Diaspora town meetings – with speakers from Barbados – are becoming a trend. And, an initiative of the Resurrection Anglican Congregation and St Leonard’s Church has added a fresh dimension to this new mode. It challenges participants to find ways to help Barbados in general and assist charities in particular.
Held at 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 1, at the St Leonard’s Church on 765 Putman Avenue in Brooklyn, the three-hour symposium (The Pride Of Nationhood), with Dispel The Darkness; Light A Candle as its theme, was chaired by Canon Dr Llewellyn Armstrong, rector of The Resurrection Anglican Congregation, who requested that the parable of the loaves and fish be the context of the panel discussion.
Harold Hoyte, editor emeritus of The Nation Newspapers, led the discussion with a 20-minute presentation, after which the others of the five-member panel made theirs presentations, followed by lively interaction with the audience.
Mr Hoyte contended that Barbados was in an economic, social and moral crisis, which had now manifested itself in a decline in the high standards to which Barbados had grown accustomed. He observed that we now suffered moral compromise by the church, unbridled bullying in schools, and burgeoning domestic violence.
Mr Hoyte is of the view both political parties are culpable for Barbados’ state of affairs, and claims it was the ugliness of our politics over the past two decades that in a part that has contributed to the current circumstances. He cited data, gave examples, referred to the conflicts in statements, and traced timelines to support his point.
Referring to 2007 to 2008 as a critical period, Mr Hoyte said: “The BLP missed the boat in time of plenty, and when there was goodwill and time . . . . On the other hand, the DLP after being in the wilderness for a long time, promised much that included a reduction in the cost of living.”
He believes that Barbados, the nation, is now running on E, and with a driver that is not in control.
After describing the darkness, Mr Hoyte listed some 25 broad goals – some of which were directed at people in the diaspora – that could bring light to the current eclipse in Barbados.
“ We the people require a reasoning and reasonable Government, tolerant of all contrary opinion, inclusive and accountable to all citizens, efficient in administration and confirming to the rule of law at all times . . . ,” he said. “We must signal our demand for change. We must accept that Government doesn’t have all the answers.
“Citizens must earn and pay their way. We must end the dependency syndrome . . . . Discipline and accountability are not bad words. We must retreat from political tribalism . . . . We must share the wisdom and exposure that come from living in a wider metropolis . . . . Individually, we can do more; and, collectively, we can light a candle and dispel the current darkness,” Mr Hoyte advised.
Financial information specialist Oswald Lewis, Mayor Adrian Mapp of Plainfield, New Jersey, former Member of Parliament Elizabeth Thompson and Reverend Laurel Scott offered varying perspectives and solutions. Mr Lewis, lamenting that only one young adult was present at the symposium, agreed with Mr Hoyte that the situation did not happen overnight, and said it would not go away immediately. He used this American analogy to described what he thought had happened.
“One person sees a problem, does nothing and then kicks the tot. Someone else then has to deal with it.”
Mayor Mapp identified conspicuous consumption as a cause, noting that when America sneezed, the world caught a cold. He also wondered for how long Barbados could afford free tertiary education since America, the richest country in the world, did not have it.
Ms Thompson argued that Government-led development dialogue that included research was critical to the type of decisions that needed to be made. She stated that the dialogue should include Civil Service size, citizens’ rights and responsibilities, entitlement and engagement,
the role of the trade unions, and private sector changes.
Reverend Laurel Scott, pastor of the Port Washington Methodist Church, spoke from the perspective of what she called practical theology. She wondered what we could do and what God was calling us to do?
“It is not enough to analyze and criticize. If we really say we love Barbados, then there is something we can do. Every word we speak and thing we do will come back to us. We don’t have to know when and how . . . . I know that it is difficult to help Barbadians. We reject our own – which is a deeper problem,” she said.
“Each of us has something we can give . . . . God did not give all of us the same talent . . . . Parties must first be able to sit down among themselves and work things out before they can come together to solve our problems . . . . We can expect a hard time, but that should not deter us from helping.
“Our survival as a people is totally dependent on our working together,” Reverend Scott said. “Like prophets we need to look back into the past, so that we will know what to do in the future.”