Orville Taylor | Nelson is gone – what next Barbados?
Pardon my nervousness when I heard that they knocked down Nelson in Bridgetown, Barbados. Dating myself as a senior citizen, the Nelson who came to mind was radio Jock Admiral Nelson from the erstwhile station Liberty 98.1FM. I rather liked Nelson’s programme while I studied at Cave Hill in the 1980s although his was a regular generic voice, which almost all jocks culture. For me, the Admiral was a pioneer because one Sunday morning, I awoke to the sound of our own Admiral ... Bailey... singing ‘gimme di glamity’ while Nelson was asking if there was anyone who understood what a ‘pu***i’ was.
This was the ‘80s and none of the two FM stations played dancehall music in Jamaica although RJR and JBC AM stations did. However, certainly none played songs like those. Nelson regularly played ‘dub’, as they were called, and a number of Barbadian deejays were ‘dubmasters’. Home-grown Jesse James has a chart-topping ‘Dub is da force’, a song full of lyrical content although the rapper’s accent was as thick as badly cooked coucou (turn cornmeal). Many talent-free Jamaican performers, who I’ve never heard since in Jamaica and a few who went on to better things, enjoyed tremendous airplay in Little England, in the Caribbean.
For me it was classic irony, a country, so proud of its British heritage, yet embracing Jamaican-Africentric culture. My artist bredren Ras Akyem Ramsay, who I met as an art student here was part of a rather large group of Rasta man dem, who, “soit ap Sallassie Oi!’ even more of a paradox was a country which had transvestite ‘bulla men’ walking relatively freely in Christian Barbados, where it was a chargeable offence if you exclaimed in pain or surprise, “God ... !” Anything. In fact, I cracked up that the word, ‘Go’blee’, the shortened version of ‘God blind ya’, was as serious a curse word as the Jamaican ‘bumpa cloth, which even today, they can’t pronounce.
MUCH TO LEARN
There is much to learn from Barbados, and we have in the past. Despite the Jamaican hegemony in Caribbean history and the glorification of Jamaican labour leaders from the 1938 uprisings, it might surprise us to know that a year earlier, Clement Payne became a homophone for the colonial administration and initiated similar activities on the little island, ultimately being charged and sentenced. Interestingly, ‘Father of Modern Barbados’, Sir Grantley Adams, was his barrister.
It might also be useful that Barbados has demonstrated to the rest of CARICOM how employers, government, and trade unions can cooperate in the national interest. In the 1990s, under the threat of the IMF and devaluation, these actors forged a national social partnership, initiated by employers. Up to today, the Bajan dollar is still 2:1. Barbados also has social protection in the form of unemployment and severance payment funds. In fact, when I was part of the regional consultations in the early to mid-2000s, led by the International Labour Organization (ILO), there were some similar recommendations, which our Jamaican leaders totally ignored. Now we reap the fruit.
Fast-forward to 2020, and the liberated female prime minister, Mia Mottley, gave the blue light to remove the statue of British legend Rear Admiral Horatio Nelson. Three years ago, after the first black lives movement had begun, an unknown person splashed paint across it. The writing was on the wall. I will not fill my limited column space with tales of his biography, but suffice it to say that he was a vestige of the racist and colonial past.
Mottley reminds me of Michael Manley here for several reasons, and this includes her ability to speak unscripted and with the same depth, too. And compared to some of the prominent deceitful wimpish men from around the region, she has a kind of testy fortitude and a penchant for speaking her mind and matching it with action.
Mia is on a roll. She has created a new slate of national honours, and I am proud that Principal of the Cave Hill Campus of the UWI, Eudine Barriteau, is no Dame. Rather, this assertive feminist, who also speaks and does her mind, is the ‘Most Honourable’. Having begun the process of dispensing with the Queen as the Head of State, then in short order, we will see a nation that has made another step in its true assertion of independence.
Nevertheless, Mia is a Queen’s Counsel (QC), and in order to be more credible, she must find ways of unshackling herself of this noisome title. For all her great- sounding diction, this is a contradiction. Similarly, no CARICOM advocate must carry or sit comfortably with any knighthood.
Yet, I salute her and offer her some Jamaican rum. But being the nationalist, she will choose a Bajan brand.
- Dr Orville Taylor is head of the Department of Sociology at The University of the West Indies, a radio talk-show host, and author of ‘Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets’. Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.