Sunday, April 14, 2019, will be the 203rd anniversary of the Bussa Rebellion of 1816, and the Clement Payne Movement will be staging a simple but highly spiritual and heartfelt commemoration of that historic event at Bayleys Plantation in St Philip, commencing at 5 p.m. on that day.
The historic Bayleys Plantation – the plantation at which the Right Excellent Bussa performed the role of “Ranger” in 1816 – is currently owned by international recording star, Eddy Grant, and Mr Grant has graciously made the gazebo and grounds of the plantation available for this commemorative event, which will consist of libation, recounting of our history, poetry recital, the playing of acoustic music, drumming, and “righteous reasonings”. All are invited to this public, charitable event!
If there is one date in the history of Barbados that we Barbadians should always commemorate, it is the anniversary of the 1816 Bussa Rebellion! April 14 should be treated as virtually a “sacred” day, for it was on that day that our ancestors exhibited the greatest determination imaginable to take control of their society; to demolish the existing structures of oppression, exploitation, and elitism; and to remake the society in their own image in order that it might serve their economic, social, cultural and political needs and purposes.
And it was not only Bussa, Nanny Grigg, Jackey, Washington Franklin and the other 1,000 or so other heroes and martyrs of the rebellion who recognised the revolutionary nature of what was being attempted! The oppressive class of white exploiters understood it as well!
As Sir Hilary Beckles noted in his book Black Rebellion in Barbados, the white enslavers clearly understood the profound revolutionary meaning of the rebellion:
“In the words of Colonel Best, the Blacks sought ‘to become masters, instead of the slaves of the island’… in support of this, Thomas Moody, a local planter, noted in October 1816 that the rebellion was an attempt by the mass of the slaves to gain independence.”
It is indeed significant that Moody used the word “independence” to describe the objective that our enslaved ancestors were trying to achieve. For, essentially, they were seeking to destroy the slave society then in existence and replace it with a new liberating social order.
It should also be noted that when our great Barbadian-American novelist, Paule Marshall, came to write her classic Barbadian novel – The Chosen Place, The Timeless People – that she based her novel upon a fictionalised “Bussa Rebellion” (with the name “Cuffee” substituting for “Bussa”) and distilled to significance as follows:
“They were singing . . . of Bryan, Cuffee and Pyre Hill, of a particular event, place and people, simply telling their story as they did each year . . . singing . . . of . . . the experience through which any people who find themselves ill-used, dispossessed, at the mercy of the powerful, must pass . . .
“They had worked together!” – and as if, in their eyes, this had been the greatest achievement, the thing of which they were proudest… Under Cuffee, they sang, a man had not lived for himself alone, but for his neighbour also… They had trusted one another, had set aside their differences and stood as one against their enemies. They had been a People!”
And, just like in 1816, we can assert today that now, more than ever, we Barbadians need to come together, to set aside our differences, and to stand as one against every negativity that is holding us back!
It is in this spirit, and to this end, that Sunday’s commemoration of the Bussa Rebellion is being held.
Citizen of Barbados