Author: Jeevan A. Robinson - MNI Media | Date: 16 February 2018
Last week, Saturday, February 10th, 2018, I sat under the Silk Cotton Tree in Cudjoe Head, Montserrat. Men whom I hold in high regard were there also - James White Jr and former Calypso Monarch Steve “Iceman” Weekes. We ate delicious soup prepared by Mary, and we reasoned about the St Patrick's impasse.
As I sat there on the stool facing the road, looking down the hill, I noticed the firm trunk of the Silk Cotton Tree, and how it rose majestically into the Montserrat sky.
I thought to myself that there is so much history right here at this tree.
I imagined Cudjoe; his head chopped off and perched high to deter any future rebel slaves from seeking this wonderful thing called freedom and liberty.
We will never know what Cudjoe's last words were, but to me the Silk Cotton Tree is a symbol of a powerful freedom march.
As “Iceman” shared the tragedy of him not yet being paid for his St Patrick's participation of a few years ago, I said to him; “My Brother, let us capture your story to share with everyone right here under the Silk Cotton Tree.”
I went on to say to Iceman that this very spot is the most fitting place to tell his story. But sadly the wind blew strongly that afternoon, distorting the quality of the audio for any recording, so we abandoned that mission for another time.
For years, I have been speaking loudly about this St Patrick’s matter. The name and idea of a St Patrick’s week of activities, I would personally have seen rebranded away from the name “St Patrick's” and renamed to something more cultural and localised.
Now, you may wonder if my desire is to erase the Irish from Montserrat's history? Yes. Not entirely but largely so. I understand the need to recognise that the Irish were here, but I do not see the relevance towards true progress and mental liberation of our people in celebrating them in the manner that we choose to.
The history is written and on record to show how brutal and savage these Irish slave owners were to our Ancestors and the embers of fear, rape, pillage and murder that they inflicted upon them. I cannot ever give my energies towards any mode of respect nor recognition to that.
You may say that my views are radical. Perhaps yes, a degree of radicalism and militancy does run inside my veins. After all, on my visit to Ghana, West Africa in 2017, my African Brothers and Sisters afforded me the enlightenment to know that my true African name is Kudjoe. So maybe, it is that Ancestral Spirit of Cudjoe that runs inside my blood that commands me to speak and agitate for an awakening, and a true representation of what this time of year should be for Montserrat.
The Need For Montserrat Symbols of National Pride
Even as I write, I am seeking not to use the term St Patrick’s, for I am concerned that these symbols of what these Irishmen left behind are very much a part of our present docility, and still deep-rooted mental enslavement.
For my views are such that I would do away with, and erase the Shamrock as Montserrat's national symbol.
I would also erase and remove Erin and her Harp from our flag as the emblem.
In their place I would commission great local men and women such as Tabu, Pops, Roydenn, and other such skilled designers to present ideas for a national choosing via a voting process of symbols that represent Montserrat - both our Caribbean reality and our African origins.
Why celebrate these Irish who were borderline genocidal to our Ancestors?
I think that for the future and for true mental liberation, Montserrat must let these Irish things go, and be truly about Montserrat and her people's hopes, dreams, aspirations and development as a colonised people seeking growth and access to opportunity for both the poor man's sons and daughters and the rich man's children likewise. This island needs, and must be about Montserrat and Montserratians first. I say that with no apology nor excuses.
The Ideal Opportunity for the Caribbean’s First Emancipation Festival
In addition, I feel that this St Patrick's week of activities is the prime time to have one of Caribbean's most unique Emancipation Festivals.
I am not speaking here about a Carnival by any stretch of the imagination.
This moment in history that we seek to have respected, is not to celebrate a failed slave rebellion as an ill-informed politician recently went on the local radio and stated. His disrespect to our Ancestors is shameful and disconcerting.
However, this Emancipation Festival could be one that is celebrated not just here on Montserrat, but by special invitation we can invite our Brothers and Sisters from Dominica, Haiti, Jamaica, St Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, St Vincent and the Grenadines to come to Montserrat to celebrate that beautiful thing called Freedom.
They would come with their dances - like we would with our Masquerade. They would come with their local dishes and cuisine - like we would with duckna and saltfish et al. They would come with poetry, drums and culture!
We would also invite groups from Haiti to come as special honourees having been the first country in the Western Hemisphere to defeat the colonials and gain freedom from slavery. Haiti would be celebrated and shown love with their musical groups and Afro-fusioned influences.
Emancipation will be the theme to include our calypso with the first ever Caribbean Emancipation Festival Monarch.
We would not have a Queen Show. Leave that for year-end Festival, but each year we would crown an Emancipation Queen. Her regalia and attire would be of her nation’s symbols of dress and national dances; with stories of folklore, poetry and another category - but the theme must always be about Emancipation. Let us see creativity thrive.
The idea is rough and can take shape with other inputs but Montserrat can still see economic enterprise from this St Patrick's person that we wish to celebrate by rebranding and renaming the week as one of being the Caribbean's Premier Emancipation and Heritage festival. Vendors will equally thrive, and economic enterprise will fill their coffers equally.
Let me close by saying that there is no country in the world that has become a great nation by not showing respect and due regard to its historical ancestral origins. We will one day die and leave Montserrat, so let us be mindful to leave a legacy for our children and their children that preserves our country, and tells the world for generations to come of who we are, and from whence we came from bondage to freedom and mental liberation for all who would care to grab it.
"None but ourselves can free our minds." Bob Marley
Note: Jeevan A. Robinson is Editor-in-Chief & Head of Business Development at MNI Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.