Third Lecture in the Distinguished Lecture Series Sponsored by CARICOM to Commemorate Its Thirtieth Anniversary
Presented On the Occasion of the Eighth Meeting of the Council for Human and Social Development, Paramaribo, Suriname April 24-26, 2003
I deem it an honour to have been invited by the CARICOM Secretariat to deliver this the Third Distinguished Lecture Series in commemorating the thirtieth anniversary of the Caribbean Community. This is, indeed, a singular honour and reflects, I am sure, the substantive role Jamaica has played in the regional integration movement over the years. Of no less significance, I am sure, is the contribution of one of our Caribbean stalwart educators and my own predecessor, Senator the Honorable Burchell Whiteman, who has given sterling service to this organization, in particular, and the Caribbean movement in general.
For my own part, I come here today as a beneficiary of that noble Caribbean institution that has itself been the bastion and vanguard of the integration movement over the years. I refer here to the University of the West Indies. It is through the UWI that many of us were able to gain our first insight into the Caribbean as a series of potential relationships rather than just a scattering of geographical spaces separated by the sea. One of our University’s eternal legacy will be its nurturing of many who are now our Prime Ministers and leaders. Indeed, Dr. the Hon. Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in the Inaugural lecture assures us that some of his badges of honour that he now so proudly wears were wrought in the streets of Jamaica in defence of one of our own great academics and thinkers, Dr. Walter Rodney.
I come also, as one who has offered myself for public service through political involvement, belonging to a Party that has long espoused and championed Caribbean integration as indispensable in forging our sense of identity as Caribbean people. As such, therefore, I am pleased to bring greetings to you all from another proud Caribbean integrationist my esteemed Prime Minister, The Most Honorable Percival James Patterson.
Let me acknowledge my distinct pleasure at being here in this beautiful Caribbean city. As I moved around I was impressed by the friendliness and hospitality of the people everywhere and I am reminded that I am in the Caribbean where it is natural and easy to be friendly and hospitable, to welcome persons in our homes and hearts and let them feel in a minute that we are family. Believe me, this is something we must not take for granted and must continue always to cherish and proclaim as intensely and uniquely Caribbean. This experience further causes me to reaffirm that, even as we were taken from three continents and, as Lloyd Best posits, introduced to each other in various insular and continental spaces and to a variety of European languages that, in re-crafting and re-creating ourselves we have managed to encompass something distinct yet common among us: that “thing” we can call “Caribbean.” It is so in Port of Spain, it is so in Georgetown, in Port au Prince, Roseau, and even in places that bear such misnomers as departments of France or British Overseas territories. Whatever the configuration in this great Caribbean civilization, we each find ourselves constantly replicated as we traverse the seascapes of the region, causing me to reflect on the words of Ian McDonald:
“I have no other harboring-place but this. I have no other homeland and want no other”.
I also share with him the “hope to see deeper integration taking place even while closer cooperation with the wider Caribbean proceeds.”
The words of the late outstanding Guyanese Caribbean poet, Martin Carter, in his poem This is the Dark Time, My Love, are most appropriate in this moment of history at which this Eighth Meeting of the Council for Human and Social Development is being convened in Paramaribo, Suriname. In observing all that is taking place around us, if we were pessimists we would conclude:
This is the dark time, my love,
It is the season of oppression, dark metal, and tears.
It is the festival of guns, the carnival of misery
Everywhere the faces of men are strained and anxious.
At the forefront of our consciousness is a world in turmoil and chaos, where efforts to make peace often end up in war and attempts to reduce poverty frequently produce dislocation and pain. We watch the “strained and anxious faces” of our people as we continue to experience what the late former Prime Minister of Jamaica, Michael Manley, expressed as our “struggle in the periphery”. We note the “carnival of misery” being experienced by some people and we must respond to their call to improve the conditions of our lives.
Even as we contemplate this we are mindful of the changes that are occurring right before our very eyes, as institutions, political systems and values suddenly take on new meanings. We are amazed at the reach of the new technologies, as, for the first time in our lives, we were brought “up close” in “live and direct” fashion in a kind of surreal vision of camera-toting men running alongside huge killing machines, now called smart, as mayhem invaded our living and bedrooms. We bemoan the capacity for genocide and must resolve to convert such weapons of mass destruction into resources for mass prosperity.
