by Kimberley Cummins
For David Comissiong dedicating his life to service of country is not a fad.
He isn’t a bandwagonist or some glory seeker. He sincerely cares about his people and their advancement.
Growing up in a home where the patriarch was a Methodist reverend, from early he witnessed the genuine philosophy of Jesus Christ being performed. And for the last 30 odd years he has tried to emulate this practice by being always willing to give and sacrifice himself for the good of other people.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY from the office of his law practice upstairs the Clement Payne Cultural centre on Crumpton Street in the City, this was one of the reasons he gave for his continued involvement in one good cause after another.
In addition, he noted that while living in Trinidad and Tobago as a young boy he witnessed the black power revolution there between 1968 and 1970. The civil rights movement in the United States, as well played a role in him identifying with the “under-dog” and having a strong sense of justice.
As he sat beneath one of his few awards of appreciation that were nestled among beautiful pieces of African art which adorned the walls of his office, he said that those two things marked his character ever since those early childhood days.
“Activism has come naturally to me, I am motivated by a very strong desire to see black people, my people, get their act together and advance in this world,” he said. ”I hate injustice and if someone comes to me with a complaint of injustice my natural inclination is to want to assist. At the same time, maybe because I grew up as the son of a minister of religion I did not grow up with any sense of social deference to rich people or establishment people or white people. I did not grow up with any sense of fear to anybody – the only entity my father would have taught me to fear would be the Almighty God.
“I am not one of those persons to fear anybody and what I fear… maybe is not doing enough and letting myself down. Maybe by my own weakness letting down people who depend on me… but I don’t fear human beings. I guess I have been spared that kind of fear that so many of our people seem to have that keep them from speaking out, from standing up, from challenging authority,” the attorney added.
Before being called to the Bar in 1984, the Vincentian born was educated at Harrison College where he gained a Barbados Exhibition at the end of his secondary school career. Upon leaving school he studied at the Cave Hill campus then the Hugh Wooding Law School. In 1986, former Prime Minister and National Hero, the right Excellent Errol Barrow appointed him a Senator in his administration.
As a young senator he began to get deeply involved in the Pan African movement, as a member of the Marcus Garvey committee and in 1988 he got fully entrenched in community movement with the establishment of the Clement Payne Cultural Centre.
The 53- year-old Comissiong said, “From the time I qualified as an attorney, my whole life has been lived in terms of service to nation and people. All of my adult life, I have not focussed on my own personal goals or self-interest, my focus has always been onto a cause bigger than myself. A cause more noble than myself and for me that cause has been the nation of Barbados, the nation and civilisation of the Caribbean and the African race and people.”
“This community has invested in me, in addition to that I have spent time preparing myself, reading, studying, thinking about my country, what its problems are, where it needs to go. I am not one of these persons caught up with money and the desire for material things so I have nothing hanging over my head… that inhibits [me] from being able to challenge anybody or to be involved in any form of activism. I live the old fashion way – I owe nobody, I have no debts, I try to keep it simple and that gives me the freedom to be able to express myself without fear that somebody has something holding over my head,” he said.
Comissiong has two daughters Aisha and Najuma as well as a step son Jutta of whom he is extremely proud.
He told Barbados TODAY that when he has left this world his legacy will be his children. He said he has tried to bring them up with and instill in them the same values he holds dear.
“I’ve tried to instill in them the idea ‘it is more important to be a person of value than to have things of value’, a love of and commitment to the nation, their region and their race. I am very pleased with how they have turned out, I believe that they are poised to make very valuable contributions to their country and to their people.
He added: “Another legacy I’m real proud about is the Clement Payne legacy. Back in 1987, I and some of my colleagues set out consciously to bring to national attention this hidden aspect of Barbados’ history and culture, the tremendous role played by forgotten working class heroes, who helped to move this society forward. I am very proud of the role we have played in bringing this history to light and in giving it national recognition as it goes on to be a guide to the Barbadian nations we go forward in the future.
“Though many Barbadians have been cynical and sometimes unsupportive of his objectives, he said he continues to count his blessings for those people who show gratitude and respect for what he has done.
“They say ‘a prophet is without honour in his own country’… I find it ironic you feel you have something to give to your country but you are not provided with the opportunity or not invited to make that kind of contribution. You feel you are obligated to contribute, you want to contribute, prepared your whole life to contribute and sometimes it is frustrating you don’t get the opportunity to give as much as you think you can give or would like,” said Comissiong.
“It is frustrating because even when you think you may have made some accomplishments, there is so much more that needs to be done… and you are wondering if you are making progress- if you are striving and sacrificing in vain. In a sense you are never satisfied… then you walk down the road and somebody comes up to you and tells you how much they appreciate what you have been doing or trying to do even those simple words of encouragement and praise make it all worth while.
“I get that gratitude and respect not only in Barbados but in many Caribbean countries, many areas of the African world. But ultimately I know a legacy is only a legacy when it lives on in the lives of other human beings who comes after you. I trust that the way I have lived my life, the way I spent my substance, my energy, my time, would have impacted other human beings.” [email protected]