TONY BEST: We showed those naysayers
AN INTERESTING THING about Barbados as it celebrates its Golden Jubilee is the frequency with which people ask an intriguing question.
How come Barbados defied the odds set by doubting Thomases who believed a tiny island of 166 square miles with a population of less than 300 000 survived and prospered in the face of difficult economic and social challenges spawned by independence while other places with far more resources faltered?
Bishop Peter Fenty, a Barbadian cleric in Toronto who was a teenager when the Union Jack, the symbol of British colonialism, came down at the Garrison Savannah for the last time on November 30, 1966 and was replaced by the new nation’s flag, gave a straightforward answer to the question in New York City.
“There were naysayers,” he said. But the road to success, he added, was paved with a combination of the Almighty’s mirror image; the confidence God had inspired in the founding fathers and the hard work of the foreparents of the current generation.
“We knew then and still know today that we didn’t journey into independence on our own steam,” said the 65-year old cleric to a large congregation at Bedford Central Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn last Sunday afternoon. Instead, the “journey” was propelled by “the love, support and goodness” of the Almighty.
Fenty, the first black bishop in the 150-plus year history of Canada’s sprawling Anglican Archdiocese preached the sermon at a three-hour service to celebrate the 50th anniversary of independence.
“We built it on the backs of the hard workers, parents and the grandparents” who endured major sacrifices in order to make a “difference in our lives because they cared,” said the Barbadian, who was consecrated a bishop more than three years ago at the historic St. James Cathedral in downtown Toronto.
Fenty also paid tribute to “single mothers” who were committed to their children’s welfare and spoke glowingly of the prime ministers saying they too, had strived to push Barbados forward. He singled out Errol Barrow, the nation’s first Prime Minister who spearheaded the independence drive in the 1960s. Fenty praised him for being a visionary.
But why the celebrations?
“We are celebrating all that is good about our nation,” said the cleric.
He urged Barbadians “to be proud of who you are” and of “your heritage” while avoiding arrogance.
“It means we must humble ourselves before God” while continuing to help spur economic and social progress back home.
Fenty said he was opposed to any proposal to devalue the Barbados dollar and called on Bajans abroad to help return their homeland to economic prosperity, suggesting they should invest in the country.
The service was organised by the Barbados Government offices in Manhattan led by the Consulate and attracted a wide cross section of the Barbadian immigrant community in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. It featured a gospel choir, a saxophonist, a 50th anniversary choir, a special message from Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, dancers for Christ, organists and a band that played religious music.
Several members of the clergy representing Christians, Muslims, the Spiritual Baptists, Jews and evangelicals participated. Barbados’ Ambassador to the United Nations, Tony Marshall, lit a candle of Remembrance and the Consul-General in New York, Dr Donna Hunte-Cox welcomed the congregation and read the Prime Minister’s message.
Reverend Dr Laurel Scott, pastor of the Port Washington Methodist Church was the coordinator.
Reverend Dr. Andrew Harewood, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the US Army and a pastor of a Seventh Day Adventist Church in Manhattan was presented with an anniversary award for his contribution to the military.
Tony Best is the NATION’s North American Correspondent. Email: [email protected]