Based on the new rules of trading engagement, our societies are experiencing severe dysfunction. Relationships previously accepted as immutable now come under the scrutiny of microscopes of ‘modern’ agendas that are not concerned with the kinds of history and reality we have lived. In all this, the “carnival of misery” threatens to overwhelm us as some of us even lose our ability to dream, and take on a new hopelessness, also evoked in the ominous last verse of the same poem:
Who comes walking in the dark night time?
Whose boot of steel tramps down the slender grass
It is the man of death, my love, the stranger invader
Watching you sleep and aiming at your dream.
But we are not pessimists. We recognize that this is only a part of the backdrop against which the celebration of thirty years of CARICOM is taking place. The other part of this backdrop, is of islands and peoples who have displayed unmatched resilience, who have proven that they can be the best of whatever they want to be: Best playrights like Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott; best folk poet like Honorable Louise Bennett; best creators of dance like Lavina Williams; best artistes like Honorable Robert Nesta Marley; best social commentators like the Mighty Sparrow. We can be world-class, given the appropriate conditions.
Being the “best” for Caribbean peoples results from a blend of challenge, talent and potential. These must provide the signposts to our future. It is the reality of the new knowledge and of the services society, of pervasive technologies and globalization, that seek to transform the very bases on which we have existed thus far and which have helped to give us a degree of permanence and a sense of meaning over the years. As Caribbean people, we have never recoiled from global challenges regardless of the rubric under which they fall. Small societies such as ours have always been open, influenced by each wind of change.
The deliberate organization of contemporary trading relationships, assisted by the development of technology present new challenges presaged by John Tomlinson who warns that while:
“Globalization promotes much more physical mobility than ever before,(but) the key to its impact is in the transformation of the localities themselves…. involving the simultaneous penetration of local worlds by distant forces, and the dislodging of everyday meanings from their ‘anchors’ in the local environment.”
Some would query somewhat facetiously “so what is new”. When have we not been infected by the external, not only at the level of the economy but even more so at the point at which we give meaning to our lives - at the cultural level? How many times have we bemoaned the reality of the penetration of our societies by the all-pervasive media and technology? How many of us constantly pronounce against our children inculcating foreign and deleterious values because of the diet of extraneous influences transmitted to them by uncontrolled media sources? So, when did we not have such influences? Indeed, our very history is the struggle between the indigenous and the imported or a mélange of both resulting in what Rex Nettleford claims is “a sense of inferiority which continue(s) to deprive a vast populace needed for production and patriotic commitment of a sense of place and purpose in their own society.” (Caribbean Cultural Identity (1978) – Rex M. Nettleford).
What Nettleford is pointing to is the absence of a clear cultural identity.
A ROLE FOR CULTURE
We, however, may need to take some of the blame for the absence of a culture that underpins and defines our reality, if we accept Boxhill’s observation that:
“Finally, one more area in which little or no progress has been made is that of cultural development –recognized since 1972 at the Seventh Heads of Government Conference as an important vehicle in the process towards greater regional unity”.
Interestingly, the Seventh Conference of Heads alluded to by Boxhill in his work “Ideology & Caribbean Integration” was convened much like this COHSOD thirty years later. On that occasion of the 7th Conference of Heads, the region prepared itself to celebrate its achievements in Guyana in the same way we now look forward to the next CARIFESTA in Suriname in August this year. Indeed, it was then, that according to Keith Noel the late Forbes Burnham, former President of Guyana, made his “prophetic and timely call to artists to get together in Guyana and share – to use the art to “make the small man a real man”.
That statement by this late Caribbean leader, himself one of the visionaries of Chaguaramas, records the importance of the arts in representing or presenting the people and underscores the role of culture in the integration process and in development. Culture was and still is about providing a voice for the ordinary man in the face of the baggage of colonial power-play; it is all about giving recognition to the small man’s struggle for self-creation through the telling of his story. It is still about the capturing of his images and the creation and interpretation of his own meaning of life, which are the psychological trappings of human achievement.
