It is August 1st, Emancipation Day across much of the formerly British Caribbean. It commemorates the Slavery Abolition Act (1833), which legislated the end of slavery in the British Empire in August, 1834. Here in Jamaica it is part of a week of parades and parties leading up to Independence Day on August 6th. In Barbados this year it coincides with the Crop Over Festival and its climax, Grand Kadooment, a day where Bajans let their hair down (not to mention much else) and party can’t done.

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But I ent in de mood fi party.

Perhaps it’s something to do with the way these carnivalesque extravaganzas seem to perpetuate the objectification and display of women’s bodies for male consumption that is in a direct line of succession from the white supremacist objectification of all Black bodies. There is a burden of history which shackles the watching of young women wukkin’ up, to the image of the slave trader forcing his charges to dance on the auction block to prove that they were fit for hard work. …

I’ve been to the mountaintop. — Martin Luther King

The romance of mountain climbing has never held me in its thrall. Because it’s there is a rationale that applies to chocolate and bacon, not to putting oneself deliberately in harm’s way. I am a rationalist to the bone — if I go up a mountain it’s in order to see what I cannot without enduring the ascent — I’m willing to pay to gain perspective.

But I didn’t hesitate for a moment when friends offered me a chance to hike up Blue Mountain Peak in the middle of the night on the off chance I might get to see the sun rise from the mountain top. In the higher elevations the Blue Mountains get over 200 inches of rain each year; in some places they get over 300 inches. Suffice it to say that the expectation of a dry, cloud free sunrise on Blue Mountain Peak is against the odds. …

When Harry Belafonte released his recording of Jamaica Farewell I was only a year old, but as a little Black boy in Barbados I could tell that there was something in it that spoke of home. More than half a century later it is still stuck in memory like the smell of my grandmother’s house: pleasant enough, but a little cloying and very slightly embarrassing.

The home that it evoked is an imaginary place; Barbados is almost 2,000 km of blue ocean away from Jamaica. In the era evoked by this plaintive ballad you would have had to sail to London or New York then change ships for the next leg of your journey. Even today there are few direct flights. …


LEAD Barbados

LEAD: Local Education and Action for Development (Barbados) Inc., is a nonprofit organization promotes socioeconomic development in Barbados

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