Barbados may be experiencing industrial unrest and less than favourable economic performance, but one thing was certain this morning when thousands of men, women and children joined hands to form a human chain link around the island – there was unity.
From as early as 8:30 a.m., Barbadians decked out in national colours began to gather in groups at strategic points across the island, as they got ready to form the One People One Barbados Human Chain Link to give the island “a hug” for its 50th Anniversary of Independence.
To be successful, organizers were hoping to attract about 92,000 people. However, only about 60,587 were registered, although others joined along the way.
Thousands braved the mid-morning sun to join the event, which saw people lining the roadways in the south, west, north and east of the island.
In Bridgetown, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and some members of his Democratic Labour Party (DLP) were within feet of Opposition Leader Mia Mottley and members of her Barbados Labour Party (BLP), demonstrating unity as they joined in the chain link.
Stuart described the celebration as a proud moment for Barbadians, and thanking residents for making the connection.
“We should always make sure that those things that unite us assume paramountcy over those things that have the potential to divide us,” Stuart said.
He said the turnout for the event sent a clear message that “Barbados intends to be a great nation and our people are resolved to make whatever contribution they can to that greatness”.
A “compliant, focused and obedient” Mottley told journalists she was hoping it would be successful, but noted that it would be difficult given that it was a day when people were at work.
Recalling yesterday’s 50th Anniversary of Independence Service of Thanksgiving, Mottley said she had mixed emotions, including pride and anxiety.
Those feelings, she said, had overflowed into today’s event, and she believed many other Barbadians had similar feelings.
“In us all, now flow a lot of emotions. We want to celebrate. We want to be happy as Barbadians, but we also look around and see how difficult things are and are seeing things that make us feel totally uncomfortable,” the Opposition Leader said.
Mottley defended those who did not “have it in their heart to celebrate”, suggesting that they were not doing it “out of any lack of patriotism” but were not participating because they felt that “people have not displayed the right priority”.
The approximately 90-minute event, under the watchful eyes of the Royal Barbados Police Force, was without incident and attracted thousands of people from Christ Church in the south, to St James in the west, St Lucy in the north and St John in the east.
President of the Senate Kerryann Ifill was not part of the first attempt at the human chain link in 1979. However, a beaming Ifill told journalists today she was excited to participate this time around.
“I was only five years old and I was really disappointed I didn’t get to do it then, so personally I think it is a wonderful thing for me. But more importantly it is a very, very beautiful thing for our country. Fifty years is not going to come again and I think it is something that all Barbadians should seek to participate in and remember that it is not just about us as individuals, but about what we can do for our country to lift it even higher,” a jubilant Ifill said.
Minister of Social Care Steve Blackett did not recall the first link, but said he was proud to be part of this one.
“I don’t remember the last chain link where I was quite frankly, but I wouldn’t have missed this opportunity for the world and I am so pleased . . . I hope it succeed,” he said, adding that some areas were not as populated as organizers would have liked.
Government Senator David Durant saw the holding of hands as a symbol of unity
“I would like the unity, the uniting of hands today around the island, to be symbolic of that comradery, that friendship, that unity . . . so I am looking forward to, as we go forward in the next 50 years, for Barbados to be a closer knit society, more prosperity and blessings to our island,” Durant said.
Prior to the gathering, one of the organizers, Chief Education Officer Karen Best, said she was expecting it to be a success, with a number of Government departments and schools taking part.
“From what I am seeing persons are excited. I am excited,” she said.
“I am sure we are going to make it. I am confident that we are going to make it,” said an excited Best.
The event seemed somewhat disorganized initially, as officials tried to get people to form the link. They were only able to do so in The City around 10 a.m, half an hour after the scheduled start.
The National Anthem was also sung at least three times, as those in the Chamberlain Bridge area could not hear those gathered along the Lewis/Wickham Boardwalk.
After the final singing of the National Anthem, the patriotic Barbadians sang a few songs before breaking the link in that area. similar problems were experienced across the island as organizers were unable to achieve their goal of a ‘perfect human chain link’. Nonetheless, those who participated were beaming with national pride which was evident in their strong display of aquamarine, gold and black and their eagerness to recite the words of the National Anthem and other patriotic songs.
Today’s event came 37 years after approximately 93,000 people formed a human chain link around Barbados.
Up until the time of publication, organizers were still tabulating the figures and were unable to say if they achieved their goal of an around-the-island link.