So, we are forced to agree with the late Most Hon. Michael Manley when he advocated “putting the psychological elements” first, because of the conviction that all human achievement flows from state of mind, without which, the more technical elements in human performance cannot develop.
Our mission was and is to use culture to offer the ordinary man a point of convergence and recognition for the meaning of self and environment.
Despite many ambiguities and ambivalencies about what is really His culture, the Caribbean citizen has forged many formations out of his determination not to be totally consumed or obliterated by external influences. To some it may be an ill-defined potpourri. So whether it is the meringue, the calypso, the reggae, the dance hall, call it cross-over, call it confused, it is his and represents his determination not be subsumed by “the global”.
What however, is the link between the future as envisioned by Caribbean people and the development of our culture. Indeed, is there a uniformed, monolithic version of this future?
For some, the future encompasses their access to basics:
- We want water! We want light!
- We want telephones!
- We want justice!
Perhaps, it differs throughout the Caribbean but for us in Jamaica, we grieve at the daily spectacle on television of those who believe they are voiceless or at least unheard. For them, this is their future to get water and light.
For Caribbean leaders, the imperative remains – how do we provide light, water, telephones, justice and democratic governance simultaneously? We would wish to summon up the biblical powers to multiply the bread and the fish to satiate the thousands. In the absence of that, we must find a way to optimize our resources. For Caribbean leaders, this is the present and the future. This is reality.
The challenge is to balance the quantity of life with the quality of life, to be able to achieve not only more, but better. We have to act to reverse Nettleford’s observation of this sense of inferiority which prevents much needed production and patriotic commitment, and give primacy to Michael Manley’s charge to give prominence to the psychological – a sine qua non for human performance and human achievement. We have to disprove Boxhill’s conclusion that “little or no progress has been made” in cultural development in the region, not as an end in itself, but as he reminds us “as an important vehicle in the process towards greater regional unity”.
We have to weave culture into all sectors of our development. For purposes of this presentation, I will examine the mission under 5 subheads, recognizing, however, that the treatment is not unilinear but integrative. These subheads are:
Culture and Identity
- Culture and Identity
- Culture and Education/Human Resource Development
- Cultural Industries
- Culture and Trade
- Cultural Infrastructure and Financing
One of the most fundamental constructs of culture, resides in the concept of “identity”. This relates to how we see ourselves, and the values we place on our lives, our environment and our realities, and on each other. Hence, there is a direct correlation between cultural identity and the values and attitudes that we display. Cultural identity will affect how we see each other since identity as a cultural construct is also affected by environment and history. For example, most researchers on Caribbean culture attest to the more northward focus of Jamaicans who, historically, had very little contact with the Eastern Caribbean. Boxhill op.cit. noted this trend in his investigation of attitudes related to Caribbean identity among Jamaicans and St. Lucians. St. Lucians, with their history of greater movement within the Eastern Caribbean, saw identity more in terms of the others in the region than did Jamaicans. This factor would obviously have implications for the outcomes of the regional integration movement.
Identity, then, becomes the single most important factor in the regional integration movement since we are more likely to integrate with collectivities with which we share a common identity. Most Caribbean people would generally attest to a notion of common heritage based on shared or similar history. However, because of the nature of British colonialism, this notion of common identity, though bolstered by a history of years of slavery and colonialism, became distorted or obfuscated over the years through the many institutions and mechanisms established by the British within the foundations of the imperial process, not the least of which was their education system.
Hence we have the evidence of lack of self-confidence and self-worth in Caribbean identity (Demas, op. cit.) or conflicting identities postulated by Clarke op.cit.
This identity is fundamental in determining who we are, if we will integrate and to what end. Earl Lovelace, Trinidadian writer captures this notion of shared identity in a section of his novel “The Dragon Can’t Dance”:
“Dance! There is dancing in the calypso. Dance! If the words mourn the death of a neighbour, the music insists that you dance; if it tells the troubles of a brother, the music says dance; Dance to the hurt! Dance! If you catching hell, dance! and the government don’t care, dance! Your woman take your money and run away with another man, dance. Dance! Dance! Dance! It is in dancing that you ward off evil. Dancing is a chant that cuts the power from the devil. Dance! Dance! Dance! Carnival brings this dancing to every crevice of the hill.”
