:: By Irina Kostka ::
The nature of the human spirit is largely dependent on the physical environment in which it exists. It can influence the standard of living and the rate of development. The psychological and social impact of Architecture is often underestimated, especially in developing countries. I was fortunate enough to have been born and raised in Grenada but unfortunately, like other developing countries, there is little planning and public engagement when it comes to the development of the built environment.
Grenada has a tropical climate with year round temperatures between 24-33 degrees Celsius. Its climate and enchanting landscape makes Grenada the perfect island destination. As a result, tourism has become Grenada’s main source of income. Much revolves, and is based on tourism. Sad to say, where tourism is placed in the foreground, recreational and cultural facilities for the people of Grenada are often negligible.
The capital of St. George’s, with a population of about 7,500, is located on the south western coast of the island, on the Caribbean Sea. The town is situated on the slopes of an ancient volcano crater, forming a natural horseshoe-shaped harbour, the Carenage. The natural conditions of St. George’s make it difficult to expand its boundaries.
St. George’s is a mixed area with a concentration of businesses at the waterfront and the city center and residential houses distributed along its slopes. Selectively distributed throughout the town are churches of various Christian denominations. These churches are often associated with schools and / or monasteries, as most schools were founded by the churches.
The town of St. George’s has seen a substantial amount of development over the past 10 years, most of which is associated with the development of the tourism industry on the Island. In 2005, a new cruise ship terminal, along with two shopping centers and other buildings were built along the Esplenade, an artificially heaped coastal area. Unfortunately, although the boundaries of St. George’s were expanded, no provisions were made for public spaces. All remaining spaces have been alotted either to new buildings, or are currently being used as parking spaces. This is a general problem faced in Grenada, especially in St. George’s. Public and recreational spaces are not only underdeveloped but in several cases, have been encroached upon to facilitate financial and economic growth. Why aren’t alternative provisions made? Provisions which would benefit the social well-being of the people while at the same time enabling financial growth?
The Carenage, in St. George’s is one of the most picturesque harbours in the Caribbean. It was previously the point of arrival for both cruise and cargo ships. However, since the completion of the new cruise ship terminal and shopping center closer to the town center, it solely functions as a shipping port. Whereas previously, the Carenage was lined with cafes, souvenir shops and restaurants, today, several buildings stand desolate or function mainly as offices, supermarkets or hardware stores.
Creating spaces where people can thrive and grow is what most architects dream of achieving. I am no different. My passion for Grenada led me to choose St. George’s as the focal point of my architecture graduate thesis, in particular, the Carenage area. The main objective of the thesis, completed at the Leibniz University of Hanover in Germany, is to reanimate the Carenage, transforming it into a recreational space where tourists and locals alike, can enjoy the natural habour and the beauty of the old town.
In order to achieve this goal I suggest the execution and implementation of the following points:
- The building of a connecting footpath around the peninsula separating the Carenage from the town center. This makes a pleasant change from the slightly claustrophobic tunnel which currently functions as the main connection.
- The expansion of the harbour boardwalk.
- The planting of leafy, fast growing trees to create shaded areas along the promenade.
- The rearrangement of the parking spaces allowing more parking spaces, intertwined with green areas.
- The implementation of specific areas along the promenade designed to attract both locals and tourist, for instance, a market, fish market and recreational spaces.
- The allocation of spaces for cultural use. Unfortunately, there are very few cultural facilities in St. George’s. To be precise, there is the public library, (closed for the past two years), the National Museum, and a few art galleries. Hence, it is proposed to allocate four sites towards building:
- A Poetry Pavilion in connection with the public library
- A House of Dance
- A House of Music
- A House of Art Performances
The Grenadian culture is extremely rich and diverse. Its origins lie in the European (in particular French and British), Indian and African cultures. Our culture is vibrant and alive. It’s presence being felt in song and dance at every possible occasion, both formally and informally. Grenadians revel in the enjoyment of music. Unfortunately, there are no facilities for the official advancement of culture in Grenada. Cultural performances are often held in schools, the old cinema, the Trade Center or the Spice Basket Cultural Facility outside of St. George’s. Historically, Grenada has never had a space specifically designated as a space for cultural incubation. This can be traced back to the beginning of the colonial era, where mainly existential buildings were erected. Cultural facilities were omitted, especially recreational and cultural facilities for the enslaved people. They had no choice but to exercise their culture and traditions in the open and that only on special occasions.
