By Carlos Brathwaite
For most, an affection for your birthplace should be expected. It’s where you were nurtured.
Where family and community are familiar. Da’z home.
Like my sweet Barbados. While I’m lucky to live where most vacation, my infatuation started from way outside of a resort. In St Michael, between Storey Gap and Eden Lodge, typical days included feeling the heat under my bare feet, playing any sport with a ball in the road or on a pasture. Foraging breadfruits, golden apples, mangoes, dunks, and the like in gullies and trees we had no right climbing. Refuelling with hearty local cuisine – whose smell wafted down the street – from de hands of my resourceful Gran Grans. Then back pon de road to fall in love some more.
That adoration deepened through witnessing other mores like learning folk songs at school, beating de cymbal at church or on a tour bus, winning and losing at kite-flying, participating in Crop Over, and developing the skill of expressive debates and storytelling. There is nothing like hearing our accent dizzy through the air with equal servings of colourful platitudes and profanities. While I enjoyed the privilege of travelling from a young age, I always couldn’t wait to get back to Barbados. Where I went, there was nowhere to dive where fish fly. No surprise visits from a troop of green monkeys. No feeling of home.
However, as with most unions, the honeymoon phase comes to an end. In my instance, the veil started to lift through age and education. Unwritten and inconsistent rules, abhorrent practices, open secrets and unfathomable experiences shattered my utopia and challenged my indoctrination. “Man, no,” I would think. But reality said “yes”. These growing pains made our connection complicated.
Yet, despite this personal complexity that still continues today, it gives me more reasons to love this land. (No, it’s not Stockholm syndrome.) This energy presents itself through the resourcefulness and resilience of those who make the most with the least – turning limes into lemonade, they say. You can hear it through witty, stinging calypsos from yesteryear til’ now; see it in the bustling public markets and retail outlets; taste it in offal-inspired dishes; feel it in the vibrancy of a good Bajan belly laugh. And while these reflections – a sliver of many – help keep me steady through rough waters, the flame of my adoration is kept alive with hope.
As we move forward as a new Republic, I believe we can continue to grow as a nation, evolving our positives for the future. For example, turning good manners into fair treatment to all despite class, colour, religion, sexual orientation; protecting our nation’s most vulnerable through public programmes that aim to fortify their existence; being cognisant of our mental health and that of others; and breaking family and societal curses.
I can see us continue to shed the myth that Barbadian products and services are inferior, through developing a stronger identity of self through education and appreciation of the value our local artisans and entrepreneurs bring. We all have books, documentaries, movies and other forms of media that speak of uniquely Barbadian stories to educate our society from primary to post-grad.
The Internet and social media will continue to democratise information access and amplify voices to challenge and change, shattering the oft-repeated self-fulfilling prophecy of “Bajans real passive”. We will keep dismantling reminders of our colonial past and put them to the back of the storeroom with Lord Nelson. Barbados will take a pause from doom scrolling and reconnect with our land, not only for sustenance and wellness but to see how best we can fight against the effects of climate change.
My outlook for my love is extensive. But for brevity’s sake: I’m excited. Each day is another opportunity to take another step closer to this ideal. It won’t be perfect. However, this 166 square miles will still always stay close to my heart. We may fall out occasionally, but we gine ‘gree back soon. Da’z home. Da’z Barbados.
Carlos Brathwaite is not the cricketer but he did hit four sixes in a row some time ago. Email [email protected] for proof.