Caribbean people everywhere can understand the phenomenon described by Lovelace lucidly. The dance has been an integral part of our identity and the ability to dance, like that to laugh, is directly related to our capacity to survive and enjoy life. And so the calypsonian will express bewilderment in “all night you sit down there and you don’t dance”. Indeed, for integration to be successful our people must dance to its rhythm and that rhythm must become life.
For us in the Caribbean art is life, culture is identity and the world is a stage. We identify with so many concepts and all these must be brought to bear in notions of identity. On the one hand we are Collymore as “men who live on small islands” and who “must be remembering the sea”. So seascape becomes an important part of Caribbean identity and features in our regional identity, for the sea can be divisive even as it unifies us, a conflicting identity, perhaps? Or then we become A.L. Hendricks in his “An Old Jamaican Woman Thinks about the Hereafter” expressing our insularity and affinity for small spaces in
“What would I do forever in a big place, who have spent all my life in a small island?
The same parish holds the cottage I was born in, all my family, and the cool churchyard.”
Culture in the future of the Caribbean community will require that more and more of our integrationist strategies as well as the fundamental ideology of the movement must be founded on regional identity, focusing on the creation of a Caribbean person, one of the objectives outlined in the CARICOM Regional Cultural Policy.
Culture and Education/Human Resource Development
The definition of our identity is an input and a product of our human resource development, it follows from the arguments about “Culture and Identity” that there needs to be a process by which a regional cultural identity and ideology can be actively promoted and operationalized. The creation of a Caribbean person or identity cannot be accidental or incidental to our actions and activities. It must be explicit and deliberate. It is about the search for truth, the process of removing the obfuscations and distortions of our realities, so that we can together evolve our identity. This will relate directly to the engendering of the human spirit and the unleashing of creative energies necessary for regional development. It relates to the mental health and social wellness of our people, the basis for economic activity and productivity.
The Right Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey, one of the Caribbean’s best known heroes, recognized the indispensable role of cultural education in development:
“Education is the medium by which a people are prepared for the creation of their own particular civilization and the advancement and glory of their own race. It is by education that we become prepared for our duties and responsibilities in life.”
The Caribbean education system, if it is to create the Caribbean persona and provide the ideological framework for integration, must be steeped in the culture of the region and provide the knowledge base and attitudinal constructs that will underpin integration and development. In this scenario, culture becomes the context and content of education, affording our young the opportunity to approach the past with critical thinking, open to the necessary reinterpretations and clarifications that are the foundations of mental freedom. This might call for radical shifts in education offerings and delivery modes to include culture in an integrative framework and in a methodology that must be intensely Caribbean.
This education and human resource development process must relate to the identification of the needs and challenges of the society and chart a course for the achievement of our goals. Up to now, our Caribbean education has not included an ideology of regional integration. Without this, it is impossible for nations whose history has been forged in mistrust, suspicion and division to integrate. Integration cannot continue to be simply a political process dutifully discussed in regional political and economic gatherings but having no reflection in the curricula of our schools. By now more Jamaicans ought to have felt more closely Caribbean and fewer of us should be still seeing extra-regional institutions and products as superior.
Further, we need to expose our children more and more to each other and to the cultures of our countries. As technology becomes more pervasive, it is our young that are most exposed to its influences. These technologies affect current behaviour patterns among our young people which indicate a growing tendency to anti-social behaviour and highlight worrying deficits in their social skills, personal integrity, self, national and regional awareness. Declining parental care and supervision, absence of positive role models, deficiencies in formal and informal cultural and education systems and shrinking economies leave our children and youth vulnerable to the effects of alternative communications media, drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, and increasingly to crime and violence both as victims and as perpetrators. The real pity is the absence of successor social structures, even as we have seen the decline of those we have inherited.
