|Volume No. 1 Issue No. 36 - Wednesday, January 29, 2003
| Looking Back for the Future
by Shirley Allan
There is a probability that trivializing our history and heritage may lead to misconceptions, disregard and lack of appreciation for what this history so profoundly says about us. History may become diluted over the decades and the centuries.
The remaining mythology never alters the tradition; and by celebrating our traditions, we perpetuate our rich and noble heritage. We will never know where we are going or whom we are if we do not know and celebrate where we came from. The time comes when rigorous questioning and deep self-examination is necessary. Now is such a time.
What better way to engage in this exercise but to see ourselves through the prism of our history, how we got to this point as a nation, and what lessons we learned from our ancestors. Perhaps light can be shed by this quote from The memoirs of James Ayton.
He had this to say when describing the slaves who were brought to the island in his capacity a private of the 30th Cambridgeshire Regiment. “Some of our wiseacres suppose the negroes are ignorant, they are so in respect of religion, but they are shrewd and acute and are capable of conducting themselves as well, if not better than a great many white slaves in the British Isles.”
It is also well documented that Caribs, our natives that Columbus met on the Island put up fierce resistence to protect our land from the colonists. They endured and kept the colonial powers away from Dominica longer than any of their neighbors, and for that they, were labeled as cannibals.
However, by 1591, Spanish, Africans, and natives lived in a pluralistic setting. For twenty years, the Caribs resisted the power of both the English and the French and kept control of their land until 1700.
Few survived the massacres and illnesses diminishing the numbers from 5000 in 1647 to 400 in 1730. Those who survived exemplified the spirit of true and positive citizenship and protector of the land.
The Caribs along with the Negroes endured the evils of occupation, colonization, slavery and exploitation for centuries. Through wars both between and against the Europeans along with daunting odds, they survived together as a united force.
Dominica eventually remained in the hands of the natives and the slaves that were brought there to enrich the colonists. We are descendants of these brave warriors, these shrewd and acute Negroes who were capable of conducting themselves in a noteworthy and distinguished manner.
How do we embrace this opulent heritage, this powerful, rich legacy? First, we must identify with it; we must cherish it, feel it and most importantly keep it alive.
Dominican writers and historians such as Phyllis Shand Allfrey, Jean Ryhs,
Lennox Honeychurch, Gabriel Christian, Irving Andre and all other Dominican historians must be commended for their efforts in capturing and preserving our history in their books.
I hope that one day someone will take it a step further in publishing illustrated children’s’ Dominica history books. Collectively we have great ideas and a wide range of expertise for implementing those ideas. We can conceive them, therefore we can achieve them by believing we can.
While we may sometimes disagree with others’ views or beliefs, it is our tradition that we put our disagreements on the side and work together for the good of Dominica. If there is any doubt that we cannot accomplish this goal, let us look back at our history for a while.
If there is any doubt that, we should not, let us look forward to the future for the sake of the next generation and others to come after them. The onus is now on us to preserve our rich legacy of sustenance through unity, resistance, struggle, endurance and astuteness.
In order to continue on this positive path, we must acknowledge our failures and weakness, and make a concerted effort to improve where we fall short as well as capitalize on our strengths.
We are quickly approaching the 25th year of our independence (11/03/2003). An appropriate time to reflect on where we came from and evaluate where we are. It is also an opportune time to make worthwhile, tangible contributions.
Dominican living abroad could make community service day 2003 a milestone in our history if we get together and organize to make this happen by identifying projects, raising the funds and providing the labor on that day.
There is a lot of work to be done. Dominica is still our homeland. Let us all put our hands to the wheels.
Our country has been and is now going through some tough times. We have seen the ravages of hurricanes, the instability of political conflicts, and the decline in our economy. We have seen the results of both unity and division, but never were we doubtful that our country could and would survive those turbulent times.
It has been proven repeatedly that united the results are always more fruitful and positive than when we are divided which fortunately has been very seldom. If there is a time that calls for unity, contribution, pride and belief in our country and ourselves it is this very moment.
Let our actions speak louder than our words, and let us all understand that we not only share a responsibility to teach and share our history, but by our very deeds, to make history anew, by what we accomplish together in this anniversary year.