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Commentary: Slave life should never be reenacted
Published on April 27, 2017 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Jerry Edwin

It cannot be true that the National Heritage Committee is planning to launch an event meant to imitate the arrival and life on the slave estates of Grenada.

The chairperson of the National Heritage Committee is quoted that she hopes this concept or imitating slave life will be a permanent part of Grenada’s tourism product so that the children of Grenada can have a better understanding of the way the slaves lived on the various estates in Grenada.

Jerry Edwin is an attorney practicing in the Caribbean and in the US. He also specializes in anti money laundering compliance.
It would really be frightening if nobody had a problem with linking Grenada’s tourism industry to recollections of slavery. Slavery and tourism? There is something so smelly and historically distasteful about linking the two that it takes a special person to use the terms in the same sentence.

The United Nations has declared slavery a crime against humanity. CARICOM is leading the global fight for reparations for the Atlantic slave trade. Yet Grenada’s National Heritage Committee wants our young school children to reenact and imitate the sad experience of our ancestors.

The vice chancellor of the University of the West Indies has stunned the British Parliament with his compelling logic that the genocide of chattel slavery deserves reparations for what blacks in the Caribbean suffered under the horror of European terror.

Do the people of Greece reenact their genocide by the Turks in 1915? Is there any Jewish organization that wants to reenact Auschwitz? Do the Namibians want to recreate the crimes of the German Kaiser’s Second Reich against them?

It is very difficult to accept that not a single person on the National Heritage Committee realizes that genocide is not reenacted. The victims do not imitate the tragedy. Slavery was not an event. This was a crime against humanity.

What is the educational value in recreating the visages of genocide in the warped thinking of Grenada’s National Heritage Committee?

What does Speaker of The House Chester Humphrey, who is Grenada’s representative on CARICOM’s Reparations Committee think?

I read in the New York Times today that the people of Rwanda are trying to live together to understand and heal the genocidal events of 1994. We have a committee that wants to reenact the barbarism of genocide.

I believe I am right that all the committee members of the National Heritage Committee have lost their collective minds. This is the kind of mental lapse that deserves permanent retirement from association in every national organization. They can sell fudge and snow cones at the church harvest but keep them out of public life.

Furthermore, it’s not too cruel to suggest a Soviet style Gulag for them somewhere closer to the equator.

The parents of the children forced into servitude for the benefit of the National Heritage Committee; the school principals – all of us; we should all be so very ashamed that this group dare speak for us.

The chairperson of the National Heritage Committee says that this reenactment should be a permanent feature of rural tourism and I want to commit myself to her permanent removal from everything having to do with Grenada’s public life.

I was for much of the 1980s a member of the International body of the African National Congress, which led the global fight against apartheid. I went to jail, was teargassed and was manhandled too many times by police and security guards employed by international corporations, state and municipal governments. But we stood our ground and ultimately we won.

When you are right your meal does not settle in your stomach unless you stand up and chant down inhumanity, racial insensitivity even if the crowd is unmoved and wonders why you’re making a fuss.

It is not necessary for everyone to be outraged because they may not at first see the reasons to set up roadblocks and stop things from being normal. But it’s part of the process to the certain road of ultimate vindication.

The current members of the National Heritage Committee deserve dismissal with immediate effect because they demonstrably have no clue that people are the center of development. Yes, people and their humanity are inextricably linked in the process of national development.

Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell gave a tour de force address at a global meeting of small island states this week. I circulated what I read to all my friends in Los Angles, New York and the rest of the Caribbean.

And then I read that release from the National Heritage Committee.

No, Grenada. That show scheduled for April 27, 2017 must be cancelled. This is not normal. How can we enlist our children in recollecting events that dehumanized them and was intended to render them not as human beings but as things – chattel – to be bartered?

Are we only motivated to act when the news is about local politics, lurid reports of sex, child abuse and gross killings?

Even if I am alone in stopping the school children from the five schools in St Patrick’s from recalling slave life on the estate of River Antoine I will put my body on the line. Enslaved persons put their lives down for the bridge we traveled on the way to reach freedom since 1834 to now.

So there is no place in Grenada for that Monsters Ball planned for April 27, 2017. That show cannot go on.
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Hudson George:

Mr. Edwin, this article is kinda interesting! Why the National Heritage Committee targeting River Antoine Estate in my home parish St. Patrick? This issue reminds me of a racist show in Toronto, called "Show Boat" that black people protested against. Black folks claimed that "Show Boat" organizers were making fun of the enslavement of African Ancestors.

The problem is that nobody wants to talk about racism in Grenada, but there is racism very well alive and kicking. However, the fact is that racism in Grenada and the rest of the Caribbean is different from racism in North America and Europe.

In addition, those persons who are bringing this event to River Antoine Estate have their own kind of colonial thinking about black people and rural people on a whole. Some of them are known for criticizing rural people cultural way of speaking, so I wonder what is their agenda. Are they trying to destroy our unique northern rural culture?

Mr. Edwin, I am glad that you are learning a lot about colour, class, rural and urban division in Grenada.

We must not celebrate slavery. We must not allow the backwardness to destroy our minds. Slavery is inhuman and we must not celebrate evil.

A Strachan:

The educational aspects of slavery in Grenada and the Caribbean as a whole should be mandatory taught in schools and not just have a reenactment and forget about it.

My hope is the National Heritage Committee puts a plaque or commemorative post to acknowledge the African labour on River Antoine Estate and others


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