We need to create systems of education and training and policies of human resource development that will support the regional integration process and the development of our people. The version of this human being is expressed in the “Ideal Citizen Worker”
EDUCATORS, PARENTS, JAMAICANS…
ALL PARTNERS IN EDUCATION TO PRODUCE THE
- Capable of seizing the economic opportunities, which the global environment is presenting
- Demonstrates multiple literacies, including foreign language skills, independent and critical thinking
- Has developed the capacity to create and take advantage of opportunities to control, improve, maintain and promote physical, mental, social and spiritual well-being; and to contribute to the health and welfare of the community and country
- Nourishes in him/her and in others, the full development of each person’s potential without gender stereotyping; and embraces the differences and similarities between females and males as a source of mental strength
- Has an informed respect for our cultural heritage and that of others
Derived from the “Profile and the ideal CARICOM Citizen Worker” Report at the 11th Meeting of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community, 1997.
This seems like the quintessential Renaissance Man! But can we afford to be any less given our own global niche and the imperatives if we are not only survive but to realize our fullest potential. If we are capable of being the best then we should ensure that this becomes the norm not merely an event.
Coherent cultural policy and programmes are indispensable to the creation of this Ideal Citizen Worker. This policy needs to be integrated into the elaboration of our development planning programmes.
Given the pervasive nature of the media, it is moot whether we can successfully resist the exposure to other cultures. The antidote to this would seem to be to strengthen our own cultural identity through education; bolster self confidence and sense of purpose and self-worth. Make our people’s cultural identity a “resistant variety” so that we are not weakened and destroyed by external influences. Rather we will have the capacity to adapt where required and reject where necessary.
Culture and Development
On the basis of the above discussion, culture then must be the face of development or, as more aptly expressed, development without culture is development without a face.
In this regard, we need to examine the ways in which we operate in our countries. Too often we conduct our national and regional business in segments that promote division and undermines the integration process. Culture as an important instrument of development must relate to other development Ministries. How many of us as Ministers with responsibility for culture relate in a direct developmental construct to Planning, Trade, or even Tourism Ministries? In fact, let us take this COHSOD as an example. The issues on the table relate to various sections of our governments (education, culture, health, youth, sport) and yet, where these are discreet Ministries it may be difficult to ensure that there is meaningful dialogue among us. Of course, the situation is aggravated further when we examine what is happening in other Councils such as COTED, even though those deliberations often impact on our own operations.
The promotion of regional integrated development of the Caribbean Community requires that we find ways to ensure that the various agendas find convergence and coherence at some point in the development process. For example, when our CARIFORUM Ministers get together to determine the Regional Indicative Programme, are they encouraged to consider the requirements for regional integration or do they use it as simply another opportunity to promote national interests? It is surprising, for example, given the integral role culture must play in regional integration, that culture does not feature in the CARIFORUM regional development strategy.
One area of development in which we need to express our integration is in the area of trade. As the world promotes trade policies with its emphasis on trade liberalization there is need for us to ensure that culture is given special treatment. In this regard, mention must be made of our involvement with the International Network on Cultural Policies (INCP). The INCP is a network of Ministers responsible for Culture, which affords us an opportunity to engage together the challenges to cultural diversity promoted by some globalization policies. Our remit is to promote the importance of cultural diversity and our right in this equation to elaborate cultural policies for the protection and promotion of cultural diversity.
We should all be mindful of this process. It will impact on our future development, especially as it is in this area of culture that we have competitive advantage. As such, I would like to remind us of our support for the drafting of an International Convention on Cultural Diversity within the framework of UNESCO that we think will go a far way in providing us with the necessary leverage for the development of our cultural economies. At this time, I feel it is important for us to thank the Ministry of Canadian Heritage who hosted a meeting in Halifax, Canada in late March on Culture and Trade that brought culture and trade officials together for perhaps the first time. This dialogue, like the struggle, must continue.
It is universally acknowledged that the Caribbean is an area of cultural diversity and innovation. From the invention of the steel pan and the proliferation of calypso and carnival to the potent, captivating force of reggae and dancehall and the power of Rastafari, to zuk and rhumba, the frenzied energy of merengue and the sheer dynamism and vivacity of Tropicana, the Caribbean exudes the warmth and vitality that underscores cultural prowess and powerful cultural industries.
