ON THURSDAY, The University of the West Indies, Mona, will host a conference entitled 'The African-Caribbean World View and the making of Caribbean Society' that encapsulates the breadth and depth of Barry Chevannes' academic work. This honour is reserved for the brightest of the university's scholars when they retire.
Professor Alston 'Barry' Barrington Chevannes is a top-rated researcher. He has made signal contribution as an authority on Rastafarianism through his publications: Rastafari: Roots and Ideology (1994) and as editor of Rastafari and other African-Caribbean Worldviews (1995). He has also written extensively on religion including such topics as Revival, Afro-Caribbean Theology, Native Religions in Jamaica; and the radical Rev. Claudius Henry.
He has given lectures on Myalism, and the spiritual crisis of the established churches. Barry is an admirer of native religions so it should not surprise persons that he has a very high regard for Bedward.
Chevannes is an outstanding anthropologist who can still be seen doing research in the West Indies Collection of the Library. He handles religious topics with understanding, perhaps because of the training he received in theology and also with logical reasoning and precision of research which could be due to his studies in Philosophy at Boston College.
Barry is in the mode of Professor Orlando Patterson (Sociology of Slavery) and Professor Edward Brathwaite (Development of a Creole Society) as a researcher. Their footnotes are most helpful. Unlike so many scholars who write on native religions and fail to consult original documents and make sweeping generalisations, Barry's research is thorough. Barry's proposal for his postgraduate work on native religions was so thorough and large, it could have been mistaken for the dissertation.
My research interest has been the native Baptists and Barry Chevannes' critique of my work has been helpful. In addition, he stands out among so many who have written on native Baptists who fail to understand that group's thinking, doctrines and operations. It is good that at the symposium at least two ordained ministers, namely Rev. Stephen Jennings and Rev. Peter Harding will be making presentations.
Barry's interests are wide and he has written on sexual beliefs and behaviour, drug abuse, Marcus Garvey, garrison communities, family life, small business development, adolescence and HIV/AIDS.
NO ARMCHAIR PROFESSOR
But Barry has not been an armchair professor even while serving as Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, but has been active in many worthwhile causes. He was a founding leader of Fathers' Inc which encourages fathers in their role.
He is vice-chairman of the Peace Management Initiative which is attempting to bring peace between warring gangs in volatile communities. He was the inspirational leader behind last year's Violence-Free Day. Barry has also chaired the committee that examined the use of marijuana and which called for the decriminalisation of the use of ganja.
He has been chairman of the Institute of Jamaica with the mandate to preserve our literature, arts and science. He, along with the knowledgeable and hardworking executive director, Vivian Crawford and professional staff at IOJ, has been doing an excellent job. I found Barry to be a fair, warm and passionate chairman. And he was no different when I was chairman of the Music and Heritage Committee having responsibility for developing a Jamaica Music Revue and a Museum at the Falmouth Wharf and he had responsibility for the technical aspects of the Revue.
We respect Barry as a decent singer, guitarist and songwriter, of Blak up.
Barry Chevannes is one of the most helpful lecturers you will find at UWI. He is also very respectful and candid about the quality of one's work.
This weekend Jamaica honours one of its finest scholar-activists in Professor Barry Chevannes. The presentations should be a treat especially Friday morning's 'Dialogues with Chevannes'. But the other topics such as Rastafarianism, Music as a Social Force, Religion and Resistance, Caribbean Philosophy, Masculinity and Fatherhood, Race and Activism and Interrogating Violence should all be good.
Rev. Devon Dick is pastor of Boulevard Baptist Church and author of 'Rebellion to Riot: the Church in Nation Building'.