A National Heroes’ Day in Grenada?

Posted by at 27 October, at 15 : 13 PM Print

A National Heroes’ Day in Grenada?
Sir Eric Matthew Gairy, Grenada's First PM

Sir Eric Matthew Gairy, Grenada’s First PM

By Lincoln Depradine

Next month – November 7 to be exact – is the 126th anniversary of the birth of Theophilus Albert Marryshow. He’s the late Grenadian statesman, politician and regionalist that is also referred to as the “Father of West Indies Federation’’.

It is in honour of Marryshow – an intellectual and journalist extraordinaire who died in October 1958 – that our tertiary learning institution, T.A. Marryshow Community College, has been named.

However, I’m wondering whether we can take it a step further and designate November 7 as National Heroes’ Day throughout Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.

Government could commemorate the occasion as an official day, without making it a statutory holiday; or, offer it as a half holiday.

But, if government is so inclined, just make Heroes’ Day a full holiday, perhaps by dropping one of the existing holidays.

Like in some other things, we lag behind many of our Caribbean neighbours in honouring our own.

Even non-independent Bermuda, which is still under UK rule as a British Overseas Territory, has a National Heroes’ Day.

Bermuda, in launching its initiative in 2008, stated that a national hero is someone whose achievements have had a far-reaching effect on his or her community and often exacted a personal toll.

Among the country’s national heroes are Dame Lois Browne Evans and Mary Prince.

Dame Lois, who died in 2007, was Bermuda’s first female lawyer; the first black woman elected to the country’s parliament; the first female attorney general; and the first female opposition leader in the Commonwealth.

Prince was born into slavery in Bermuda but grew to become a famed champion of the abolitionist movement. Her ill-treatment and salve suffering, as well as her survival, were published in an autobiography.

In Jamaica, National Heroes’ Day is marked on the third Monday of October.

Not only does Jamaica have a Heroes’ Day, there is also a National Heroes Park that contains a series of statues devoted to key figures in the country’s history. Among them are Jamaica’s independence leader, Alexander Bustamante, and Pan-African crusader Marcus Garvey.

The Heroes’ Day holiday in Jamaica replaced the celebration for Queen Elizabeth’s birthday, although she still receives military honours during ceremonies on the day.

Jamaica’s first commemoration of the day was in 1968 and it has since expanded to become National Heritage Week.

The first National Heroes’ Day in Barbados was celebrated on April 28, 1998.

April 28 was chosen in honour of the birth of Sir Grantley Adams, one of the ten national heroes remembered every year by Barbadians.

Sir Grantley was Premier in pre-independent Barbados. He also was the only Prime Minister of the shortlived West Indies Federation, which Marryshow had championed and in which he had invested invaluable time and energy.

Among other Bajan National Heroes are legendary cricketers Sir Garfield Sobers and Sir Frank Walcott, and Barbados’ first Prime Minister Errol Barrow.

In the parliamentary debate on establishing National Heroes’ Day, then Barbadian Prime Minister Owen Arthur said it was to recognize those people that have “given outstanding service to Barbados”, “contributed to the improvement of the economic and social conditions of Barbados”, and demonstrated “visionary and pioneering leadership, extraordinary achievement and the attainment of the highest excellence’’.

Barbados also has renamed Trafalgar Square in Bridgetown as National Heroes’ Square.

In forging a genuine sense of independence and Grendianism, it behooves us to publicly honour our national heroes and heroines.

I have my own list of honouree candidates: T.A. Marryshow; William Galway Donovan; Julien Fedon; Lord David Pitt; Kirani James; Dame Hilda Bynoe; Canute Calliste; Eric Matthew Gairy; Maurice Bishop; Louise Langdon-Norton (mother of Malcolm X); Tubal Uriah “Buzz’’ Butler; and The Grenadian Soldier (a tribute to all our military men and women, beginning with the freedom-fighting Caribs).

Our final list of honourees must include our war dead, who made the ultimate sacrifice and lost their lives on battlefields at home at abroad.

This is not new. The countries of the developed world honour their war dead, and do not sit and ponder whether the soldier died in a just war or a popular war.

In naming and recognizing national heroes, we ought not to embark on it as if we are beatifying saints; that’s the work of the Pope and the Catholic Church.

We also are not looking for perfect human beings; none of us is.

Lincoln Depradine is a regular contributor to the Grenada newspaper, Caribupdate Weekly

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