Carolina link still strong
Amidst the glistening hotels, office towers, tree-lined streets and other features of a modern city, Charleston, South Carolina has an old world charm.
Historic Charleston is a place that tugs at the heartstrings and stirs the curiosity of Sir Hilary Beckles, principal of the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies; UWI Professor Emeritus of medicine and clinical pharmacology, Henry Fraser; Dr Karl Watson, a retired senior lecturer in history, and others.
People knowledgeable about the links between Barbados and Charleston, such as Warren Alleyne, Barbadian historian and author, who with Fraser, wrote the Barbados-Carolina Connection; Rhoda Green, Barbados’ honorary consul in Charleston; Markly Wilson, a former United States manager of the then Barbados Tourist Board, and Michelle McCollum, of the South Carolina National Heritage Corridor, can speak about the journey of white Barbadian planters and black slaves in the 17th century.
That was the backdrop for four days of activities in South Carolina’s best known city where at least 250 Barbadians from the US and Barbados joined scores
of Carolinians, some of whom are transplanted Bajans who live in Charleston. The educational and entertaining programme ended last week Sunday evening. It gave meaning and purpose to a celebration entitled Barbados Comes [Back] To Charleston.
For those who know little about the “Barbados-Carolina Connection”, the event was an eye-opener, allowing them to learn about the days in the mid-1600s and beyond when white Barbadians were influential and wealthy enough to set out on a project to enrich themselves, spread the gospel of economic globalization and raise the British flag further afield. Unfortunately, they transported defenceless and brutalized people of African descent who were enslaved first in Barbados and then in the Carolinas.
For as Sir Hilary said in a brilliant 90-minute lecture at the Founder’s Hall of the Charles Town Landing site, “it is in Barbados, the island of Barbados that the wealthiest project, the most successful agricultural project in all of America, is established in the 17th century”.
The merchants and planters left a permanent mark on Charleston.
The decision to return to Charleston in 2011 was made by the Barbados Consulate and Team Barbados, led by Colin Mayers, consul-general in Miami, and Philip St Hill, deputy consul-general, along with Green, and other Government agencies. Its aim was to boost economic and social links and bring together Barbadians in and out of the diaspora.
The programme began with Sir Hilary’s lecture and continued the next evening with a reception addressed by Minister of Foreign Affairs Senator Maxine McClean.
On Saturday, hundreds of people spent the day at Charles Towne Landing, a large historical and national park where they were entertained by storytellers, a tuk band, an interview with Fraser and Barbadian music provided by Wayne Bynoe, a prominent DJ from Atlanta and a stiltwalker from Barbados, all brought together by Mac Fingall who served as master of ceremonies.
In addition, there were demonstrations of basket weaving. The Bajans and others strolled between the tents which provided literature about Barbados and Charleston while they ate a variety of Bajan dishes.
“This is a very important undertaking which can bring important economic benefits to Barbados and South Carolina,” said Minister of Industry Denis Kellman.
Several hours later, more than 500 people attended a gala dinner and awards ceremony at the Embassy Suites hotel where Watson, Wilson, Fraser, Green and McCollum were presented with awards for their efforts to strengthen the ties between Charleston and Barbados.
Warren Alleyne, the historian, was honoured in his absence. Green, a Barbadian who has lived in the city for 30 years, has been a driving force behind the promotion of Barbados in South Carolina.
In a speech at the dinner, McClean said a second Barbadian diaspora conference would be held at home next year sponsored by Government. The first took place in 2010.
The curtain came down Sunday with a church service and a town hall meeting in which McClean and Kellman participated.