The implementation of the cultural houses along the Carenage aims to promote the development of Culture nationally, while at the same time creating a link between visitors and locals. Quite often, tourists are alienated from the actual essence of the country, its people and culture. In this way, visitors can enjoy the culture of Grenada, while Grenadians have public spaces where the can develop their creative practices.
Apart from the urban proposals towards the development of the Carenage, the project incorporates two concrete design ideas for the House of Dance and the House of Music. These are to be community spaces, open to the general public. The designs of both the House of Dance and the House of Music follow the same design concepts:
- Orientation in the direction of both the Carenage and the parallel H. A. Blaze Street.
- Additive design; the designs adapt to those of the surrounding buildings in terms of the roof structure.
- Use of elements found in Caribbean architecture, for example, stairs used for recreational purposes and verandahs.
- Cantilevers over large openings as a means of protective sun shading.
The House of Dance offers several dance practice rooms as well as a performance area on the roof. Visitors enter a large, double level foyer from where they have a direct view into several of the dance spaces. Changing and sanitary rooms for dancers are situated towards the left, with a separate private stairway to the upper floor and dance rooms. Behind the House of Dance, connected by a small courtyard, is an existing building, renovated and converted into an art studio for local artists with a small coffee shop on the ground floor.
The House of Music comprises of several practice rooms, a music studio, an office and storage room. Unlike the House of Dance, the House of Music has no main entrance. All practice spaces are open to the outside yet connected by a covered walkway, allowing music to waft to the surrounding areas, encouraging visitors to enter.
The building connects the Carenage to the parallel lying H. A. Blaze Street via its open walkways, allowing pedestrians to walk through unhindered. A courtyard, allows for a semi-secluded area where musicians can practice their craft open air.
Both buildings have been designed to suit the Caribbean climate with the provision of shaded areas, high ceilings and large openings for ventilation.
The facades of both buildings have large openings emphasizing the orientation towards the Carenage to the front and the H. A. Blaze Street to the back. As a result of the buildings’ close proximity to the neighbouring buildings, the side facades are mainly closed, with smaller openings for cross ventilation.
My desire as an Architecture Graduate, but foremost as a Grenadian, is to see the constructive development of the Carenage and St. George’s on a whole. I believe that this thesis could be the start to creating a vibrant and unique urban space, one which intimately reflects the heritage, culture and character of our people.
Irina Kostka is a Grenadian architecture graduate. She has recently returned to Grenada after having studied at the Leibniz University of Hanover, Germany, along with a 5 month study abroad period at the University of Queenland in Brisbane, Australia. She now works with the award winning architecture firm COCOA (Caribbean Office of Contemporary Architecture). Contact Irina about the Carenage project at firstname.lastname@example.org
At the beginning of this year I spent an evening with a close friend, Katie, a fellow yoga teacher who was here in Grenada volunteering with the Peace Corps. We sat on the floor surrounded by mutilated magazines, chopped up bits of colored paper, inspirational books, scissors and lots of glue. We reflected on the paths that led us to where we were in that moment and mused about our desires for the road ahead. The simple practice of connecting and sharing, created positive vibrations that continue to resonate a year later. However, we also took it a step further & put our visions on paper. We found & created images, quotes and affirmations that spoke to the life that we sought to create in the year ahead. We created vision boards.
This Saturday, Dec 7th, I’m hosting an intimate session at Spice Harmony Yoga, a workshop called Vision & Motion. Vision & Motion is an invitation to pause, before the hype of the holidays, and reflect on the year that has past and create vision boards for the path ahead. I have a few spots left and thought that the Groundation family would be interested in this act of personal revolution. It will be a relaxing afternoon dedicated to nurturing what is truly important to you. This workshop will incorporate yoga, meditation and guided breathing techniques to support your vision for success in 2014. Keep your attention on your intentions and you will create the life you want. I truly believe it is really is that simple.
The act of speaking our intentions aloud shifts them from wishful thinking into action.
― Michael Thomas Sunnarborg
Vision & Motion
Vision Board Workshop
Sat Dec. 7th 2013
Refreshments & art supplies included!
Questions? contact me at 410-5271 or email@example.com
sign up online here
Malaika Brooks-Smith-Lowe is a Grenadian contemporary artist and activist. She is director of public relations at The Grenada Goat Dairy Project. She is also co-founder of Spice Harmony Yoga Studio in Calivigny St.George, Grenada. Malaika is a certified yoga teacher, holds a BA in Studio Art from Smith College and is pursuing her MA in Cultural Studies through University of the West Indies.
