By Christopher Famous
My paternal grandmother was born in the rural farming village of Philip in St Kitts.
My paternal grandfather was born in the same rural farming village of St Kitts.
My maternal grandmother was born in the rural fishing village of Sea Cow’s Bay in Tortola.
My maternal grandfather was born in the rural farming village of Freetown in Antigua.
Christopher Famous is a Caribbean real estate developer and business owner. Raised in various Caribbean islands such as; Bermuda, Jamaica, St Eustatius and St Kitts and Tortola. He has a weekly social and political column in The Bermuda Sun
Suffice it to say this will be the same story of almost every Caribbean national. As St Kitts was once the major slave transshipment port of the Eastern Caribbean, it would be safe to say I am probably related by DNA to a vast majority of the Caribbean population.
It is in this vein that I address you as my kin folk: “The blood of my blood.”
My question today is where are we as a Caribbean people heading? What is our collective vision for the next 5-10 years?
I have lived in St Eustatius, population of 2,000 persons. And I have lived in Jamaica, population of 3,200,000.
There is no one who can tell me we are not one people. Separated only by water, with different names for the same foods. We dance to the same music and speak with dialects that differ ever so gently.
We all suffered under the yoke of European colonial oppression. We built their schools and we built their penitentiaries. Then about 50 years ago we began to “chase the crazy baldheads out of town.”
Yet today we find ourselves staring at a potential social and economic abyss. Many of our islands are stuck with massive debt and ever shrinking tax bases.
Our highly educated civil servants are facing massive layoffs in both Barbados and Bermuda. Regional manufacturing is down, whilst transnational crime is on the rise.
Life expectancy is on the rise and job expectancy is on the decrease.
So again I ask you, my Caribbean family, where do we go from here?
"Make no mistake about it, our region is in the throes of the greatest crisis since independence. The spectre of evolving into failed societies is no longer a subject of imagination. How our societies crawl out of this vicious vortex of persistent low growth, crippling debt, huge fiscal deficits and high unemployment is the single most important question facing us at this time." -- Dr Kenny Anthony, Prime Minister of Saint Lucia
When I read this statement from Dr Anthony, I said to myself, “This is true leadership for the 21st century.”
Two sides of the coin
All sides of my family have been involved in the political parties of Bermuda, BVI, St Eustatius and St Kitts. So it has been a natural, and expected progression for me to be involved in both unions and politics in Bermuda.
I know the cut and thrust of being involved in a party, both as government and now as opposition.
As a governing party one wishes to portray that all is well. Whilst in opposition, one tends to say the sky is falling in.
Caught in the vortex of those narratives lies the realities that are hidden from the common layperson.
So today I call upon the trade unionist, the politicians and, most importantly, the common layperson of the Caribbean. I call upon you, my kin folk, to understand that over the last century we have evolved from rural farming and fishing by having individual and collective visions.
Yet we rested on our laurels somewhere in the last 10-20 years. Now we see our mobility coming to a slow down.
I challenge you, my people of every island, to find a collective Caribbean vision.
Let us seek our 2020 vision.
“Rally Round the West Indies.”