Saluting activist historians
ON FRIDAY, April 24, 2009, while moderating a panel discussion at the University of the West Indies as part of the historiography series and a component of my graduate research for my Master’s in history, I attempted to gauge from the distinguished panel of historians present the importance of activism to them.
Two historians from that panel wholeheartedly embraced the concept and one even threw out a challenge to all academics to be activists, due to our highly specialised research skills and intellects.
Throughout my university career, I often reproved certain history lecturers about their lack of visibility in the public domain as it pertained to matters of national importance. This is not to say, though, that academics in Barbados have not fulfilled their roles when required, as we have a strong tradition of intellectual activism in this country, to the extent where many were hounded by the anti-intellectual political and business elites of their day and ended up choosing exile as their escape.
Academic activism nevertheless remains alive, albeit not where it used to be. I salute Professor Sir Hilary Beckles for his continued sustained commitment to the struggle for social justice, as well as David Comissiong and Trevor G. Marshall, all veterans who happen to be mentors of mine.
I salute those other academics who have also made their contributions and encourage the younger and more recent ones coming through the ranks to continue the tradition of academic activism in order to free this society and region from the shackles of colonialism.
In this vein, I would like to encourage Dr Tennyson Joseph to continue to fight the good fight and remain steadfast despite a hailstorm of criticism from the right. I have a deep admiration for his work and his courage in confronting the behemoth of backwardness and division in this region.
My comrade and brother, as you walk in the shadow of the greats, rest assured that your work is bearing fruit. One of the great rewards for a revolutionary is definitely to draw the ire of his opponents.
– IAN A. MARSHALL