By Christopher Famous
“Every time I hear the crack of a whip, my blood runs cold.” ~ Bob Marley
In the year 1492 Europeans sailed into the Caribbean and for the next century committed history’s largest rape, enslavement and genocide of untold millions of our ancestors, the indigenous tribes of Arawak, Carib and Tiano peoples.
Subsequently, commencing in the year 1500, the European nations of England, Denmark, France, Holland, Spain and Portugal commenced colonizing the Caribbean islands and the trans-Atlantic trade of Africans that would last nearly 400 years and enslave tens of millions of our fore parents.
Each one of us in the Caribbean or of Caribbean decent is a by-product of this slavery and genocide. Each one of us, no matter which nation, has our lineage forged by colonial slave plantations.
My paternal grandmother, Katherine Charles, was born in the rural village of Phillips, St Kitts.
My paternal grandfather, Charles Famous, was born in the same rural village of Phillips, St Kitts.
My maternal grandmother, Amay Thomas-Fraser, was born in the fishing village of Sea Cows Bay, Tortola.
My maternal grandfather, Christopher Glover, was born in the rural farming village of Freetown, Antigua.
Each one of my grandparents were born into an era that persons of direct African decent, who were the children or grandchildren of those enslaved, were denied any form of opportunities when it came to basic education, medical assistance, job opportunities and political representation.
There were no trade unions and or political parties to hear their pleas and stand up for them. They had no MP, MLA or District Representative to turn to. They had neither opposition nor governing party to put progressive legislation in place to better their lives.
You see, they were born into, what were then British islands, steeped in the ways of; racism, classism, colourism and yes, colonialism.
Due to these harsh circumstances, each of my grandparents had to leave the land of their birth in order to seek employment in other countries.
Essentially, they, like hundreds of thousands of other West Indians, were forced to become economic and political migrants during the early to mid-1900s.
It was, perhaps, the largest brain drain that our region has ever seen.
Think about it in this context, some 400 years after being taken from Africa and forced to build the economies of the Caribbean, and the Americas, the very same peoples are forced to desperately seek employment in North America and/or the United Kingdom, from whence the misery of our people began.
Essentially,they became the Windrush Generation.
Sad irony indeed.
My grandmother, Amay Fraser, moved to New York, where she became a cook and housekeeper for white Americans.
My grandfather, Christopher Glover, moved around the West Indies, becoming an auto mechanic, taxi driver and eventually car rental agency owner in St Eustatius, Dutch West Indies.
My paternal grandparents moved to Bermuda to become farmers and landowners.
Each of them never forgetting the conditions from whence they came and instilling family values, hard work, community upliftment and equal rights for all, into their children and grandchildren.
Both of my grandfathers became politically active and helped to found and fund political parties in their respective islands of St Eustatius and Bermuda. Back in Tortola, my grandmother’s family helped to found and fund a political party as well.
Forward ever, backwards never
The late Dr Martin Luther King once said that he had seen the Promised Land, although he may not have made it there with us, but he had seen it.
You see, despite their lack of opportunity, our fore-parents saw the need for the people of their respective islands and the Caribbean as a whole to have a voice, to have someone willing to stand up for them, to have someone advocate for their children to have a decent education, someone to stand up against the evils of; classism, racism and, yes, colonialism.
Across the Caribbean there will be thousands of persons who never became elected officials, yet were instrumental in forming, funding and supporting political parties throughout the region. They are truly the unknown, yet unforgotten, soldiers of our move away from colonialism and our journey towards the promised land of regional unity and self-determination.
Indeed, those maids, farmers, fishermen, homemakers, taxi drivers, lawyers, doctors and educators are the true architects of the modern, independent Caribbean.
They are the countless thousands who birthed the ethos and vision to create an organization to speak as one voice for the people of the Caribbean.
Unfortunately, time and tide never allowed many of them to see the fulfilment of their visions.
So, it was with a great sense of pride and duty that, on July 4, 2018, the descendants of those exterminated and enslaved, sat side by side at the same table, as brothers and sisters, as Caribbean leaders, as equal members of CARICOM.