Submitted by William Skinner
O has been a beach vendor and small entrepreneur for almost forty years. He graduated from “Comprehensive” school and almost immediately, had to deal with the death of his still very young mother.
While “scotching” a room at his older sister, he realized there was a piece of vacant land adjoining her very modest dwellings. With an old fork and nothing else more than the desire to be independent, he worked the piece of land diligently day and night. The mammoth clearing task took almost a fortnight. From the sale of lettuce, beets, okras, peas, and other vegetables, he purchased his first stock of coral to sell on the beach. He started as an illegal vendor.
He eventually got his license and about twenty-five years later, was fortunate enough to get a stall. He was approached by a young artiste and he invested quietly in the young man’s entertainment career. Today, he has been at home for almost five weeks because of the curfew surrounding COVID-19. He struggles to maintain the comfortable bungalow; he built many years ago when vendors commanded hundreds of dollars in daily sales.
His thoughts about COVID-19 fits his general belief about the struggles of life. He says that it is bad, and many are falling victim worldwide. He maintains that if the centipedes, broken glass, rusty nails and other challenges, without garden gloves or boots, ‘did not get me” clearing that piece of land forty years ago, he stands a pretty good chance of surviving the virus !
With pride he reflects on the days when all he had was the generosity of his older sister. He is proud that he employs a lady to assist him occasionally in the stall. He is slowly building a home maintenance business and has two young men who assist him. He gleams when as he put it: “I am putting some food on a table or two.”
Generous to a fault, he is protective and dutiful to his family. His father never lacked anything when he was alive. He has seen his share of personal tragedy: a son who died tragically way too young; a failed marriage he tried to desperately save and a house fire that almost wrecked him emotionally and financially. On the good side, his two children attended good old grammar schools and show academic stamina.
O plays by the rules and he contributes to the national insurance scheme because he wants a “little something” when he gets older. He has qualified for the assistance that PM Mottley has promised self-employed persons.
I first met O many years ago when Comrade Glenroy Straughn and myself were organizing beach vendors to take on the hoteliers who wanted them chased off the beaches. It was during one of those meetings that I saw the letter, written by a white Barbadian hotelier, and circulated among the hoteliers. The letter started thus: “I have found a way to keep those people off our beaches…….”
Unfortunately, some perhaps well-intentioned contributors to BU, find great comfort in branding our workers and civil servants lazy and unproductive. They apparently have never met an O.