Don’t miss this groundbreaking art opening tonight, Monday Dec. 2nd, at the National Museum in St. George’s. The opening reception is open to all and begins at 5:30pm. Grenadian photography taken to another level! To find out more about creative director, Teddy D. Fredrick, view our interview with him last year.
“To fully understand the concept of why I choice to create these series of images entitled “Floatography” is to first understand what drives me as an artist. To me, to perceive something that is commonly perceived by everyone and then construct an idea around that thing forge a template in your mind for how you are going to redesign all the factors that make this perception what it is, turn it in to a work of art, turn it into something that the common perception would not have otherwise consider it to be is what drives me. To me this is what “Floatography” is all about; creating something that people can relate to, something that appeals to their imagination that when they look at any piece of art it can leave a lasting impression on the mind which ultimately is my goal in everything that I do.”
- Teddy D. Frederick
Groundation Grenada is a youth led social action collective, founded in 2009, which focuses on the use of creative media to assess the community’s needs, raise consciousness and act to create positive radical growth. We pursue our mission online, through Groundationgrenada.com, and this year began expanding to live events and special projects in collaboration with local, regional and international artists and activists. Groundation Grenada’s website supports both local and diasporic voices, acting as an interface to connect youth who are hungry for innovative change.
A special invitation letter from Akeema-Zane, our visiting artist-in-residence
I like to think of the process of writing akin to the function of downloading. It is something I remember Octavia Butler mentioning in one of her interviews transcribed in the book Conversations with Octavia Butler. She says “Writing is difficult. You do it all alone without encouragement and without any certainty that you’ll ever be published or paid or even that you’ll be able to finish the particular work you’ve begun. It isn’t easy to persist amid all that.” I recall her speaking of her process and how it involved days of not writing but reading, and watching television until the narrative flowed out of her with ease. My process is very similar. For me writing can often be an extremely taxing, frustrating and emotionally draining process; yet, I am driven to write. It is that thing which demands of me the ability to articulate and recall my thoughts, observations and analyses, philosophies, anger, love, and wisdom. While it is also demanding it is my form of meditation.
On Friday 22nd November 6:30-9pm and Saturday 23rd November 10am-5pm, Groundation Grenada and I invite you, to partake in a process of meditation. This two part workshop attempts to examine our relationship, as writers, to our physical and social environment. Participants will draw from their own experiences as well as gain new perspective through the work of various other writers. Be prepared to experience the process of writing and what the task requires of us to “perform” amidst our daily lives and obligations.
This workshop is free & open to the public. We are asking for a $15 donation towards refreshments (no one will be turned away for lack of funds). Space is limited so RSVP by filling out this form to sign up !
Day 1 (22nd Nov.)
Location: Spice Harmony Yoga Studio, Calivigny, St. George
6:45pm – 9:00pm Writing Workshop
Please note there is a yoga class in the studio from 5:30pm – 6:30pm, which participants are welcome to attend at half price ($10 or $7.50 for students)
Day 2 (23rd Nov.)
Location: Mango Bay Cottages, Woodford, St. John
10am- 12:30pm Writing Workshop (morning session)
1:15pm- 5pm Writing Workshop (afternoon session)
Akeema-Zane is a multidisciplinary and aspiring multimedia artist born and raised in Harlem, NY with significant childhood memories in Trinidad W.I of which she is a descendant. She received a self-designed interdisciplinary BA from Eugene Lang College with an emphasis in Anglophone Caribbean studies. While attending a predominantly white, all girls boarding school in Connecticut, art became a primary avenue to express her intellectual development- one that differed tremendously from her peers. Akeema-Zane has displayed visual works in various exhibitions, recently performed in short films/music videos and plays, and read her written works in various galleries. She considers writing her primary mode of expression and has spent the last seven months in Trinidad doing personal research and writing on her family and the cultural capital of Trinidad and other Eastern Caribbean countries. She is currently inspired by and interrogative of the legacy of Jeanette MacDonald (Mother Earth), and works by Erich Fromm, Earl Lovelace, Peter Minshall, and Audre Lorde as well as many of her awe-inspiring friends.
