Persistent rain and an ever-present threat of heavy downpours could not stop Barbadians from flocking the Speightstown Esplanade to launch the island’s 21st Community Independence Celebrations over the weekend.
Bajans trooped in from across the country, with the Parish Ambassadors and attendants making a spectacular entry, dancing along the St Peter streets, creating a movement of colours in sync with rhythms of a tuk band on Saturday evening.
The rains came and went, only to return, but with true Barbadian tenacity, those present dutifully went through the motions of upturning chairs and sprouting umbrellas in a duel with the weather that saw the evening’s celebrations as the ultimate winner. The show must go on!
The rain warriors were treated to an evening of dance, song and theatrical performances featuring the likes of saxophonist Kieshelle Rawlins, Destination 439 Chorale, Genesis Studio, Six Footaz, Butter Skillet, Cassius Clay, Choices Pan Groove, Damian Marvey, and Lil Rick to bring the curtain down.
With 20 years under its belt, and having groomed hundreds of Parish Ambassadors and a similar number of attendants into becoming the type of upright citizens Barbados needs for its forward movement, this annual activity of across-the-island celebration is now up for review.
Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley said that as a child now coming of age, this annual two-month party needed to sit and plot its future for the changing world around it.
He said the review “will be done with input from the parish committees; and the secretariat will be strengthened. This is being done to ensure sustainability for another 20 years and to maintain the attractiveness of the programme”.
Lashley added that the need for this stocktaking of sorts of the Barbadian arts “comes in light of the regulatory framework engendered by the passing of the Cultural Industries Development Act and the increased focus on the cultural industries and their contribution to national development. There is also the question of strengthening identity and what is needed to drive national self-confidence. The Community Independence Celebrations programme has a significant role to play in this process”.
The minister promised to tell Barbadians more in coming months.
Lashley recalled that the Parish Ambassadors programme, a brainchild of Felicia Inniss, was introduced in 1997, and “has impacted the lives of some 352 young persons, male and female, by virtue of its developmental nature. Parish Ambassadors have benefited from training in areas such as deportment and etiquette, protocol, time management, team building and conflict resolution, financial management, public speaking and communication.
“These young people have moved on and can be found making their contribution in the fields of banking, broadcasting, insurance, law enforcement, teaching, information technology, the arts, business, entertainment, law and medicine.”
But while those young people moved on to become fine, unsung contributors to national development, Lashley pointed out that there were others whose artistic ability had caused their names to be on the lips of Bajans more often.
“Let us not forget the parish talent segment, which was part of the programme from inception. It was the beginning for artistes such as Krystal Cummins-Beckles, Ramases Browne, Sammi G, Joseph Callender, Neil Crichlow, Tamara Bailey, Ricky Niles, SKF Steelsounds and Jennifer Walker, to name a few.”
Throughout the two decades, the island’s private sector was there playing its part, none more so than Goddard Enterprises, which Lashley said earned special mention.
“I wish to single out Goddard Enterprises Limited, which for the past seven years has thrown its support behind the official launching ceremony of this programme. [Its] support is not only monetary, but . . . [it facilitates] training workshops which prepare the Parish Ambassadors for the world of work . . . .”
Taking the kudos given in stride, Goddard’s marketing manager Mischa Knight said: “We are ever mindful of the need to give back to the communities in which we operate, that we must give back not just to be a good corporate citizen, but it is also about making people better.”
Ministry of Culture Permanent Secretary Ruth Blackman reminded the multitude of Barbadians at the Esplanade that Community Independence Celebrations had a simple birth, having been started 20 years ago by a group of persons meeting at the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic “to discuss what was just an idea as to how the Independence celebrations in Barbados could be enhanced”.
“By the end of that meeting, the concept of Community Independence Celebrations was born.
“Barbados is the richer for the introduction of this programme,” she said, adding: “This time of year is most precious for most Barbadians, as it is a period
to celebrate our Barbadianess.”