The Caribbean and the rebirth of black civilisation
Caribbean thinkers and political activists were some of the prime movers and shakers in the early pan-African ideology that swept across North and South America, the Caribbean, Europe, and the African continent.
The life and times of people like Sylvester Williams, Marcus and Amy Garvey, George Padmore, C L R James, Stokely Carmichael, Jeanne Dumas, Aime Cesaire, Frantz Fanon, and Leon Dumas need to be skilfully interwoven into the school curriculum so that every generation of Caribbean students may know the potential of Caribbean thought leaders.
The geography of the Caribbean for weal or for woe has positioned Caribbean people in the backyard of the world’s most powerful nation, namely the United States of America. The history of the region has also connected us to the historically powerful European states of England, France, Spain, and the Netherlands. Geographical proximity and close physical interaction has provided Caribbean people with an up close and personal education in the best and worst of Caucasian civilisation.
The economic, strategic, and recreational importance of the Caribbean to the US and to Europe necessitated active involvement of the US and Europe in Caribbean affairs. The Caribbean, therefore, closely mimics the US and Europe in politics, education, religion, and cultural norms. Caribbean islanders, wherever possible, have also grasped the opportunities to relocate to the US and to Europe to live, study, and work. The political, cultural, and economic cross pollination between the Caribbean, the US, and Europe has evolved a people capable of holding their own wherever they go.
Caribbean nationals have captured the attention of the international community in many different arenas. Long before Caribbean athletes (Jamaicans mainly) were dominating and dazzling the world with their athletic prowess, the West Indies cricket team was instilling fear and admiration in the cricketing world, producing some of the best batsmen and pace bowlers the world has ever known. Names like Brian Lara, Michael Holding, Colin Croth, Joel Garner, Andy Roberts, Clive Lloyd, Vivian Richards, Carl Hooper, Gordon Greenidge, and Desmond Haynes were all household names in the cricketing world.
Caribbean migrants have also been a credit to the islands of their nativity in the new lands where they have settled. Caribbean national and their offspring have risen to positions of prominence in both the US and in Europe. In the US there is an abundance of Haitians and Jamaicans who have risen to high political office. Michael Blake (Jamaica) served as the vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee. Ronald Blackwood (Jamaica) was the first black mayor elected to any municipality in New York State. Mackenson Bernard (Haitian) was elected to the House of Representatives in 2009. Colin Powell (former US secretary of state) and Eric Holder (former US attorney general) are also products of the Caribbean.
Caribbean nationals are also making their mark in business and technology. Stephanie Smellie, a Bermudan-born Jamaican, has served as the head of creator marketplace partnerships at Spotify. Subira Willock of Trinidad and Tobago served as the business success and thought leadership marketing manager at Facebook. Nekkia Reveillac, also from Trinidad and Tobago, was employed as the head of research at Twitter.
As the global community is inundated by crisis after crisis, the Caribbean is holding up a beacon of light and hope for the rest of the world. Caribbean leaders are challenging the economic policies of major lending institutions that are condemning millions to a life of austerity and poverty. The Caribbean voice has also been the loudest in support of loss and damage payments to countries being devastated by climate change.
The geographical position and history of the Caribbean has served as an incubator of a people capable of withstanding intense pressure only to emerge like the phoenix from the ashes of defeat and oppression. Caribbean thought leaders helped to fashion the template used by African leaders to challenge the hegemony of Europeans in Africa. Caribbean politicians evolved a short-lived federation that had it survived could have provided a blueprint for a federation of African states.
As world conditions deteriorate and as ethnic groups begin to huddle for their own mutual survival, African and Caribbean states must follow suit. African and Caribbean states will either learn how to survive together or we will all perish separately. Our great pan-African father Marcus Garvey implored people of African ancestry to strive earnestly for the rebirth of black civilisation. Prophet Garvey also reminded us that Africa was the land for Africans at home and abroad.
The Caribbean has contributed and must continue to contribute to the redemption of the African continent, for in redeeming our motherland we will also be redeeming ourselves.
Lenrod Nzulu Baraka is the founder of the Afro-Caribbean Spiritual Teaching Center. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or firstname.lastname@example.org.