Limbo Citizens or Stateless People? – Human Rights, Migration, and the Future for Dominicans of Haitian Ancestry
:: By Angelique V. Nixon, Ph.D ::
“No one can be hood-winked as to the reason and the purpose for this kind of discriminatory legislation. Within the region we have an obligation to speak and we cannot allow such inequities to go without our strongest condemnations.” - P.J. Patterson
Caribbean people across the region and its diaspora have been responding with righteous (and necessary) outrage over the recent ruling by the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic that essentially strips away the birthright citizenship of Dominicans of Haitian ancestry. While the ruling puts into question and possibly revokes automatic citizenship of anyone born to non-citizens since 1929, it overwhelmingly targets people of Haitian descent, who have been living in the DR for generations — estimated to be over 200,000 people or over 80% of those born to non-citizens/migrants. The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the governments of Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines have raised concerns about and condemned the ruling; and Caribbean citizens (inside and outside the region) are calling upon CARICOM to take stronger action and to defend Dominicans of Haitian descent and their rights to citizenship. There are two petitions calling on Caribbean governments and CARICOM to take a stronger stand and action against Dominican Republic: one through Avaaz.org and Change.org.
As critics of the ruling argue, this latest assault on Dominicans of Haitian ancestry must be placed within the context of the Dominican Republic’s long history of racism and violence against Haitian people. This history is rooted in anti-black and imperial racism and colonial violence that has fueled the tenuous relationship between these two countries that share an island as well as the lingering effects of slavery and colonialism. (For an overview of this history, see the PBS Documentary “Haiti and the Dominican Republic: An Island Divided.”) Many of the people affected by this recent ruling are descendants of Haitian migrants who were brought to work in the sugar industry near the border starting in the early 1900s. These Haitian migrants ended up working in deplorable conditions and were subject to intense discrimination and abuse; and for generations, their descendants have experienced much of the same. And now their birthright citizenship status may be legally revoked. The recent ruling that specifies 1929 as the start date of retroactively questioning (and possibly taking away) citizenship recalls the dictatorship period of Rafael Trujillo, who brutally ordered the 1937 massacre of thousands of Haitians and Haitian Dominicans along the border. This massacre and subsequent mass deportations were waged to claim land along the border zones and to “cleanse” the DR of people of Haitian descent — i.e. understood then and now to be dark-skinned and Black, while Dominicans even though a racially mixed population identify more with their Spanish/European colonial heritage often denying their African heritage. (For more about this history, see Randal Archibold’s article “Dominicans of Haitian Descent Cast Into Legal Limbo by Court” published in the New York Times; and also, Myriam Chancy describes this history in her piece “Apartheid in America: Are You Haitian?” – published/reposted on different news sites.)
And these were not isolated incidents. As the Organization of American States (OAS) and human rights groups have reported over the past decades, Haitian agricultural workers (recruited continuously to work in the canefields or bateyes), along with Haitian Dominicans are deported regularly and treated inhumanely, particularly during times of economic trouble. (Edwidge Danticat and Junot Diaz joined forces to write about this grave issue in their op-ed piece titled “The Dominican Republic’s War on Haitian Workers” published in The New York Times, 20 Nov 1999.) Quite often Dominican politicians and media use “the Haitian problem” as a scapegoat to distract the public from other issues. Given this horrific history, it is no wonder that many of us question the motives of this recent ruling. It is near impossible to consider the issue of migration and citizenship of Haitian Dominicans without thinking about this history of violence and deportations, and how it has affected relations among Dominicans and Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian ancestry since.
As Myriam Chancy outlines in her article “Apartheid in America: Are You Haitian?” the recent ruling reflects a series of measures in the DR since the 1980s that routinely deny Dominicans of Haitian descent access to identification and paperwork needed for basic access to resources like public education and healthcare. Migrant workers and their children have been systematically identified as “in transit” and their rights as Dominicans stripped away slowly over time, which makes an already vulnerable population even more vulnerable. (Specific examples of this have been reported by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2010 and explained at length by Chancy: by 2000, Haitian parents were defined as “in transit” and not able to register their children who were Dominican born; by 2004, “in transit” redefined to include those without legal residency; and in 2007, citizenship annulled of individuals born to those without status.) Further, as Chancy argues, contrary to what Dominican authorities have said about the ruling, it is not a way to process the legal standing of those born to non-citizens, but rather, it “makes the persecution of Dominicans of Haitian descent socially and legally permissible.” Hence, the ruling makes them stateless or puts them in legal limbo without status — a violation of basic human rights and in violation of the United Nations Declaration that every person has the right to citizenship. This issue has caused the international community to pay attention: with several articles and reports featured in well-known media; petitions led by Amnesty International, Caribbean organizations, and concerned citizens; and protests in New York outside of the Dominican embassy.