What, though, are cultural industries? UNESCO’s publication “Culture, Trade and Globalization – Questions and Answers” offers the following explanation of the term:
“It is generally agreed that this term applies to those industries that combine the creation, production and commercialization of contents that are intangible and cultural in nature. These contents are typically protected by copyright and they can take the form of goods or services. The notion of cultural industries generally includes printing, publishing and multimedia, audiovisual, phonographic and cinematographic productions, as well as craft and design…. architecture, visual and performing arts, …”|
Cultural industries are seen worldwide as a growing sector and offers a viable alternative to declining traditional industries here in the Caribbean. Cultural industries represent the second largest contributor to the United States economy. Yet, in our region, in spite of the competitive advantage we have in this sector, we are as yet unable to find ways to create meaningful cultural industries.
This is one of the major challenges we face. It is the area where culture can impact directly on regional economic development especially at a time when we are all experiencing economic challenges and the need to expand our tourism products. Only this year Sean Paul (the Jamaican Dancehall artiste) was rated as earning millions of United States dollars and we are challenged to recover royalty and performance payments from consumers of our products.
Over the years our people have created cultural products as a part of their survival mechanism. The rebellion and resistance in reggae are both part of the local history of maroonage and revolt that littered the Jamaican reality through the years. It also represents the people of the grassroots in their bid to find release from the pressures of life for, as Bob Marley, put it so aptly:
“One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain” as he evoked the strength of his environment which became the title of that song, “Trench Town Rock”. So that for him, he could be brutalized with music.
All over the Caribbean our people used this idiom to re-create self and to place our images and worldview in the context of the world. so that David Rudder would later chant:
“I can still hear Lion roar through Greenwich Village
While Executor kills them dead at the Ribbon Blue
Lord Invader conquers Berlin, from their heart this time
And Lord Kitchener making old London feel new
Beginner and Terror too
Carnegie hall graced by the presence of Sparrow
And when Slinger done with they tail, hear they shouting
Don’t go, Sparrow, don’t go.
We got to sing it in London
We got to sing it in America
We got to sing it in Africa
we got to sing it in Europe now.
The above reflects the joyous compulsion and force of our music as our artists have used this medium to recolonize the world and ensure that our voices are heard. Jamaica’s own Loiuse Bennett-Coverley, Queen Mother of Jamaican theatre was right when she wrote of us “colonizing England in reverse” in the rhythmic Jamaican dialect for which we, through her, have become so proud.
It has been well said that music has empowered Caribbean civilization. Like cricket, UWI, CXC and so many institutions we have created, it is our people making their voices heard, never silent as we make our mark on history.
Our challenge is to develop capacities in the region and build institutions to market and position our cultural products in every crevice of the hill where the lions roar or the elephants play. Perhaps, this is one area where the essence of regional integration can be sought because I fear, in the present economic configurations, we may be hard pressed to find out how we can each do it back home. This makes me think of the CARIFORUM Cultural Support Fund, one of the projects of the CARIFORUM Jamaica Cultural Centre, and the support it needs. Perhaps the role the Fund ought to play is in the area of regional cultural support strategies. What, for example, if the Fund were to be used to guarantee at least one young person per year the opportunity to attend the Edna Manley College to acquire the necessary training in industry development and promotion? Or what if the Fund could assist the Edna Manley College to develop the capacity to engage our artists/producers/promoters in their efforts to move from raw talent to world creative power? Or then again, could we conceive of the Fund establishing and supporting the CARIFESTA movement in its new business model to allow it to once more become the cultural exposition and market that it ought to be and so free it from its entrapped condition where it continues to depend on funding from shrinking national budgets?
The very interesting literature on Carifesta reads like this, and here I quote Keith Noel:
“Carifesta 1981 featured not just Old Story Time but Dennis Scott’s Dog and Rawle Gibbons’ Shepherd, 2 plays that stretched the form to limits previously untried. That Festival also saw the craft of the Trinidad Theatre Workshop in their production of Siswe Bansi is Dead; Alwyn Bully from Dominica gave us The Night Box and Barbadian Earl Warner directed Lamming’s dramatization of his novel In the Castle of My Skin. What a year!
