Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has made it clear that all races will contend as Barbados marches towards its 50th anniversary of Independence.
A national firestorm has erupted over criticism by prominent businessman Ralph “Bizzy” Williams of a video, which was produced and presented at last month’s launch of the independence celebrations.
Williams said reference in the video to Barbados as “the freest black nation on earth” left him feeling “slighted and crushed” and it was wrong to refer to Barbados as such.
This prompted a stinging response from historian Trevor G Marshall who took a broad swipe at white Barbadians, saying while they loved Barbados, “they definitely had problems embracing Independence under black rule”.
Speaking this morning at the launch of the 50th Anniversary of Independence National Monument Competition at the Main Guard, Garrison, St Michael, Stuart did not make direct reference to the race debate.
However, he said various cultures had combined to help build Barbados into the unique country it had become.
And while admitting that there will be occasional disagreements among the various races – African, Asian and European – he said it was important to embrace them all as part of a single Barbadian culture.
“These have been the main strands. These have been the strands that have helped to produce the tapestry that we know as Barbadian culture today. These strands have been woven on the loom of the still unfolding Barbadian history.
“Unfortunately, when you have these different strands of a cultural experience, there tends sometimes to be contention between the strands and in Barbados we have known that experience,” Stuart said in his feature address.
He stressed that at various times Barbadians were told they were Europeans or Africans, or “whether Europeans or Africans that we have to take cognizance of, recognize and respect” the Asian aspect of Barbadian culture.
However, he made it clear what mattered most was that Barbadians of different backgrounds work towards the same goal.
“Now, I want to suggest to you this morning that yes, these strands exist, but quite frankly none of us here this morning can lay any claim to being European, can lay any claim to being African, or can lay any claim to being Asian.
“Because when there is a tertium quid [a third indefinite and undefined factor] that represents what I call Barbadian culture, the fact that we all live here, even some of us who were not born here, but have been here long enough to be influenced by our landscape, by our seascape, by our flora, by our fauna, by our topography, by our size, by our social interaction, we are Barbadians,” Stuart noted.
“And that is how it seems to me we have to approach the 50th anniversary celebrations of our Independence [and] not by laying claim to some alien attachment. Yes ancestrally those attachments exist, but we who occupy this landscape, surrounded by this seascape, we who come into contact with the flora and the fauna of Barbados, we who live everyday in this topography, this island where the highest peak is about 1100 feet . . . and all of the miscellany of interactions we go through from day to day, these have combined to make us quintessentially Barbadian.”
The Prime Minister said he hoped Barbadians at home and abroad would take part in the competition, which carries a first prize of $20 000.
Chairman of the Barbados at 50 National Monument Competition Steve Devonish revealed that the winning design would be erected on the Garrison Savannah in November.
He said to encourage participation by young artistes there would be five “Seeds of the Future” youth awards for entrants under the age of 25, with monetary awards of $7,000 each.
Devonish explained that the intention was to capture the imagination and creativity of designers. However, 80 per cent of the material used in the construction of the monument must be available in Barbados.