Official statements by the OAS, the United Nations, and human rights organizations urging the Dominican government to protect the human rights of people born and living in the Dominican Republic have caused the DR government to go on a “diplomatic offense.” According to Ezra Fieser in a Reuters report, DR government officials say that they are “upholding human rights” and that the court decision is a “humanitarian way out of legal limbo for thousands of people who are living in the country without access to needed identity documents.” Dominican President Danilo Medina has promised to “implement a clear and transparent migration policy” and provide a path to residency with due process after government officials review the birth registry to determine how many people would be affected.vii This “offensive” was presented at the OAS meeting on 29 October 2013 in response to CARICOM and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights raising their concerns about the ruling.The OAS official response basically affirmed that they must respect the independence and decision making of governments, but that if anyone is being deprived of a nationality then that would be a human rights issue; and therefore, the Commission on Human Rights would be investigating the case. The DR Ambassador to the United States wrote an editorial to the New York Times asserting some of the same, going further to say that the DR should not be pressured by outside forces and governments to change its constitution.
The Dominican Republic’s official response also argues that the DR is not making children of Haitian migrants stateless because Haiti’s constitution grants citizenship to all born to Haitian people anywhere in the world, and therefore these critiques by the international community are unfounded. However, as Myriam Chancy and others have argued, this issue is more complex given that Haiti requires documentation and registration of individuals born outside Haiti in order to establish citizenship; and because so many Dominicans of Haitian descent cannot get access to identification in the DR, this makes the process of establishing Haitian citizenship extremely difficult. More troubling, any mass deportation of Dominicans of Haitian descent to Haiti would overly burden a country still recovering from the devastation of the 2010 earthquake, not to mention, many of those potentially affected by this ruling have little to no ties to Haiti as they have lived in the DR their entire lives.
Regardless of the “diplomatic offense” and promises made by the government of the Dominant Republic, it remains clear that this ruling reeks of the colonial and violent history discussed earlier and that protecting the human rights of Haitian Dominicans is actually not what the government is doing. Further analysis of the court ruling and its interpretation of the constitution is certainly needed to make sense of the DR government’s reasoning; but for now, it remains unclear how the DR government will deal with those affected after the registry is checked, nor is it clear what due process will look like. Nevertheless, what we do know is that the ruling places already vulnerable people into a more vulnerable position, and thereby subject to further exploitation as limbo citizens or stateless people are created. Chancy’s interpretation of the reasons for this ruling is worth quoting at length:
“For one, it perpetuates the myth of needing to maintain the DR’s ‘whiteness’ against foreign migration when the majority of its population is mixed. Second, it allows the DR to continue to uphold unjust and exploitative working conditions while denying citizenship to laborers. Third, for those Dominican Haitians several generations removed from an undocumented Haitian parent, grandparent, or great-grandparent, it effectively renders them incapable of making any claims or contributions to the DR’s economic development. Fourth, it denies these individuals and all their progeny of their rights to education, health care, and insurance. These measures therefore not only create civic death but institutionalize its attributes: poverty, illiteracy, lack of identity, in short, non-being.”
This issue of creating civic death is what we need to most be alarmed about in the face of increasing social and economic inequality, forced migration, and environmental challenges facing the region; we are living in uncertain and dangerous times. And while we don’t want to support or replicate neocolonial paradigms upon each other in the region, we must find ways to hold each other accountable for any violations of human rights; and I would further argue that we must find more ethical ways to deal with migration and rights across the region, especially for our Haitian brothers and sisters. (I define the term “neocolonial” as a way to discuss the continued reliance many postcolonial countries have with imperial powers and colonial structures, or what some scholars call dependency capitalism. Because of the history of anti-colonial struggle and interference of the Global North and former colonial powers in the region, independent governments certainly have a right to speak out against these regimes of power. But I argue not as a way to avoid criticism of injustice. Hence, the need for accountability and regional solutions.)
As an Afro-Caribbean person, I feel a great sense of obligation to offer my condemnation to this ruling as many others have done. The work I do as an educator, scholar, community worker, and artist is rooted in the struggle for freedom and equality, especially for people of African descent and communities who are marginalized. I have spoken out regularly against the treatment of Haitians and Haitian Bahamians in my country of birth, the Bahamas, where government policies on “illegal” immigration and the detention of Haitian migrants too often violates human rights. Similar to the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas also deports Haitian migrants regularly and grants very few work permits and rarely (if ever) asylum status, while depending upon the everyday labour of Haitian undocumented migrants.
