From Emancipation to Caribbean Independence
Ambassador Curtis A. Ward
(03 August 2019) — Some 100 members of the Caribbean Community of the DMV area (Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia), who attended the Lecture “From Emancipation to Caribbean Independence” in Silver Spring, Maryland on the evening of Aug. 1st were taken on an awesome journey through the history of Caribbean peoples by widely recognized historian and an expert on Caribbean and African diaspora history Dr. Franklin W. Knight (Leonard and Helen R Stulman Professor Emeritus and Academic Professor, John Hopkins University). The Lecture, which was in honor of Sen. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, was themed “Together, we proudly celebrate our Caribbean Heritage”, and was staged on Caribbean Emancipation Day to celebrate the journey of Caribbean peoples from 1838 to the present.
The event was also timed to mark the historic recognition of Caribbean people in the State of Maryland with August being established by law and proclaimed by Governor Larry Hogan, Jr., as “Caribbean Heritage Month in the State of Maryland”. The Bill to make this possible was initiated, introduced, and piloted in the Maryland Senate by Sen. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, co-sponsored and assisted by Senator Arthur Ellis (born in Portland, Jamaica). In the Maryland House of Delegates, the Bill was sponsored and piloted by Del. Regina Boyce (of Jamaican and Barbadian descent), ably assisted by her Caribbean colleagues in the House, Del. Gabriel Acevero (Trinidad born), Del. Jenelle Wilkins (Jamaican born), and Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk Dominican Republic born).
Senate Bill 472, as enacted into law, specifically states: “The Governor shall proclaim the Month of August as Caribbean Heritage Month in recognition of the contributions that Caribbean Americans have made to the state.” Also, “the Proclamation shall urge educational and cultural organizations to observe Caribbean Heritage Month properly with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.”
The Governor’s Proclamation which was read and presented by Sen. Nathan-Pulliam read: “Maryland is proud to be home to a substantially growing number of Caribbean Americans (who) have greatly enriched Maryland’s cultural diversity, are very beneficial to its economy, and have contributed to our proud heritage.” The governor’s Proclamation also stated that “The economic, social, cultural and historical contributions of Caribbean Americans should be honored; and Maryland is proud to commemorate the heritage and tremendous contributions made to our state and nation throughout history by Caribbean Americans.”
Dr. Knight’s lecture kept the packed room in rapt attention, and concluded with a number of quite profund and mind-opening observations. These were:
- “The history of the Caribbean has been one of perpetual struggle. Emancipation arrived with two strikes against the newly free: no compensation; and restrictions to land ownership.” Dr. Knight noted, “An important observation is that in most of the Caribbean protests of the 1930s the major demand was, according to Nigel Boland, to uphold the dignity of the worker not seek higher wages.”
- “Caribbean peoples demonstrated enormous determination, resilience, creativity, and self-confidence as they constructed a new society to replace the unequal system out of which they emerged after 1838.” According to Dr. Knight, “The struggle for social justice and political representation was extremely hard but they never faltered and eventually overcame all obstacles to gain political independence.”
- “As a result of their particular history Caribbean peoples were essentially diverse and their profound respect for diversity and novelty constitutes a fundamental dimension of the Caribbean social DNA.”
- “Against all odds, Caribbean peoples demonstrate an unshakeable conviction in the efficacy of social and political democracy – not equally and not everywhere, but in general as Norman Manley put it in 1965: It was not just a question of colour, nor yet of rich and poor; it was a matter of differences that involved widely different acceptances and rejections of values, different interpretations of reality, the use of identical words to express different concepts and understandings.”
- Across the Caribbean the common folk have consistently demonstrated a boundless optimism that public institutions must be molded to serve the common people, therefore governments are supposed to serve all the people all the time.” And, “The work is not complete so the struggle continues…”
Dr. Knight concluded by sharing with the audience, what he said was his “firm belief”, that “Such an ambitious, creative, confident, dynamic, hardworking, heroic, and longsuffering people represent the best candidates for inclusion in any decent society anywhere. They highly deserve the significant recognition extended by the State of Maryland….”
Following Dr. Knight’s lecture, Sen. Nathan-Pulliam was presented with a photograph of the official signing ceremony by Mrs. Sonia Ward on behalf of the sponsoring organizations. Sen. Nathan-Pulliam then presented an Official Citation to Dr. Knight in part in recognition of his contribution to the inaugural Caribbean lecture series.
Sen. Ellis then read and presented an Official Citation from the Maryland General Assembly, signed by Sen. Nathan-Pulliam, to Ambassador Curtis Ward in recognition of his “Unparalleled and extensive knowledge and experience as a world statesman, demonstrating outstanding leadership and vision, serving in numerous capacities in Jamaican and Caribbean diaspora organizations in the United States.”
Among the many guests present for the Lecture were Sir George Alleyne, Chancellor Emeritus of the University of the West Indies, Amb. Denis Antoine (former ambassador of Grenada), Amb. Joseph Edmunds (former ambassador of St. Lucia), Sen. Arthur Ellis (Maryland General Assembly), Delegate Regina Boyce (Maryland General Assembly), Delegate Gabriel Acevero (Maryland General Assembly), and City Council Member Laurie-Anne Sayles (City of Gaithersburg). Also present were a number of community leaders, including Mr. Chris Gardiner (Founder and former President/Chairman, Caribbean-American Political Action Committee), Ms. Joy Dufour (President, Partners of Good Shepherd Jamaica); Dr. Elaine Knight (President, Jamaican Nationals Association of Washington DC); Mr. Ricardo Nugent (President, Jamaica Association of Maryland, and former president of NAJASO); Dr. Elaine Simon (President/CEO Caribbean-American Carnival Association of Baltimore); Mr. Owen Charles (President, Trinidad & Tobago Association of Baltimore), and Dr. Althea Belcher (Vice President/former President, St. Andrew Alumnae Association).
The Lecture was sponsored and organized by the Caribbean Research & Policy Center (CRPC), Caribbean American Advisory Group of Montgomery County Maryland (CAAG), and the Caribbean-American Political Action Committee (C-PAC). Welcoming remarks were given by Mrs. Venice Mundle-Harvey (Chair of CAAG), Dr. Knight was introduced by Mr. Chris Gardiner (C-PAC), and the vote of thanks were given by Ms. Derrice Deane (Co-chair of CAAG and Producer/Host of CaribNation TV); Ambassador Curtis Ward (CRPC) opened the event with brief remarks in which special guests were recognised.
“Together, we proudly celebrate our Caribbean Heritage”
© 2019 The Ward Post
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