TONY BEST: Diaspora must know its history
It is a point that is oft-repeated when the talk of legacies is raised. “We stand on the shoulders of many who gave, not just their sweat but their blood, to ensure that they paved the way for us”.
The refrain was made recently again by New York State Appellate Court justice Sylvia Hinds-Radix who highlighted foundation builders like Errol Barrow, who led Barbados to independence almost a half century ago, Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first freely elected president, and Dr Martin Luther King Jr, the greatest American civil rights icon of the 20th century.
“We stand on the shoulders of those great figures,” said Hinds-Radix, who with her husband, Dr Joseph Radix, a dentist and their daughters spend several hours every Saturday morning at the Barbados Ex-Police Association headquarters in Brooklyn giving free math, English, and social studies lessons to young children.
She was delivering the Errol Barrow Memorial Lecture, an annual celebration sponsored by the Friends of Barbados DLP Association, the Democratic Labour Party’s branch in the United States.
The judge, who grew up in St James, told scores of people at St Alban’s Episcopal Church that a sad fact of life was that not many of the younger generation knew these individuals or the contributions that were made by them in order to make life better for others.
“It’s a knowledge gap that must be eliminated,” she insisted.
Hinds-Radix painted a verbal portrait of Barrow that showed him as a leader who placed a high premium on education. Also crucial were sound and responsible parenting, an adherence to discipline, and the exercise of leadership in the home and larger society.
“We must lead by example and provide guidance whenever we can,” she said. “After all, today’s youth are tomorrow’s leaders, but without education and knowledge, where will they end up?”
The answer was that several end up in handcuffs in court before a judge.
“It is devastating to see them standing there alone, and that’s particularly true if they are from Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean,” she said.
She said it was also particularly unfortunate that no one was in court to provide family and psychological support.
Hinds-Radix, therefore cautioned parents to take early steps that would prevent children from “falling into an abyss”.
“We have to expect our children to do better,” she insisted. “We must stop allowing television to raise our kids. We must also ensure that they see themselves as sitting in my seat on the bench, but certainly not standing in handcuffs in court.”
Keith “Tony” Marshall, Barbados’ new United Nations ambassador, who spoke at the function, urged parents to plan early for their children’s education,
He suggested to the Barbadian diaspora that it should pool resources so they could award as many as 20 scholarships annually to young people so they can go to college or university.
Like Hinds-Radix and Marshall, Dr Donna Hunte-Cox, the consul-general, said education was crucial to youth development.
Just as important was informing the young people about their country’s legacy.
“We need to bring along the youth,” she insisted.
Tony Best is the NATION’S North American correspondent.