Are Barbadians in the diaspora patriotic?
In the Barbadian community in New York, one of the largest in the diaspora, there is a minority who argues from time to time that when it comes to being patriotic, Barbadians are quite the opposite.
Some of these activists openly express their annoyance when they see Barbadian masqueraders and others at the annual Labour Day Parade, waving or draping themselves in flags whose colours are not our own ultramarine blue and golden yellow.
These advocates for national pride also cringe if they see persons talking or taking pictures during the playing of the Barbados National Anthem. Some go a step further and wonder aloud why the American national anthem has to be played at the Barbados Independence Dance. “Where is the US government representative?” they often ask
But does that activism tell the whole story?
Increasingly, at the same events, it has become the norm for patrons to wear formal and informal outfits that replicate the national colours and symbols – garments that go beyond tee shirts, head ties, and scarves; clothes which are made by designers or intentionally purchased.
So maybe, the jury is still out on the patriotism question.
Truth be told, while there was no Barbadian flag flying at the entrance of the recent Barbados Festival Day at Mohen Park in Carnarsie, Brooklyn, if anyone peeked at some of the attire of the humongous crowd, read the signs on vendor stalls, explored some of the activities, or simply listened to the dialogue among friends, one would have found guardians of heritage and imprints of national identity.
Indeed, everywhere one walked, there were Bajan collages and black, blue and gold foot prints. Here are four cases in point:
Firstly, the Lashley family hails from Gall Hill, Christ Church. They clearly came to the park to play and have fun. Natalie was spotted with yellow and blue carnival styled eyelashes and earrings. Her outfit –– as well as her mother’s and her three children’s –– were colour-coordinated with the kites her children flew. The kites featured the Broken Trident and were made by a Jamaican.
Secondly, the road tennis competition won by Mark Clarke was Bajan to the bone. The tournament was played on a court marked out on East 108th Street. It was played in a cul de sac with onlookers standing and cheering. Competitors wore the Stroke of Passion brand, black, blue and gold outfits which were designed by Lyndonne Payne (Road Tennis International) who organized and sponsored the tournament.
Thirdly, perhaps as a sign of the times, the names of vendor stalls connected to Barbados. Cutting’s Corner, Barbados Pride and Industry Chapel Gap, Ponce Bajan Homemade Kitchen, and Culpeppers, among others.
Fourthly, listen to two friends behind stall 23 as they exchange pleasantries:
“Dat look real good. Wuh you got dey? ”
“Breadfruit cou-cou and stewed pork.”
“Let me taste it”
“You like you is a … Not dis. Check de man dey. If yuh ‘ent got it, I’ll lend you the ten dollars.”
It is not known what kind of drink washed down the typical Saturday evening meal. It could have been a Red Ju-C in a bottle similar to a Bay Street Ju-C sold at another stall, not far away.
Mohen Park is a bare open grass field set slightly below road level – with no mahogany or mile trees, or cane fields or chattel houses on the periphery. To a large extent, it is like a blank artist’s canvass on which 10,000 people left their footprints and imprints.
That alone is a patriotic sign.
(Walter Edey is an author and retired educator. Email: werus firstname.lastname@example.org)