We celebrate our nation’s 50th anniversary of attaining independence from our colonial masters and we do so with pride of all the achievements we have gained since 1966.
That pride is represented by the numerous displays of the Barbados flag from businesses, homes, small shops and even on cars. I even saw a man riding a bicycle with a huge flag.
That pride is also displayed in the national colors being worn and the pins of the flags and the 50th logo. Even places of worship recognize the significance of the occasion.
Last week I wrote that we Barbadians have much to be grateful for as an independent, small developing nation-state. I am pleased that similar sentiments were echoed by the Bishop of Barbados and Archbishop of the West Indies, Dr John Holder, in his sermon at the National Thanksgiving Service last Sunday at Kensington Oval.
He spoke to many things we must give thanks for in our country but he also spoke to hope. And so, as we embark on our next 50 years of nationhood, we can never give up hope. I recognize it is often easier to say ‘have hope’ than to actually be able to have it when all of life’s challenges seem unsurmountable.
There are those who will face many challenges in life and some will face even greater tests than others. Such is the world we live in and the fate decreed for us. But one characteristic I believe all human beings possess is the ability to overcome whatever challenges they encounter.
As I listened to the Archbishop’s sermon last Sunday at the Oval, I thought of the junctions in our island’s history in which severe challenges confronted the people and the hope they must have had that ultimately brought us to the fruits we reap today. Slavery was one such brutal junction our nation encountered but the forces of resistance, as embodied in the Bussa revolt and other uprisings, ensured hope was not diminished and the struggle for liberation was met with success on Emancipation day.
After Emancipation, it was the struggle for economic and political freedom. At that junction in our country’s history, the 1937 riots kept hope alive of a better day. It set the foundation for political liberation and in 1966, at the junction of Independence when several were in doubt that our nation would have survived independently, the raising of the Broken Trident once again reinforced hope.
Fifty years on, we still have much work to do to make our nation a better place for all its citizens. And hope is what will keep us going. To give up hope is to give up on life itself. I am instructed never to despair of the mercy of Almighty God. It is ever present and only requires of us to truly believe that it is there for the taking if we earnestly seek it out.
Hope alone is not enough. The will and strong desire to make it better must be linked with hope. Human beings can have nothing except that which they strive after. And if we sincerely and honestly strive after that which we want, the fruits are there for the picking.
Inspiring hope and setting the example of struggle is what all of us must do for each other. It is not the job of a few. We can all complain about what is wrong but we all can also make an attempt to fix the wrongs. Be part of the solution and not part of the problem.
I have noticed that some moderators on a popular radio call-in programme have been engaging callers to provide solutions rather than just make complaints. This is a positive development. If a complainer can be challenged to think of solutions, then the problem is half way to being solved.
Barbados at 50 must cause introspection and must also challenge all of us to look at the next 50 years and see what seeds we can plant now that can bear fruit for our future generations.
Our celebrations will come to an end and we will become sober. The realities of living in Barbados at age 50 will be with us and we all will have to find ways to overcome the challenges and take hold of the opportunities. We must never lose sight of the ultimate goal of making Barbados a better place for ourselves and our future generations.
I sincerely hope that as many of us held hands last Monday to show we love Barbados, that we all can lend helping hands to each other to ensure a brighter future.
There is not everything we have to be proud of at this junction in our history and all is certainly not rosy. But countries are not like human beings whose strength and vitality weaken with age. Countries must grow stronger with age.
The citizens of a nation-state like ours must seek to do better, become more dynamic, embrace the changing world and do what is necessary to set the foundation for the future growth, progress and prosperity of Barbados.
Barbados at 50 requires every able-bodied person’s hands on deck to ensure this ship continues to sail and safely move through the rough waters. They can be no spectators on this journey. We all must be in the game.
If we want change and if we want a better Barbados, then it starts with each and every one of us. We must be the change we want. Hope must keep us going and strong conviction, desire and earnest efforts for better will ensure success.
Have pride in your country but also have pride in yourselves. As citizens of this beautiful island, we all can make it an even more beautiful place. Individually and collectively, in small measure or large measure, we all can do what is necessary to improve Barbados.
God bless us all on this 50th Anniversary of Independence.
(Suleiman Bulbulia is a Justice of the Peace, Secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association and Muslim Chaplain at the Cave Hill Campus, UWI.