The Bahamas — somewhat like the DR’s new ruling — also denies rights to the children of migrants, the difference being that children of migrants do have access to birth citizenship rights, which they have to apply for at 18. However, this process can take years, especially if one does not have access to legal assistance. Unlike the DR, Haitian Bahamians do have the right to stay in the country until they turn 18. However, many Haitian Bahamians remain stateless after 18 because of the difficulty in securing their status. On top of the legal challenges that Haitians and Haitian Bahamians deal with, they are socially stigmatized — from slurs and stereotypes to poor treatment at public clinics and hospitals, Haitian people bear much blame for a variety of social ills in Bahamian society. When times are rough, tourism is down, crime is on the rise, or people get laid off, Haitians are the scapegoats for everyone’s troubles and strapped resources. This resonates eerily with what has happened in the Dominican Republic, and I offer this comparison to remind us of the vulnerable position in which many Haitian migrants find themselves — not only in the DR but also elsewhere in the region. In addition, it is important to note that because of its proximity to the United States, the Bahamian government is often pressured to handle the “problem” of Haitian migrants in its waters, since many Haitian migrants are seeking refuge and better opportunities in the United States and end up in the Bahamas. The United States also regularly deports Haitians, and human rights violations faced by Haitians while in detentions centers are infamous and widely reported. Finally, we must remember that the United States has also played a major role in the underdevelopment of Haiti — through years of occupation, interference, support of dictatorships, and structural adjustment policies that have exploited resources and the working people of Haiti.
Responding to these issues requires a grounding in history/herstory, social justice, and regional solidarity, and developing solutions requires us to work together as a region and forge alliances against former and neocolonial powers while holding each other accountable to a shared vision of justice and equality. It means confronting centuries of exploitation and the fact that decolonization is still in progress. Part of the problem is a lack of knowledge: what we don’t know about the related and connecting histories, and by extension, the related and connected contemporary struggles, across the region. We need to continue to examine how these are all linked to the legacies of slavery and colonialism. Our lack of knowledge is partially due to our education systems but also as a result of silence and fear. How can we work against these silences and fears? How do we develop regional policies that assert migration rights as human rights and fight against deportation and statelessness or legal limbo? How do we support countries in the region in political and economic crisis? What does this kind of regional solidarity look like?
Perhaps it starts with CARICOM in coordination with civil organizations taking action around this issue of migration, citizenship, and rights. Perhaps it can also start with helping Haiti to break free from the chains of debt and poverty. This should not be seen as a handout, but as genuine regional solidarity and public acknowledgment of our commonalities and complicated relations. Haiti’s problems are our problems. The efforts post-earthquake to support Haiti in its recovery did show regional support, but post-disaster re-building has continued to be more of the same low-wage factories and foreign investments coming from multinational corporations. We must develop regionally focused solutions and create economic and political linkages across islands that are economically and environmentally sustainable. Haiti does not exist in a vacuum. It did not suddenly become destitute or mismanage resources on its own. There are many reasons for its condition: tied to the ways in which global capitalism works and how the Global South sustains and keeps the Global North wealthy. Hence, we are all implicated and exploited across the region in these global relations of power — some of us more than others.
A few of the reasons why Haiti is in political and economic crisis, and why it remains the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere have to do with the violent dictatorships and corrupt governments since the 1960s, but many have to do with structural adjustment programs (through the IMF & World Bank), United States imperialism, and punishment for being the first Black republic in the West and daring to fight and win its independence from France. But Haiti has never really been free or fully independent. And the troubling histories of slavery and colonialism continue to affect our relations across the region. This historical, political, and social context must be taken into account as we try to understand the present, and as we work towards a better future. I envision a future where people do not have to flee and escape their homelands out of fear or poverty in search of safety, basic needs, and better opportunities elsewhere. I envision a future where no one experiences civic death or non-being, where we all can live with dignity and in freedom. I envision a future where Caribbean people have created innovative solutions to our economic, political, and environmental problems. I envision a Pan Caribbean future decolonized and grounded in knowledge of our ancestors, histories/herstories, and myths. I envision a socially just and equal future with open borders and a thriving empowered community, where we love and embrace all the parts of ourselves.
Angelique V. Nixon is a writer, artist, teacher, activist, and poet – born and raised in The Bahamas. She earned her Ph.D. in English specializing in Caribbean studies and women and gender studies at the University of Florida. She is an assistant professor in the Department of English and Creative Writing at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania. Her work has been published widely in academic and creative journals, namely Anthurium, Black Renaissance Noire, MaComere, and small axe salon. Angelique is deeply invested in grassroots activism and is involved with several organizations, including Ayiti Resurrect, Caribbean IRN, and Critical Resistance.
