Prominent businessman Ralph “Bizzy” Williams is sticking to his guns that Barbados should not be referred to as “the freest black nation on earth”.
In fact, he maintains it is wrong to refer to it as such.
A national firestorm has erupted over the businessman’s recent criticisms of a video, which was produced and presented at the launch of this island’s 50th independence celebrations earlier this month, with historian Trevor G. Marshall arguing that Williams had opened the long overdue conversation about race relations on the island.
While dismissing Williams’ concerns about the video, which the businessman said left him feeling “slighted and crushed”, Marshall took a broad swipe at white Barbadians, saying while they love Barbados, “they definitely had problems embracing Independence under black rule”.
Insisting that Williams, his former schoolmate at Lodge School, had no real cause for concern, Marshall said: “If Mr Williams is truly concerned about the status of Bajan whites in a country of 95 per cent blacks, he should note that . . . fewer than 50 Bajan whites (the number includes cadets, top policemen and top military personnel) were present at the flag-raising ceremony at the Garrison on November 29-30, 1966, when [the Father of Independence] Mr Errol Barrow, who they call “King Kong” ushered in this island’s Independence from Britain to an audience of over 15,000 blacks,” said Marshall.
In an equally strong response today, Williams said while it was “an indisputable fact that Barbados was a predominantly black multiracial society”, it was both unfair and inaccurate to state that it was the freest black nation on earth.
“I have never denied or tried to belittle the very enormous contribution that black Barbadians have made to the development of Barbados. My track record demonstrates quite the opposite,” said Williams, who questioned why Marshall was so upset over his comments.
“All I asked for is fairness and accuracy in a video that was played to the public and the world. It is simply inaccurate to state that Barbados is the freest black nation on earth.
So why tell that lie and destroy the credibility of our country in the eyes of the world?” he asked.
“In this day when what is said in Barbados travels around the globe in no time we should put personal feelings aside and try to maintain our credibility. What would be wrong with sticking to the simple truth and saying “predominately black” or “black-ruled” or even “multiracial”?”
Williams, who is the chairman of the Williams Industries, said he was well aware of all that was done by late Prime Minister Barrow for Barbados.
“I am well aware that Williams Industries could not have been built without the tremendous contribution of black Barbadians who work from our boardroom to the cleaning of the companies vehicles.”
He also said that “since starting our first company my track record will show that I have always opened my heart to and embraced black Barbadians and ensured that the good fortune of our businesses is shared among everyone who has contributed to their success.
“The very definition of Williams Industries is our company is defined as a joint venture between the providers of capital and the providers of labour in which the benefits derived are shared equally between the two joint venture partners.
“In fact since you [Marshall] mentioned the Tenantry Freehold Purchase Act the records will show that Williams Industries has even paid the $2.50 per square foot that the Government promised to assist people in tenantries to enable them to own their piece of the rock when the person responsible in the Ministry of Housing and Lands refused to assist them.
“That and many more acts demonstrate the respect and acknowledgement I feel about the contribution of black Barbadians to this country,” said Williams, whose wife Shelly is a black Barbadian.
“You see Trevor, I walk the walk, I don’t just talk the talk and it is unjust to disregard my contribution because of the colour of my skin,” he added.