Name George Lamming a national hero



Sunday, December 01, 2013

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DURING this weekend of final celebrations marking Barbados's 47th anniversary as a sovereign independent nation, I wish to take the opportunity to focus on a most outstanding, internationally renowned Barbadian, recognised for his very inspiring intellectual contributions and passionate love for our Caribbean — Dr George Lamming, who is well known and admired by the Jamaican people as well.

My inspiration to salute Lamming on this independence anniversary occasion — a most difficult economic phase for Barbados — follows, in part, from a ceremonial presentation last November 14 at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill campus, of the 'ALBA Award of Letters' to this West Indian patriot and formidable intellectual champion of Caribbean unity who continues to dwell, with dignity, among us.

Long before he reached his 86th birthday last July, this Barbados-born Caribbean man of letters, iconic novelist and an endearing cultural personality, had evolved as a virtual household name across the Caribbean. He is known to have had special relations with Barbados' 'Father of Independence', Errol Barrow; Jamaica's Manley family; Trinidad and Tobago's Eric Williams and, to a lesser extent, Guyana's Cheddi Jagan.

As the judges of the ALBA Award for literature have recognised, his attributes are known among the region's people- — of all nationalities, ethnicities and social status — who have an interest in Caribbean identity and the capacities to help foster a more humane environment amid constant social, economic and political challenges.

The award is a project associated with the creative imagination of the late President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Cuba's legendary leader and now retired president, Fidel Castro. It was inaugurated in December 2004 by ALBA — the Bolivarian Alternative Movement for integral economic, social, political and cultural integration of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean.

It's of interest to note here that the choice of Lamming as the first West Indian writer to have received the ALBA award for literature came within the first year of the publication of what is regarded as a monumental collection of his written works and "conversations" on fundamental issues of our Caribbean life.

Edited by the well-known Jamaican scholar, Anthony Bogues, for the series on 'Caribbean Reasonings' and offered as The George Lamming Reader (The Aesthetics of Decolonisation), it is a publication of the well known Ian Randle publishing enterprise in Kingston.

This 452-page offering is a must-read for any citizen of the Caribbean Community, the Greater Caribbean and beyond with some interest in learning about this fascinating region that is a microcosm of the ethnically and culturally diverse peoples of the world.

Consequently, on this independence anniversary of Barbados, which he treats as a patch of his Caribbean homeland, I take this opportunity to humbly offer a suggestion to the powers that be on this Caricom state to give serious thought to elevating George Lamming, recipient of various national/regional honours, to the status that has for too long been overlooked — a National Hero of Barbados.

It may perhaps seem impertinent to some for this Guyanese-born journalist to offer such a suggestion. Nevertheless, I do so as one whose journalism and Caribbean perspectives have been significantly informed by the written and oral contributions of George Lamming.


It is my good fortune to be personally acquainted with him in my work as a journalist with the now late William Demas of Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica's Rex Nettleford, and Guyana's Martin Carter — all celebrated icons of our Caribbean.

I harbour the feeling that diverse citizens of the Caribbean — and not just the Caricom region — may welcome George Lamming, a people's novelist and creative voice for change, to join the internationally renowned cricket icon, Sir Garfield Sobers, in being elevated as the second living national hero of this island state which, like Jamaica, is among the world's most famous tourist destinations.

When the Fourth Caribbean Festival of Creative Arts (CARIFESTA) took place in Barbados, George Lamming was chosen to deliver the coveted address for the special occasion to honour six of the famous artists from the Greater Caribbean, encompassing all the language areas.

The distinguished honorees were: Trinidad and Tobago's Beryl McBurnie (dancer and theatre organiser); Jamaica's Edna Manley (sculptor); Cuba's Nicolas Guillén (poet); Martinique's Aimé Césaire (poet); the Grenada-born calypsonian of Trinidad and Tobago, the Mighty Sparrow; and Frank Collymore (writer and artist) of Barbados.

Sharing the concerns of others why we have this inclination to often engage in research to choose national heroes posthumously, rather then when such sons and daughters dwell among us, I conclude this column with the hope that George Lamming will be named a national hero of Barbados.

Will it happen?

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