“BARBADOS IS THE FATHER OF CARIBBEAN INTEGRATION!” by DAVID A. COMISSIONG
The Europeans who enslaved our African forefathers; who forcibly transported them across the Atlantic ocean; and who split them up by depositing them on a number of small Caribbean islands, intended-by that process – to make the black population of the Caribbean into a permanently weak and divided people!
It is important that the black people of Barbados and other Caribbean nations recognise that when the slave ships stopped at the various Caribbean harbours that the white enslavers often separated African family members from each other and deposited them in different island-colonies.
But, don’t simply take it from me! Read, instead, the words of Olaudah Equiano, the famous African who was enslaved in the 1700’s, and who, having been transported across the “middle passage” to Barbados, was subjected to the horrors of the Bridgetown slave market before the slave ship moved on to another port:-
“… the buyers rush at once into the yard where the slaves are confined… without scruple, are relations and friends separated, most of them never to see each other again… there were several brothers, who, in the sale, were sold in different lots; and it was very moving on this occasion to see and hear their cries at parting… Why are parents to lose their children, brothers their sisters, or husbands their wives?”
So, the point is that from as far back as the early stages of colonisation and enslavement there has been a reality of black “kith and kin” being divided up and separated from each other, and living in a multiplicity of small European colonies known as Barbados, St Kitts, Jamaica, St Lucia, St Vincent, Grenada and the list goes on.
Furthermore, whenever any serious efforts were made by the black people of the Caribbean to counteract this European-orchestrated agenda of separatism and weakness and to attempt to unite themselves as a people across these artificially created small-island nations, our historical oppressors did every thing possible to subvert and suppress such efforts!
The laying of the foundations of the regional integration movement was actually a Barbadian enterprise that was launched in the mid 19th century by Samuel Jackman Prescod through the establishment of his organisation known as the “Colonial Union of Coloured People” (CUCP). This was a pioneering Caribbean organisation that, in the words of Prescod’s biographer, Dr Alana Johnson, was dedicated to creating “a black West Indian federation by eliminating the separation and insularity which divided communities across the colonies… Its first objective was to provide full equality for all Afro-Caribbean people“.
“Whites who wished to maintain white supremacy as the blue print for post slavery society were horrified, because they feared its scope and magnitude. For them, it was tantamount to an act of war… They launched a counter-attack and decided to use the island’s parliament to rid Barbados of the union.”
Dr Johnson also goes on to tell us that “Prescod was not deterred… he travelled to other islands to launch the plan within the context of planter hysteria … he was warmly received and supported by blacks and some coloureds, particularly those who subscribed to his race dignity doctrine“.
And so, Samuel Jackman Prescod was the quintessential role model for other outstanding Barbadian architects of the regional integration movement such as Hubert Critchlow (founder of the British Guyana and West Indian Trade Union Confederation); Sir Grantley Adams (Premier of the West Indies Federation); Richard B. Moore and Reginald Pierrepoint (New York based champions of West Indian Federation); Wynter Crawford and Erskine Ward (Champions of an Eastern Caribbean Federation); Rt. Excellent Errol Barrow (chief architect of CARIFTA and CARICOM); Fred Cozier (<strong>first Secretary General of Caricom); Kurleigh King (Secretary General of Caricom); Sir Neville Nicholls (legendary President of the Caribbean Development Bank); and Owen Arthur (chief architect of the CSME).
The point is that Barbados has always been in the forefront of the regional integration Movement! Thus, if there is any single Caricom country that can legitimately claim primary ownership of the “Treaty of Chaguaramas” and of the Integration process that it set in motion, that country is surely Barbados!
But again, don’t simply take it from me! Let us instead refer to the explanation that Rt. Excellent Errol Barrow gave of the genesis of both CARIFTA and CARICOM during his address at the signing ceremony of the Treaty of Chaguaramas on 4th July 1973:-
“I can now disclose that it was on the 4th July, 1965, that the Prime Minister of Guyana met with me in Barbados, at my invitation to discuss the possibility of establishing a free trade area between our two countries in the first instance, and the rest of the Caribbean at such time as they would be ready to follow our example… I invited the Prime Minister of Guyana to come to Barbados so that we could hold these discussions and today, I am very happy to be here, some eight years later to be a signatory… So Mr Chairman, it was on the 4th July 1965 one small step for two countries. Today as a signatory to this agreement … it is a giant step for all of us”.
We are not fools. We know the history, and we therefore know exactly where they are coming from and what they wish to achieve. Like Samuel Jackman Prescod, like Errol Barrow, and like all the other Barbadian architects of Caribbean integration and black self-empowerment, we will not be deterred, and will and march onwards to our ultimate destiny of a powerful, unified Caribbean nation and civilization!