Cricket has an important lesson for People of the Caribbean. For two decades, throughout the 1970s and the 1980s, the West Indies cricket team was widely regarded as the world champions, they were the team which every other cricketing team in the world aspired to beat.
The history of the West Indies cricket team precedes the Caribbean’s 1960s history of numerous nations becoming independent states. The pre-independence West Indies cricket team was predominantly comprised of white players made up from British dependant territories. The post-independence era of Caribbean politics brought with it a different complexion to the composite make up of the West Indies cricket team as we know it today. In spite of the team membership now being made up of persons from different independent countries, there remains one regional team which transcends national boundaries. Therefore all people of Caribbean identity rally behind our one international team.
For the Caribbean region, there is a valid lesson to be learnt from our game of Cricket and it stems from the common experience shared by people of the region described internationally as being of Afro-Caribbean descent. If it is our national history which forges who we are today, then it is of immense importance to the region that on 1st August 1834, after two centuries of bondage, some half million people of African descent in the Caribbean were released from the burden of slavery. For sure there followed a four year period of Apprenticeship, but it is on the 1st August Emancipation Day that the concept of ‘slave’ ended throughout the English speaking Caribbean.
In history such monumental events which impact on a people are given special prominence and reverently remembered, to the extent that they will bind a nation and race of people across international boundaries. This is so regardless of the country in which an individual may incidentally be located at the time. Take for example Thanks Giving Day for the Americans, St. Patrick’s Day for the Irish and Passover for Jewish communities. These special days are celebrated by the people who identify with their significance. It is in this context that we should urge the politicians of our Caribbean region to proclaim an international ‘Caribbean Day’.
A country’s Independence Day is a nationalistic matter. In point, each CARICOM country may have its own Independence Day. However, people of the English speaking Caribbean are united by something far more enduring than politics, more significant than the geographical location of their island, and more fundamental than national pride; rather, the overwhelming majority of the constituents of the regional Caribbean community are united by the phenomenal human impact that Emancipation Day had on our fore-parents ‘when Freedom came’. Geographical location of the Caribbean islands did not matter on that eventful day – every slave in the English speaking Caribbean was restored with their human dignity in synchronisation. This is why as a region the people of the Caribbean have cause to join in celebration. We should come together not to recall the end of slavery, but to rejoice and celebrate our relationship as a one Caribbean family born of a common history.
A ‘Caribbean Day’ is an event for our political leaders in the Caribbean to realize. The reality is that the average man on the street, in or outside the Caribbean, is more likely to have a view on the current performance of the West Indies cricket team than an informed comment on matters discussed at the most recent CARICOM summit. This is not to belie the important work CARICOM does for the region, but should serve to emphasize the lesson that Caribbean unity can be better driven by the desire of the people of the region rather than the ambition of a few politicians. One noted former politician described it as the need to build CARICOM from the bottom up, instead of from the top down.
In Caribbean history the extraordinary importance of the 1st August 1834 is inescapable. If today’s English speaking Caribbean can be said to have a birthday, then the 1st of August is that day. On its birthday the Caribbean should party like only the Caribbean can.
A vision of a ‘Caribbean Day’ would be an international day of celebration by Caribbean people of all races, colours and shades, as part of one Caribbean family. It would be a day which forever promises to present the opportunity for those who reside overseas to pamper their nostalgia, as well as provide a boost to regional tourism whereby our visitors could annually island hop through the celebrations.
A ‘Caribbean Day’ would be a day in the calendar year when the Caribbean diaspora would gather in their communities, wherever they may congregate across the globe. It would be an immense family day, where inter-Island married couples and their children would at last have a common day to celebrate their common Caribbean heritage.
There is a growing trend for persons born overseas of West Indian parentage to loose touch with their Caribbean identity, so that they forego it to claim that their roots is in Africa, and that the existence of black people in the Caribbean is a mere by-product of imperialist history. Perhaps such a theory had countenance when it was espoused by Marcus Garvey in the 1920s, but much has changed since then. Today we stand as many independent nations in charge of our own destiny. The self-realization should be evident that we are ‘home’ and these various islands of the English speaking Caribbean have been paid for in full by 200 years of servitude provided by our fore-parents.
The members of CARICOM are in prime position to give effect to the notion of a regional ‘Caribbean Day’. If everywhere people of Afro-Caribbean ancestry lend their support to the realization of a worldwide ‘Caribbean Day’, then our regional politicians will ultimately bestow on us such a proclamation and we the people will do the rest.
Hamilton Daley is a practising Attorney-at-Law in Jamaica [tel. (876) 967 0224], Solicitor Advocate in England and Managing Director of T.R.A.D.E. Ltd. Entrepreneurial Diasporians Jamaica calls you to duty. TRADE exists to facilitate trading bridges between Jamaica and the rest of the world.