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Race has made its way into St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) general elections. I am not surprised. The signs were all around us that the racecard will be used to coerce the Vincentian voters.
Spokespersons for the NDP are asking why so many black people in SVG support Dr. Gonsalves and the ULP. They are also pushing the line that SVG is ready for a Black prime minister and not a white-skinned Vincentian. On the other hand, the ULP has re-affirmed its policies that have benefited the majority of the Vincentian population, which is overwhelmingly black or people of African descent.
ULP and black Vincentians
The supporters and leadership of the ULP make the point that the ULP, with the leadership of Dr. Gonsalves, has made it a duty and explicit policy to promote the interests of black people in SVG. They assert that development opportunities for black people were severely lacking in SVG before 2001, when the ULP won the seat of government. The ULP has opened up opportunities for poor and working class black Vincentians to acquire property; to access more opportunities for education from kindergarten to university; social protection for the poorest people, for the elderly, and for disabled Black Vincentians; empowerment programmes for young Black Vincentians; expanded health facilities, and according to the policy statements of the ULP, there is more and better health care to come for black Vincentians. The ULP has worked very hard for black Vincentians to access air travel on easier and more dignified terms and for economic and social development, by building an international airport; and many other initiatives.
The ULP makes it no secret that it has also declared the month of March as National Heroes and Heritage Month. SVG recognised its first national hero Chief Joseph Chatoyer, who fought bravely against European slave masters. “Discovery Day”, celebrating Christopher Columbus, was discarded for a more authentic Vincentian experience. This move got rid of serious psychological baggage that kept eating away at our collective mental fortitude. In addition, the ULP declared August as Emancipation Month and Aug. 1 as Emancipation Day, the day when Black people in SVG were finally freed from chattel slavery in 1838, without any compensation paid to them for hundreds of years of chattel slavery — but compensation were paid to the White enslavers and ruling classes. Dr. Gonsalves and the ULP have been committed to correcting this brutal historical wrong.
ULP on the global stage
The ULP has reminded us of its many efforts to revive the global reparations movement and these have been recognised and praised by many people and organisations around the world. The Caribbean region has already established a process to advocate for reparations for all the unpaid and brutal work and genocide against Black people and the Indigenous people since the 15th century in the Caribbean. Also, Dr. Gonsalves has spoken loudly and clearly to the entire world demanding that the Dominican Republic cease in treating Black Haitians in that country as inferior beings.
The ULP has boldly and fearlessly taken the plight of Black people or People of African descent to the highest halls of the international community and there is hope in the fact that the United Nations have become very involved in the matter of empowering black people to regain their history, regain the wealth stolen from them, and to regain control over their development processes.
The ULP government has also opened up state-to-state relations with many African countries, including the great historical country of Ethiopia, paving the way for more people to people relations between Black people in SVG and Africans in Africa.
Despite the tensions that have developed in SVG around race, this race issue must be addressed inclusively and continuously. It must be done in a developmental way, instead of using the race-card to confuse the nation for political expediency. Already, the global and regional frameworks are in place that will help to support and sustain national policies and programmes for full empowerment of black people or People of African descent. The racial composition of our nation is not a disadvantage, and when used inclusively, the nation and our collective endeavours become the winner.
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