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Losing our true culture

David ‘joey’ Harper

Losing our true culture

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“What the businessmen in Bridgetown have to recognise then is that they need to drive a more service-based model,” said the economist [Jeremy Stephen], adding that “we need to look at urban revitalisation”, and getting more people to not only convene in Bridgetown for shopping but to also “live and seek entertainment”.


LIKE IN SO MANY recorded instances, the problem that faces trained thinkers in our new society is, put simply, the fact that they have lost the inherited art of analysis based on the realities before them. They constantly try to seek almost esoteric reasoning that is far beyond the scope of micro and macro businessmen seeking uncomplicated answers on how to earn money.

If one would take the time to look at old photographs of Bridgetown, one would notice simple people strolling around in a simple social environment where it was possible to get a day job, meet people, get a haircut or fire a liquor. Women walked around with mauby cans on their heads, others with trays selling sugar cakes. In those days of unsophisticated pharmaceuticals, men went from person to person offering thermogene for sale – they knew their customers and treated them well.

Bridgetown was where you went for a casual walk on the odd evening. But on Saturdays, children were hurried into town to Miss Barnes’ little shop to collect the buttonholes she had made for needle workers like my mother – you see each village had about ten or 15 dressmakers; few, if any, had buttonhole machines.

Young poor black men and women planned for the theatre at 9:30, 12:30, 4:30, 8:30 and midnight, after which a walk in the Park innocently holding hands was what it was about. Sunday was church – the Cathedral, St Mary’s, James Street, Bethel, Calvary, St Patrick’s and after Sunday school a walk through town. Cars were an unaffordable luxury, so children and parents walked, talked and window- shopped at the Five and Ten, N.E. Wilson, through Swan Street, and up Roebuck businessmen were considered special.

Let us not forget the British warships that visited our shores offloading sailors, looking for sex and a rum to drink, spending money; no sophistication, but depositing valued foreign exchange, a term which unlike today was not roots language.

Bridgetown was the hub. It is here that the non-national businesses set up their domain; the owners ambled in from the mother country for short periods once a year only to establish profitability. The British were in complete control; few goods could be imported into Barbados without first gaining the approval of the Colonial Office. Locals were consumers, but the schooner trade kept Bridgetown active. Shipping to the islands was significant as it kept business alive and profitable. The Careenage was important; Bridgetown was alive and well, with well-defined social lines established.

Things have changed. Bridgetown has lost its definitive social categorisation and black business is almost non-existent. Walkabout consumerism has lost its intrigue as we no longer walk Bridgetown – we surf the Net without even visiting New York; we shop at Walmart and pay by credit card online. Today’s businesspersons now set the style from clothes to furniture; Bridgetown for window shopping has become irrelevant.

Now, Warrens is developing into a new city. The new players areabout to develop mega buildings. Stores are slowly disappearing, taking our culture with it. History to the new Barbadian is only Bussa, as few know about what it was like to “guh in town”. It is no longer an experience; it has become a pointless exercise.

It is more likely than not that I will not be around to experience the full transition to Warrens, but for sure it will happen. I am only asking true Barbadians, black and white, to be prepared for the social, structural and economic changes causing the exit of true Barbadians.

David ‘joey’ Harper