This residency has brought me to a new level of possibility in my work. I am extremely grateful that I've had this opportunity. Every single moment has been a chance to learn and grow and be inspired. In Barbados and Grenada I absorbed more natural beauty than I ever thought possible. I have also seen the value of being part of new (to me) conversations in new (to me) places.
:: By Wendy C. Grenade and Kimalee Phillip::
Originally Published by Starbroek News, ‘In The Diaspora’ Column, Georgetown Guyana 28th Oct. 2013
‘In The Diaspora’ Editor’s Note: This year marks the 60th anniversary of that historic moment of national unity for Guyanese, a moment that was sabotaged 133 days after the People’s Progressive Party galvanized the country under a multiracial, anti-colonial, nationalist banner, a moment that has eluded our grasp ever since. This year also marks the thirtieth anniversary of the tragic implosion of the Grenada revolution and the invasion some days later by the United States with the support of some Caribbean governments of the day. This week’s column offers us two perspectives from Grenadian women – one born in 1985 and for whom amnesia is not an option – who urge us to move from the moment of collapse to engage the complex lessons of the years of the Revolution in ways that can bring Grenadians together. There are lessons for us all here. Dr. Wendy C. Grenade is a Lecturer in Political Science, The Department of Government, Sociology and Social Work, at The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados. Currently based in Toronto, Kimalee Phillip is a member of Groundation Grenada, serves as the Equity Officer with the Canadian Union of Public Employees, local 1281 and does organizing work with the Network for Pan-Afrikan Solidarity.
Reflections and Lessons: By Wendy C. Grenade
October 19 and 25, 2013, mark thirty years since the demise of the Grenada Revolution and the US invasion of Grenada. This milestone presents an opportunity for critical reflection on one of the most defining periods in the post colonial experience of the Caribbean. This article provides an introspection of the highs and lows of the Grenada Revolution and the lessons that can be gleaned for the way forward.
The Grenada Revolution embodied possibilities and contradictions. On the one hand, the holistic developmental thrust of the Grenada Revolution cannot be denied, specifically its emphasis on: raising levels of social consciousness; building a national ethos that encouraged a sense of community; organizing agrarian reform to benefit small farmers and farm workers; promoting literacy and adult education; fostering child and youth development; enacting legislation to promote gender justice; constructing low income housing and launching house repair programmes; improving physical infrastructure and in particular the construction of an international airport; providing an environment that encouraged popular democracy through Parish and Zonal Councils etcetera. In hindsight, one of the fundamental objectives of the Grenada Revolution was to improve the lives of the Grenadian people within a comprehensive social and human development framework, following a mixed economy approach.
Yet despite the positive attributes of the Grenada Revolution, the People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) operated within the authoritarian state formation inherited from Eric Gairy and the colonial establishment that preceded the Gairy regime. The military arm of the state, while necessary to protect and defend the sovereignty of Grenada from external aggression (particularly in the context of the Cold War and US hostility to Grenada), instilled a culture of fear within Grenada, particularly among citizens who progressively became disillusioned with the excesses of the PRG. Additionally, despite the emphasis on popular democracy and community empowerment, there was a disconnect between the vanguard New Jewel Movement party and the masses. This proved to be fatal in the final weeks of the Revolution. Fundamentally, the revolutionary leaders had no mechanism for conflict resolution. In fact, the Grenada Revolution thrived within a political culture where disagreements were settled not by negotiations and compromise but by a heavy-handed military response.
On the external front, Grenada became a theatre for Cold War intrigues; a dispensable cog in the wheel of Cold War politics. In hindsight, the United States was unjustifiably hostile to Grenada. It used its power against a small state as one of its tactics in its larger strategy to reclaim US pre-eminence in the world. However, the PRG demonstrated immaturity in its dealings with the United States. To its detriment, the PRG did not engage in strategic, pragmatic foreign policy behaviour. Ultimately, the implosion of the Grenada Revolution created the conditions for the violation of the very sovereignty the revolutionaries promised to defend.
Thirty years on, there is need for balanced, honest reflection on the Grenada Revolution, not to apportion blame, allot guilt and shame or fuel antagonisms. Instead, there is urgency for a national conversation on the Grenada Revolution to break the silence; foster healing and reconciliation and moreso glean lessons for the way forward.
