A noted historian did not believe international superstar Rihanna would have been elevated to the status of National Hero, while three prominent political scientists, though predicting she would be named among those esteemed Barbadians at some point, did not expect it to happen so soon.
As Barbados made the transition to a parliamentary republic in the early hours of Tuesday, the island’s 55th Anniversary of Independence, Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced that Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Robyn Rihanna Fenty would become the island’s 11th National Hero.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY before the surprise announcement in a wide ranging interview, outspoken historian Trevor Marshall said the island had enough National Heroes and he did not believe the singer, actress, philanthropist and businesswoman should be conferred the country’s highest honour, despite her achievements.
“I am very serious about what a National Hero is. I talk about the three S’s – service, sacrifice and selflessness. I am talking about people who laid down their lives to make Barbados what it is, especially black people,” he insisted.
“And I am one who believes we have more than enough National Heroes, and I don’t see anybody else, even Rihanna, becoming a National Hero; I would say treasure of Barbados, a Barbados icon. We can have a pantheon of persons who are treasures but Rihanna has not saved us from anything internal or external,” said the well-known historian, who admitted that he is a fan of the music icon.
Dr George Belle, Dr Kristina Hinds and Peter Wickham, on the other hand, anticipated it would happen one day, although not in the near future.
In fact, Wickham expressed the view that she should not be given the honour while alive.
“My feeling is if they want to honour Rihanna in the short term, she can be given the equivalent of a knighthood while she is alive, but the idea of naming her a National Hero at this stage is something that I don’t feel we should move towards,” said the political scientist who does not support the idea of living National Heroes generally.
The 33-year-old Rihanna, whose official title is now The Right Excellent Robyn Rihanna Fenty, is Barbados’ second living national hero, the other being Sir Garfield Sobers.
“It might be a little bit too early for her to be a national heroine, because she is still doing so much,” added Dr Hinds.
“So I can’t imagine what wonderful things she may be doing in 10 or 15 years that could elevate her to that level.
She may be a candidate for the future, but I think there may also be people in the past who have gone unrecognised who may have made some really serious contributions to our country that we haven’t recognised.”
The university academic added that she wanted to see that explored by those who are adequately skilled and trained, such as historians.
Dr Belle, who mooted the idea of the popular entertainer being named a heroine, had proposed it in the context of the erection of additional statues in Bridgetown.
“….As a demonstration of the success of young people, of entrepreneurship, of Barbadian beauty, of Barbadian success, make another statue – and make another National Hero who is already a de facto National Hero, anyhow – looking up Broad Street,” he declared. “And that statue would be Robyn Rihanna Fenty.”
The retired Head of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Cave Hill campus said he also sees a place for slave rebel Nanny Grigg among Barbados’ National Heroes, and suggested a statue of her could be placed in the area of Thickets, St Philip near Three Houses Park.
Additionally, he said, a statue of Samuel Jackman Prescod, the first black person to be elected to Parliament in Barbados, should be erected where Lord Nelson once stood in Heroes Square.
Dr Belle further suggested that radical West Indian journalist Clennell Wickham be named a National Hero and statues of him and National Hero Charles Duncan O’Neal be erected at Heroes Square – a place he suggested should also be renamed Parliament Square.