Yes, there are such great possibilities. Noel even recounts that the 1976 Jamaica experience saw the opening of the gates of the Cultural Training Centre, now the Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing Arts.
And yet this discourse has to now even include our various successes with the Festival economy. There is indeed so much to learn and it is good to have such an outstanding UWI trained persona in Dr. Keith Nurse to be able to guide the movement on. We hail our creators, those, as Errol Hill pointed out, sections of the society who, taken from their roots, had no place but the Caribbean to turn for a cultural heritage and who therefore built their culture out of the memory of their past and the experience of present physical and economic slavery.”
It is in this mode that we look forward to CARIFESTA and future CARIFESTAS as an outpouring of our people’s creativity and an avenue to tell our own legitimate stories to the world.
Cultural Infrastructure and Financing
Finally, no development is possible nor any movement plausible without the establishment of support structures and mechanisms for its activation. In this regard, we must strengthen culture departments and support financing strategies being pursued both in our countries and regionally. While it is realistic at this point to at least consider the relevance of having one position dedicated to culture in the Secretariat, it cannot be acceptable, for example, to continue to have that position vacant as it has been for the past two years. Our support for the integral role of Culture in integration must reflect itself in at least this.
As Ministers, we must pause to commend our Directors of Culture in the Regional Cultural Committee for the work that has been done thus far. We commend their vision and tireless dedication to the cause of culture, their work in maintaining CARIFESTA, in the free movement of cultural workers still to be concluded, in the support of regional festivals and assuming responsibility for regional initiatives on our behalf.
We also pay tribute as a grateful region to the great icons of Caribbean culture who have over the years crafted the kind of reality that has caused us to be proud, those who, in the words of Errol Hill, “ see drama as a festival of celebration, not cerebration; as ceremony not science; as acceptance of life not as escape from life or rejection of life”. Indeed, it is in their achievement that the Caribbean has much reason to be proud. It is in their work, Nobel Laureates like Derek Walcott, promoters of the Caribbean aesthetic and civilization, the hewers of wood and drawers of water that Nettleford so likes to draw on, who have worked tirelessly to ensure that their children should feel no longer displaced but with confidence assume their rightful place in the world.
And so as we face the “festival of guns” or confront the “carnival of misery, let us dance for we know we have a fortress to defend and the will and the weapons to defend it. Louise Bennett stated this will to defend ourselves well:
We defence is not defenceless|
For we got we half a brick
We got we broken bottle
And we coocoomacka stick.
We are called upon as servants of powerful Caribbean people who have overcome the chattels and deprivations of our slavery and colonial past to offer to our people through this great integration movement the possibility of being and of having. For it is in having, perhaps, that we may better understand our being since we have come full circle from a people from whom so much had been taken. And so now our people can celebrate the next thirty years in the immortal words of a poem by Nicolas Guillen:
When I look at and touch myself,|
with everything today,
I glance around, I look and see
and touch myself and wonder
how it could have happened.
I have, let’s see:
I have the pleasure of walking my country,
the owner of all there is in it,
examining at very close range what
I could not and did not have before
I can say cane
I can say mountain
I can say city
I can say army
now mine forever and yours, ours,
and the vast splendour of
the sunbeam, the star, the flower
I have, let’s see:
I have the pleasure of going,
me, a peasant, a worker, a simple man,
I have the pleasure of going
(just an example)
to a bank and speaking to the manager
not in English,
not in “Sir”
but in companero as we say in Spanish
I have, let’s see:
that I have learned to read,
I have that I have learnt to write
and to think
and to laugh
I have that now I have
a place to work and earn
what I have to eat
I have, let’ see:
what was coming to me.
We have created our culture. Our culture has in turn created us. We are the spirit of our ancestors. We are Tacky and Nanny, we are Garvey and Maceo in shining stirrup for the betterment of our people, we are Anansy and we are Actor Boy, Marti and Toussaint, we are Haiti in majestic splendour, we are Caribbean in all our glory. May our culture inspire us to action in the interest of our people and the advancement of the Community.