As Grenada approaches forty years as a sovereign independent nation, there are several lessons that small developing states can learn from the revolutionary experience: despite the realities of neo-liberalism, a mixed economy approach that privileges human well-being over markets and profits is a necessary imperative; participatory democracy can promote civic consciousness and boost productivity; constructive resistance combined with pragmatism should guide the foreign policy behaviour of small developing states; authoritarianism, whether from the left or right, is always likely to incite mass resistance and can engender political violence; the use of military force must never be a substitute for dialogue and compromise; dogma must never be allowed to eclipse and replace the inherent humanity of the people.
Finally, with time, healing and reconciliation can bring about genuine freedom.
Fighting to Remember! By Kimalee Phillip
The goal is not simply to dig up the past and in no way are our attempts to excavate the triumphs and victories won by Grenadians from 1979 – 1983 meant to dismiss or erase anyone’s concerns and recollections. However we can no longer be silent. We can no longer pretend that we did not redefine our own paths. We can no longer ignore the fact that ‘little Grenada’ stood up to external imperial forces that were attempting to control our lives. We can no longer bury the fact that we actually did kill our own.
Frantz Fanon said that “each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it,” and it is with this sentiment that some of us have made a conscious decision to further these conversations and to uncover the multi-layered and complicated feelings of pain, anger and betrayal through writing our own stories.
Just a few days ago, I was fortunate enough to participate in the Congress of Black Writers and Artists in Montreal from October 18 – 20, which was preceded and inspired by the first groundbreaking Congress that brought activists together from all over the world in 1968 – including Walter Rodney who was teaching in Jamaica at the time and was denied back into the island when he returned from Canada. I presented on the organizing strategies and memories surrounding the Grenada Revolution and as I progressively became emotional during this discussion, I realized the incredible gravity that surrounds this period – a complex profoundness that is often rendered unspeakable.
I was born in 1985, two years after the collapse of the Revolution, yet any reminiscing of these events brings about an emotional reaction within. What does this mean for me, who was born after the revolution and, more so, how much are those who actually participated and lived through those years still deeply moved and, perhaps, still traumatized?
This trauma that many Grenadians have not been able to, or have chosen to not deal with has enabled a silence that willfully reconstitutes and covers up many important memories. Part of this trauma occurred not only when some of the leaders who embodied the revolution were assassinated, but also through the kidnapping and destruction of their bodies.
Thomas Sankara said, “while revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill ideas.” Was the brutal killing of these revolutionaries an attempt to kill possibilities of change and liberation? Furthermore, the Revolution became symbolized by a few persons and so when these persons were killed and their bodies desecrated without any form of closure or burial process, the memory of the movement also became desecrated. In addition, the absence of a grave prevents the possibility of attaching meaning to burial sites.
How do we then remember what has happened? Is it through imperial commemorations such as the murals near the Coca Cola-Bottling Plant on the island that thank the US for saving us? Is it through the recent renaming of our international airport as Maurice Bishop International Airport?
How do the ways that we choose to remember and forget send a distorted message to our children and youth? If we don’t teach our own histories in our schools, how then can we expect to lead our own paths? In many ways, we have done what Fanon would categorize as a betraying of our own.
After reading an interview with Grenadian writer and scholar, Merle Collins, I was reminded of the two intersecting arches that are erected near the Airport and which, though tall and strategically positioned, had never really caught my attention before.
These arches which recognize those “who sacrificed their lives in liberating Grenada on 25 October 1983” and those who “through commitment and sacrifice, returned freedom to Grenada,” play a significant part in shaping our memories of 1979-1983. The erection of public monuments is deliberate and is meant to define how and what is remembered. The arches, similar to other murals and Grenadian public holidays such as Thanksgiving Day on October 25 (the day of the US invasion), illustrate how public monuments and events can help to impose particular versions of our history(ies) that are intended to disappear what was accomplished in the revolution’s short life. I am part of a collective called Groundation Grenada, young Grenadians committed to contributing to the positive waves of changes that were brought about by the revolution. We recently launched an archival project on October 19, called “Forgetting Is Not An Option!” Through this project, we are hoping that many people can submit their reflections on the Grenada Revolution through a range of artistic, visual, video and written submissions. More information can be found here. Our goal is to launch the final project on March 13, 2014.
I am excited about the changes taking place in Grenada! I am inspired by the growing number of youth who are beginning to ask critical and hard questions and who are organizing within their communities. I am also doubly inspired by the many who are now able to and choosing to speak out for their stories remain important pieces in telling our histories.
We need to fulfill our mission to the current and future generations, and above all to our ancestors. Long live our commitments to each other, to our lands and to our complicated beautiful stories and histories!