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Barbados best, says Young

Tony Best

Barbados best, says Young

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FORMER?UNITED?STATES Ambassador to the United Nations, Andrew Young, 79, the first black person to hold that cabinet level position, has endorsed the suggestion that Barbados was perhaps the world’s best “managed” black country.
But Young, a top aide of Martin Luther King Jr., during the height of the US civil rights movement in the early 1960s, noted that Barbados, the lone Caribbean and Latin American state to be placed on the UN’s 2010 list of “developed” countries when it came to human development, had benefitted significantly from its small size and its huge investment in people’s education.
The same couldn’t be said for much larger African and Caribbean states, according to Young, a former member of the US House of Representatives who later became a two-term mayor of Atlanta.
“Barbados is so small, I do agree that it is the best managed black country,” he told the SATURDAY SUN in Jamaica. “I went down to Barbados in 1968 right after Dr Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination and that’s where I started writing my book, and I was there for almost two months. I was inspired by Barbados and Jamaica.
“But again, Barbados is not as big as the neighbourhood I live in Atlanta. Atlanta is now six million people. We are close to the population of the entire Caribbean.
I was inspired by Barbados and by Jamaica. But we run Atlanta. That US$10 billion airport generates US$32 billion a year, it employs 55 000 to 60 000 people and more than half of them are black.”
As evidence of Atlanta’s success, he cited its ability to stage the highly successful 1996 Olympic Games and he credited two former Jamaican leaders, the late Michael Manley, and P.J. Patterson for helping the southern city garner the support of developing countries in its successful bid for the summer Olympics.
Appointed to the UN in the 1970s by President Jimmy Carter, Young made an official visit to Barbados and other Caribbean nations during his term and he explained why, to this day, the Caribbean in general and Barbados and Jamaica in particular have such a hold on him.
Growing up in a segregated South, Young said, the first time he saw black police officers directing traffic on a city street was in Jamaica.
In addition, it was in Jamaica that he saw the first black female bank teller serving customers.
He pointed out that King often turned to Jamaica for inspiration when he was writing his books and for strategies to be used in the civil rights movement and in the non-violent push for equality and justice.
“It was a regular stop. You would come to Jamaica to refresh yourself and to get a vision of where to go from here,” Young said. “This is where we got our UN plans.
We did all kinds of things through the United Nations.”
“Martin Luther King came down here (Jamaica) regularly. From 1961 to 1968,  just before he was assassinated, we spent almost every January, from the day after Christmas to just before his birthday. Almost every time he came to Jamaica, he ended up writing a book.”
In Barbados’ case, Young said in an interview during last week’s 16th annual Caribbean Multilateral Business Conference in Ocho Rios, the small country had developed a reputation for educating its people, a record he traced to Britain, which he said had carefully selected the Caribbean island as a beacon for education in its then sprawling colonial empire.
“Barbados has always done a good job. It has always had a good educational system,” he said. “The British chose Barbados as an island that they would educate the people, provide education free for them and they used Barbadian citizens in their colonial networks around the world. Barbados had a tremendous educational resource contributed to by Great Britain.”
Young, often called the strategist behind King’s national and global effort, is among a handful of living icons of the movement that transformed America and paved the way for the election of President Barack Obama as the first black leader of the world’s largest economy and the most powerful state in the UN.
He described Barbados, Jamaica and their neighbours, not as an archipelago of small island nations, but as a “continent” brought together by the Caribbean Sea.