Mon | Aug 21, 2017

Olive Nelson | Replace Emancipation statue with Miss Lou’s

Published:Tuesday | August 23, 2016 | 8:00 AM
Olive Nelson

When the question 'What of the Miss Lou statue?' posed in your editorial of Tuesday, August 16, 2016 comes to be answered, I hope you will have reason to headline the response thus: "Miss Lou statue now commissioned: to replace the monstrous imposter now occupying pride of place at the entrance to Emancipation Park. So-called Emancipation statue ('Redemption Song') to be relocated to the foot of Fern Gully to better provide selfie opportunities for gawking tourists and giggling schoolgirls.

"Cabinet to consider approving the mass production of souvenir-size replicas for sale to the more artistically discerning members of the public and for distribution to basic and primary schools as an aid for teaching the Emancipation story."

I feel certain that Louise Bennett-Coverley would resent sharing space with a statue that represents the very antithesis of what she was about. Hers was an unambiguous message of self-acceptance, self-respect and self-worth consistent with Garvey's call to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery. She reflected our better side - our joie de vivre, our indomitable spirit.

The existing statue, on the other hand, is a celebration of brawn over brain. It conjures up images of passiveness, indolence, apathy, purposelessness - a shell-shocked people patiently waiting for some loincloths and the next serving of manna to fall from the skies. Much of that may indeed be true about us, but should be no cause for celebration, notwithstanding the comfort it guarantees the heirs and successors of the old planter class - our home-grown political nobility.

 

SYMBOL OF EMANCIPATION

 

Where, oh, where, on this statue is there even the slightest indication of the participation of the slaves themselves in the freedom struggle? Where is there any suggestion of the extraordinary courage of a Nanny or the revolutionary fire of a Sam Sharpe, who chose the gallows over a life of slavery?

Contrast the Emancipation statue of Barbados. Its uncomplicated message needs no explanation. A freed slave triumphantly celebrates his own efforts at breaking the chains of oppression and prepares to jump to the next challenge.

As a symbol of true Emancipation but only on a replacement basis, let us have, without further delay, the mounting at Emancipation Park of the long-overdue statue of Miss Lou. This is as good a time as any to heed the protestations of the many who, from the very beginning, argued against the appropriateness of the current statue.

If our political overseers continue to contemptuously ignore that call, there are a host of suitable alternative sites that could be considered for our beloved Miss Lou. St William Grant Park, overlooking a refurbished Ward Theatre, or the precincts of the UWI Philip Sherlock Centre or of the Little Theatre, next door to the St Andrew Parish Library, or the Edna Manley College of Visual and Performing Arts are but some.

Let us hasten to cash in on the generosity of the Gambrill family. Let us move quickly to honour the memory of a freedom fighter par excellence, but let us not disturb her peace.

- Olive Nelson is a chartered accountant. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and olivescottn@gmail.com.