Monday, April 22, 2024

PEP COLUMN: A shame the Queen’s our Head!

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If there is one thing about Barbados that causes us in the People’s Empowerment Party to feel a profound sense of shame, it is that Queen Elizabeth II of England remains the Head of State of our supposedly independent nation.
For the vast majority of the history of Barbados – from the initial settlement in 1627 to the 1950s – black Barbadians were systematically told that they were inferior to “Whites”, and to white English people in particular, and that they were incapable of managing their own affairs.
Anyone who has researched the history of Barbados is aware that the relationship between Barbadians – both black and white – and the British Crown has been a most troubled and unhappy one.
To begin with, the British Royal Family were architects of the horrific transatlantic slave trade that caused so much grief to generations of black Barbadians. Indeed, Britain’s participation in the slave trade began with Queen Elizabeth I providing John Hawkins with a 700-ton slave ship, and commissioning him to attack towns and villages on the west coast of Africa, and to kidnap and enslave Africans.
It is also well known that the British monarchy plundered the colony of Barbados for a period of 175 years, through the imposition of a punitive tax of four and a half per cent on every single product grown, manufactured and shipped from Barbados.
This infamous tax, which lasted from 1663 to 1838, siphoned away millions of pounds sterling in capital from Barbados!
What is wrong with us Barbadians that we refuse to let go of the skirt-tails of the British monarchy?
Don’t we have any pride and confidence in ourselves as a nation and a people?
Are we not aware that as long ago as 1639 we established a Parliament here in Barbados – albeit a racially exclusive one? Are we not aware that our black Barbadian foreparents heroically resisted the notion that they were an inferior people in a series of seven slave conspiracies and rebellions between 1649 and 1816, and two major rebellions of the post-Emancipation period, in 1876 and 1937?
Barbados is not some immature, johnny-come-lately, country!
We must remember that the 17th century Barbadian expression of “colonial nationalism” provided the model for the United States of America when they declared their independence in 1776.
Barbadians also played key roles in a variety of nationalist and nation-building projects throughout Africa and the African diaspora, including providing Liberia with two presidents in the late 19th century; making key contributions to the Marcus Garvey movement; and developing the educational system in countries such as Guinea and Ethiopia!
On the Barbadian homefront, we have survived and overcome every conceivable calamity, ranging from cholera epidemics, to massive hurricanes and
all-consuming Bridgetown fires, and have gone on to distinguish ourselves by achieving a stellar reputation for freedom and political stability, and by rising as high as No. 19 on the United Nations’ Human Development Index! And none of these achievements had anything to do with our sordid connection to the British monarchy!
Surely, it is time for us to take off this badge of shame, and to complete our journey to full nationhood by insisting that the Head of State of Barbados must be a Barbadian!

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