In one week, Barbados will reach its 50th Anniversary of Independence. It will be the culmination of an almost year-long celebration.
Over the last months, several different activities were planned and executed to commemorate the occasion, some of which I had the opportunity to participate in. And in the coming week, some more activities will take place as the celebrations wrap up.
There have been differing views on the celebrations and, as expected, there are those who support and those who oppose. Both sides have their respective arguments, and it is a debate that I imagine would continue.
I don’t think there is any disagreement that reaching 50 years of Independence is an important achievement. I don’t think either that there is disagreement in observing the event. Differences exist in what to do and how much to spend. And such is human nature – never 100 per cent agreement on everything. We learn to live with that reality and do our best.
Barbados has much to be proud of in reaching 50 years of Independence. As a small island developing state, we have been described as “a country that punches above its weight”. We have produced world icons who proudly boast of their Barbadian roots and home. Our island has indeed been a gem of the Caribbean Sea and a place that visitors from across the globe would have on their bucket list. Indeed, it is even a second home or retirement place for many of the world’s rich and famous, and even the not so rich or famous.
Strong and wise leadership in Government and in Opposition have played its role in shaping Barbados since 1966. The securing and uplifting of the necessary institutions that make up a stable, civilized social democracy have been meticulously maintained. Some will say the status quo remained in effect after 1966 and just cosmetic changes were effected. I believe, however ,that successive governments over the last 50 years have tried to make Barbados a better place for all Barbadians. No easy task for a country that has very limited resources. However, with a recognition from very early that investment in human resources and human development was the way forward for Barbados, the foundation was indeed set for some of the notable achievements we benefit from today.
One important feature of Barbados over the years – and I believe this has a lot to do with wise leadership – is the recognition that all persons, regardless of race, class or creed, have a role to play in the development of this island.
Historical events pitted one race against another and, in the case of Barbados, this was at the extreme. When slavery was abolished, those differences transferred from race to class and economic means. Today, those differences are still there but our political leadership has certainly been able to ensure a country, since 1966, that, in the least, provides opportunities for every Barbadian to uplift himself or herself. This is no easy task and as has been witnessed, many countries have been destroyed or wrecked by inter-racial or inter-class divisions and sectarian violence.
I come from what many may describe as a minority community in Barbados – a minority faith community and a minority ethnic community. I have never felt alienated in Barbados, or felt less of a Barbadian. All persons may not have the same experience but I believe that for the most part, Barbadians will truly respect everyone. And while all may not be fully welcoming, they will, at the least, extend and accord natural human dignity and courtesy, regardless of the person’s race, class or creed.
This culture has been cultivated, maintained and reinforced over the years. Our political leadership has also ensured that the ugly head of division didn’t raise its head here. Any attempt to sow such divisions was effectively dismissed and squashed. Barbados can proudly boast of such an achievement that all can find stability here.
Having recognized our achievements and the opportunities given, it means that every one of us who proudly sees ourselves as Bajan must give thanks and must give back. I know that several will argue there is not much by way of material possessions that he or she may need to be thankful for, or have to give back. Such persons will have a strong argument. In fact, they may not even see the relevance in celebrating Barbados at 50. And I accept that position. Human nature is such that one may not recognize that regardless of what situation one finds oneself in, there is always room for gratitude and being charitable.
Finding that time and opportunity for being thankful and giving back is something we all can do. No one can take that away from us. I am a proud Barbadian who must be grateful to Almighty God for the opportunities given on this island – the chance of an education, employment, freedom of worship, freedom of expression, freedom of association and movement. I must, as a dutiful citizen, give back and encourage others to do the same. That is the least we can do. Together we must build Barbados up.
As Barbados turns 50 on November 30, we all must resolve to do our best to make Barbados a better place. As we give thanks on Sunday at the Kensington Oval during the 50th Anniversary of Independence Service of Thanksgiving, let us all resolve to show and express gratitude every day onwards. There is a reminder in my faith: “Who does not thank humankind does not thank God”.
As we seek to join hands to make a ring around Barbados on November 28, let us remember to constantly reach out and give a helping hand to someone in need – to remove garbage, or repair a fault.
Displaying the Barbados flag, national emblems and national colors has been increasing over the last weeks. The celebrations have certainly created a momentum of national pride and exuberance. Let it continue and let it translate into tangible efforts of pride and joy in making Barbados a better place for all Barbadians.
Happy 50th Anniversary of Independence Barbados. May Almighty God bless and guide us all.
(Suleiman Bulbulia is a Justice of the Peace, Secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association and Muslim Chaplain at the Cave Hill Campus, UWI. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)