I had the honour on January 8 to be the MC at the book launch of my good friend, Sabir Nakhuda. It was his second book. I had the same privilege seven years earlier in 2013 when he launched his first book Bengal to Barbados.
In 2013 I hadn’t a clue what a book launch entailed and what was expected, having never attended one. I like challenges so I took hold of the opportunity and did my best at pulling together a successful launch. The best part of that first launch was having Sir Henry Fraser, an outstanding orator, commending my performance in that role of MC. I have since managed the book and happy that it has sold over 1,000 copies to date.
Sabir’s second book, Muslims of CARICOM, is a researched book on Muslim communities in the 15 members of the Caribbean Community group known as CARICOM. He spent over seven years researching this subject and travelled to all 15 members of CARICOM gathering information. He asked me once again to manage his book.
I didn’t have any experience in the area of managing books but having been exposed to marketing from the likes of the late Professor Stan Reid at the Cave Hill Campus, I couldn’t go wrong if I applied what he taught me. With social media at our disposal, I guess it is much easier today than it was in the 90s when Professor Reid taught us marketing. We have fully utilized the Internet and the various social media outlets to get the books exposed to a global audience.
Muslims of CARICOM book launch took place at the 3W’s Oval on the Cave Hill Campus. It was a lot more challenging for us to pull together as expected to attend, among others, were several high profile dignitaries. These included the Prime Minister of Barbados and current Chair of CARICOM, Mia Amor Mottley, the Chief Justice of Barbados, Sir Marston Gibson, several Cabinet Ministers and Barbados Ambassador to CARICOM, H.E David Comissiong. Thanks to the Almighty and with help from several individuals and groups the launch was successful and the media must be congratulated for turning out and providing excellent coverage over the succeeding days.
Book launches like these are perhaps a rarity as the practice of reading books itself is declining or losing out to the ever present social media outlets where there is an ever increasing presence of news, information and unfortunately, disinformation.
In the Caribbean it is probably even rarer, more difficult and very costly to write a book, have it published, launched and then successfully marketed. But having now gone through two books with my friend from research to publication, launch and exposure, it is worth every effort to ensure you document whatever story or account you have and get it out there for posterity. Future generations will certainly thank the persons who did this for at least leaving behind some information that can help them build a picture of their past. Research means pulling bits of information from so many sources and double and triple checking to ensure veracity.
Prime Minister Mottley said it best at the launch when she reminded the audience that Caribbean people have a story to tell and we must tell it,
“We have a story to tell to the world that the world needs to hear. We have understood as a migrant community that we needed to be able to define for ourselves, first a path of survival and then a path of prospering within a land that was not initially ours, and in circumstances where those who controlled our movements had no desire for us to do more than eke out a basic existence,” she said.
“We recognize that the pathways by which all of us got here are different and we have a duty to tell those stories, first to our own and secondly, to the rest of the world as an inspiration that in spite of where we come from, we have known what it is to rise above our circumstances and celebrate life and respect the dignity of each other,” she added.
Our story, the Barbadian story and indeed the Caribbean story, needs to be told. And that telling can take place in so many different formats. It can be in the form of documented research, short stories, literature and even poetry. The Caribbean has produced great and outstanding writers and is capable of producing many more. Our literature books are dynamic, colourful and of an extremely high standard and rivals many on the world stage of literature. We should never sit back and allow this treasure and this talent to get lost.
Another important message that the Prime Minister left with us that night is that Barbados and the Caribbean can show the world that various groups, identities, faiths and cultures can live together in harmony and all contribute collectively to the development of the nation state.
Expressing satisfaction with the way the region welcomed people of different faiths, Mottley said she was aware that other regions were familiar with what it was “to have people vilified and marginalized and discriminated against”.
She said: “The capacity to carry bitterness in your heart is there within every human being. But rather than opt for bitterness, this Caribbean region has shown that it is possible to define a space for all of us that allows each of us to appeal to the better aspects of our nature and to create a space where respect for the dignity of each human being is the platform from which our societies as modern civilizations ought to be built.”
As I said that night in my calling upon the Prime Minister to address the audience her presence, despite her extremely hectic schedule, was indicative of a Government that recognizes the role and importance of all its citizens whether they are a majority or a minority.
Barbados has a proud record over the 50+ years of Independence in valuing all its citizens. I really hope that remains the norm and practice. Our country can certainly teach much bigger so-called democracies than ours how to treat its minorities.
India, under the present Modi-led regime, is one such country that can learn from Barbados how to treat minority groups. Current legislation being passed in India is discriminatory to minorities and especially Muslim citizens. But that is a subject for another column that I will have to write sometime soon.
In the meantime, let us encourage each other to tell our story. In this year of ‘We Gatherin’ those stories will certainly feature well. And if you can’t afford the route of published books, then use the free social media fully to get your story out. Why should we be fed only on a diet of negative and fake news? Let us get our positive, uplifting stories out and let us tell the world who we are as Bajan and Caribbean people.
Suleiman Bulbulia is a Justice of the Peace; Secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association; Muslim Chaplain at the Cave Hill Campus, UWI and a Childhood Obesity Prevention Champion. Email: [email protected]