedication to nurturing and developing the talents of the younger generation, including his unforgettable contribution to the gold medal achievement of the Special Olympics contingent in 2012.{{more}}

I am in no position to comment on the speculated reasons for his physical demise, an alleged on-the-job incident, but it must again strike us about the vulnerability of those who sacrifice to represent us nationally. Time for us not just to lament but to begin to put things in place, not only at the state and national level, but also our club structures. With very few exceptions, there is no continuity at this level. How then do we care for those who have put themselves on the line?

‘Tweety’ is no isolated case. There are many others in all fields of sport, who become forgotten once the spotlight shifts otherwise. Recently, former national goalkeeper Dorian Phillips had to get a hip replacement. When the curtains fall, who cares about the star performers?

OCTOBER 21, 1935-The same vein

It was heartening to note other columnists recalling the events of October 1935 in SVG. What is really amazing is that given the enormous significance of events like those which occurred in the thirties, why is our country, and most of the others in the Caribbean, so low-keyed about commemorating them? There are a couple exceptions in the region but by and large, we let these anniversaries pass with but few comments here and there.

We do a tremendous disservice to our history and especially to the younger generation in our neglect of this vital linkage. In the Vincentian case it is even more glaring. The date of our independence from Britain falls within a week of October 21, but there is no official connection. Only one of our Prime Ministers has ever made that connection.

The rebellions in the Caribbean during the decade of the thirties were very much a part and parcel of the anti-colonial struggle. The so-called “rabble” and “radical” trade unionists who were in the forefront then paved the road on which the like of Dr Eric Williams, Grantley Adams and the others of their generation were to trod.

Those uprisings helped to inspire Ebeneezer Joshua, Eric Gairy, John Compton, Robert Bradshaw and others in the relentless struggle to provide humane living conditions for our working people. The sacrifices of ‘Sheriff’ Lewis, Bertha Mutt and the Vincentian rebels and protesters made it possible for political and constitutional advancement to take place, leading up to October 1979.

Out of those uprisings, Britain, having had to use warships and troops to brutally suppress them, was forced to establish the famous Moyne Commission which made recommendations for social and even mild land reform. Limited improvements in living conditions came as a result and more than anything else there emerged the middle class, the biggest beneficiaries of the sacrifices of those whom we still refuse to recognize.

The right of workers to organize in trade unions followed but the biggest gain in straight political lines was the right of all citizens over the age of 21 to be able to vote, to choose who they want to represent them in Parliament. Yet amazingly, we, who hold up this right as the very essence of our democracy, do not even have an Adult Suffrage Day on our calendar. No Parliament of ours has made any decree to mark the occasion. What a contradiction!

We need a whole new rethinking for it is in that disconnect that we become lost. October 21, 1935 was part and parcel of the mainstream of the anti-colonial struggle. It must be rightfully put in place and the sacrifices of those who faced the might of the British empire must be remembered and honoured. We must never allow our class prejudices to deny them their place in history.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.