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Continue Oscar’s legacy

Continue Oscar’s legacy

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Tributes continue to pour in, to our late Brother, Comrade and patriot, Oscar Allen, who passed away last week. Like his sister in struggle, Earlene Horne, Oscar died on the eve of an important occasion – Emancipation Day in his case, while Earlene departed on National Heroes’ Day, 1998.

The tributes and accolades are well-earned and deserved, for he is one of those rare human beings who have sacrificed so much for the benefit of the rest of us, devoting nearly a half century of his adult life to his quest for the betterment of us all, and for humanity in general. To the end he remained the same humble person, humble, but proud of his race, his country, his people and our civilization.

There are so many aspects to his life that we can spend all year discussing them, but if there is anything that is a constant feature is his central emphasis on “the people”. Almost every statement he uttered or wrote, every proclamation, seemed to contain the word “people”. There was “People’s Parliament”, “People’s Alternative”, “People’s Budget”, People’s Constitution”, even, the people of his beloved Diamonds Village would remember, the “People’s Suppliers” co-operative of the seventies. That was a vivid demonstration of his philosophy and outlook on life.

Those of us privileged to have known and worked with Oscar could only have been enriched by it, for his strong independence of thought and often unorthodox manner of addressing challenges provided much room for discussion and debate, for agreement and disagreement. His contributions were always met with the respect and attention they commanded and deserved. In today’s SEARCHLIGHT, we are devoting a special feature to him, so I will reserve some of my comments for continuity, since we are fond of rushing all together in praises and then moving on and forgetting, but I would like to offer some brief perspectives over Oscar’s life and times.

First, his commitment and insistence on the building of what he called the People’s sector, today more commonly known as the civil society movement. Oscar toiled long and hard through all the frustrations, with youth groups, church groups, community groups, women’s groups, political action groups, always trying to build cooperation and unity.

Then, there is his work in building the foundations of the farmers’ movement here, out of which was to emerge the National Farmers Union, as a vehicle for advancing the causes of the farmers and rural folk. The names of Oscar and Earlene Horne, along with others like Robbie Fitzpatrick and Wilberforce Emanuel, will forever be associated with this rural awakening.

Above all, in keeping with his level of black consciousness and anti-imperialism, Oscar was a committed regionalist. It was not by chance that this was manifested in the two areas of work mentioned above, civil society and the farmers’ movement. He was one of the driving forces behind the creation of what was to become WINFA, the Windward Islands Farmers Association. That body was formed as far back as 1982, meeting in Grenada with similar small farmer organizations from that country and Dominica.

He, too, was central to an even larger regional formation, the Caribbean Peoples Development Agency, CARIPEDA, an umbrella organization linking civil society organizations from Belize in the north to Guyana in the south. Significantly, true to his humility and modesty, Oscar never sought grand positions nor acclaim for his efforts.

On and on we could go, but I can only pause to ask, with some trepidation: where are the budding Oscars of today? How are we to ensure that his legacy continues, that the unfinished tasks are undertaken and the challenges met? That will be our most fitting tribute to the life of this outstanding Vincentian patriot.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.

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