Another Heather Cole Column – BLACK LIVES MATTER!
We are in the midst of what may become the most important part of the of the 21 Century. It is a period ripe with the prospect for change, a revolution not yet coined. A global movement has arisen from the phrase “I Can’t Breathe” in support of black lives and as it affects Barbados, we too must become involved and ride it until the end, pushing to achieve all that we can as the ball is finally in our court. We will not pass this way again in our lifetime.
The two ladies Marcia Weekes and Lisa Niles who brought to mainstream the recent Blackout Day in support of black businesses in Barbados must be commended. I hope that they will continue and become more organized so that ultimately one day of each week will be dedicated to patronizing black businesses in Barbados. In the spirit of inclusiveness I also hope that all white, brown and any in between will also support black business as black people have patronized their establishments for generations. Some may not have supported this action but the masses have to start somewhere to achieve economic enfranchisement and reduce inequalities in Barbados.
Although I was not surprised by the comments of the Private Sector Organization leader Edward Clarke in the media on July 7th 2020 (I will not comment on it in part 1), I was quite taken back by the comments of Senator Lynette Holder, CEO of the Small Business Association. She stated that “We have identified that small businesses tend to be disadvantaged and they are vulnerable and they represent a vulnerable group and so our focus has been on the issue of size and not the issue of race.” One can ask, how could the organizers not focus on race when it is the determining factor of the disadvantage and vulnerability. In addition she nullified her point as there in a correlation between the size of businesses and race in Barbados.
I hope that in time she recognizes that the activities of her organization to date have not changed the dynamics of black business in Barbados. With respect to both organizations there has been no effort to assist in black economic enfranchisement, shared prosperity, advocating to the banks on the behalf of black businesses, no programs developed to attempt to level the playing field or bringing suggestions to the table at a national level. They had the audacity to say that a blackout day was not the way to go but their way has not worked for black Barbadians. In essence, their way has served to maintain the status quo of inequality.
It is indeed disheartening that the black organizers and participants did not get the satisfaction of a symbolic victory without the accompanying backlash.
The value of black economic lives must matter to those who make up the private sector or black people will choose where to spend their dollar.
I watched a recording of the online discussion From Apology to Action – CARICOM’s call for Reparatory Justice on June 6th, 2020. It was stated that the commission has spent 20 years pursuing reparations from Great Britain. Sadly their 10 point plan is missing its most important element; economic enfranchisement. It contains:
1. An apology 6. Eradicating Illiteracy
2. Repatriation 7. Debt Cancellation
3. Indigenous Peoples Programs 8. Psychological Rehabilitation
4. Creation of Cultural Institutions 9. Technology Transfer
5. Public Health 10. African Knowledge
What struck me for the very first time is that CARICOM has recognized the ills of slavery to the extent that it has created a body to pursue reparations for unpaid labour yet at home they have done nothing to create opportunities for economic enfranchisement and black generational wealth. How can they be so cognizant of the fact that it was the lack of compensation to the ex- slaves at emancipation which led to generational poverty and yet do nothing (I am not speaking about the removal of pit toilets) to halt the vicious cycle of poverty?
It is as though Black lives of the distant past matter for reparations, for advocacy to external governments, corporations and universities but the governments turn a blind eye on present oppression. No advocacy, no body or commission has ever been set up to focus on economic enfranchisement or creating generational wealth that has been missing for so long in the lives of the masses of Barbados. 20 years ago if a body had been set up to deal with these issues, I am sure that it would have reaped some measure of success by now.
There is no guarantee that there will be reparations or the form in which they may be given. It is time for our government and the governments in all the territories that made up the British West Indies to make the black lives of the present a priority.
The Statue of Lord Nelson
I was having these should he stay; should he go moments about Admiral Nelson. My resolve now is that any obstacle, feature, relic or law from the colonial era must be removed as it inhibits the economic and social growth of Barbados and infringes on its politics. Admiral Nelson’s statue is a relic of a by gone era that was to have ended in 1966. It is beyond comprehension why he is still standing in National Heroes Square. In leaving the statue up, we will only be passing on this psychological problem to the next generation of black children. If the presence of his statue is still too much for black people to bear, why would we wish to pass this trauma onto the next generation? Black lives in the future must matter too, so Nelson has got to go.
Black people must recognize their economic value not only to others but to themselves. I wonder if it is the deprivation of slavery that makes us do things in excess. Constant feting, buying a new outfit each week or changing a phone whenever there is an upgrade are just a few things that we do that are not necessary. Why have we adopted the philosophy of a fool buying things that we do not need? If we squander away our earnings, how do we expect to leave an inheritance for our children?
We must buy from each other, save for rainy days, to start businesses, invest in property, to visit the motherland (it will be good for our souls) and for our children’s inheritance.