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Challenge for new generation

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As we prepare to say our farewell to our late brother Oscar Allen this weekend, I can’t help but reflect on the great loss to our society and Caribbean civilization that his passing represents, and the huge void left throughout the region by the phasing out of the patriots of his, and my, generation.

Oscar was very much a part of the generation of the “sixties”, the “Black Power” generation, which in its youth, reached out for the mantle left by the likes of Paramount Chief Chatoyer and the prophet Marcus Garvey, and challenged colonial rule, plantation domination, racism and discrimination of all kinds, including, significantly, gender discrimination. It was a Caribbean phenomenon which had varying degrees of expression in different countries, but the message was the same – Time for Caribbean people to control their own destiny.

True, the rise of this generation must be placed within its context, but the rise of this spirit of Caribbean patriotism and independence is a major feature of our modern history. It has not been given its due and just credit, but that will surely come. Many have now gone to the beyond, as the saying goes, or have aged and are no longer as active as they once were, but we must always treasure their contribution.

Just to mention a few, we have lost Brother Makandal Daaga (Geddes Granger), famous for his leadership in the “Black Power” rebellion in Trinidad and Tobago in the early seventies; his colleague, the indefatigable trade union stalwart George Weekes, also of T&T; the heroic Maurice Bishop of Grenada; the OECS trio of George Odlum of St Lucia, Rosie Douglas of Dominica and Tim Hector of Antigua and Barbuda; and, I dare mention, our own Caspar London, whose contributions time will judge. There have been women too, and here I recall the contributions of two of these female patriots, Frances Michel of St Lucia and Earlene Horne of SVG, who have joined these brothers ‘on the other side’.

Here in SVG there are others who also made selfless contributions towards lifting the levels of consciousness and awareness of our people and contributed towards the struggle for independence and decolonization. Permit me to mention, among these Kerwyn Morris and Jim Maloney of the “Black Power” era, and some dear, unsung and unheralded contributors, such as the socialist Victor Cuffy and Dr Ronnie Saunders, poet and patriot, as well as some late colleagues of mine from the glorious UPM era (1979 and early eighties), such as the duo from Questelles of Damani (John Williams) and Santana (Glenroy Gordon), Solomon “Sollo” Butler, the farmer from Diamonds, as well as Arrington Burgin, electrocuted in the flower of his youth.

Some of these patriots are still alive throughout the region, no longer as active, but all too quickly forgotten for their role in lifting the scales from our eyes and the shackles off our minds. I salute here Eusi Kwayana and Khafra Kambon, the Pan Africanists from Guyana and Trinidad respectively, and Bobby Clarke, the Barbadian lawyer who dared to put up the challenge in his country, once considered a bastion of colonial and white minority rule in the region. There are many others, not directly politically active, but especially in the field of culture, have carried the flames of resistance and self-determination.

My fervent hope is that some from the younger generation would one day as least be inspired to research into the contributions of these and other patriots and document and popularize them as examples of how humble people, proud and determined, at great personal sacrifice, could stand up and fight for our Caribbean independence and civilization.

Oscar would love that!

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.

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