Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.(iWN file photo)

By *Jomo Sanga Thomas

(Plain Talk, Aug. 2, 2019)

The American futurist Alvin Tofler said the “illiterates of the 21 century will not be those who cannot read. It will be those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn”.

With this focus in mind and with emancipation month limping to an end, this is a good time to revisit “half steppin’ to emancipation”, a column written one year ago this August.

“Be careful not to celebrate a lie”, Oscar Allen warned listeners to the “Voices” programme  last August. “Emancipation was a contrivance to halt a true advance of the people. Emancipation never came. Emancipation is yet to come.” Oscar Allen is profoundly original in thought and action. When he speaks, pay attention or you may miss the opportunity for a learning experience.

Brother Allen’s words are like a spectre. They should haunt every Vincentian concerned about the future direction of our nation. Where are we now? Where are we going? How will we get there? Allen was saying if we view Aug. 1 as freedom day, we may lose sight of the task at hand and the battles still undone.

Chatoyer is our only national hero. Last year we dubbed Rabacca Chatoyer Park, without actually building the park. Montgomery Daniel, in making the announcement, said the government will press the British to offer about $18 million dollars in reparations so that a proper park, befitting the prestige and honour of the paramount chief, can be constructed on the site. One year on, apart from a few wooden tables, Rabacca in no way, shape or form, resembled a park.

There is no real effort to build the consciousness of the people on matters of state or politics. Africa is still treated with benign neglect. Eurocentric ideas predominate among our leaders, teachers and opinion makers. Only a few among us give serious though to and internalise the wise works of historian John Henri Clarke that “only a fool gives up a continent for an island”. In SVG and across the region, a significant section of the population proudly declares, “I am not African. I am Jamaican, Lucian, Haitian or Trini.”

There is no consistent attempt to educate the citizens, the vast majority of whom are of African stock, that our history did not begin with slavery. Many among us still harbour the mistaken belief that Africa contributed little or nothing to world history. Too often, those of us with knowledge of Africa’s glorious past and its contribution to world civilisation, are laughed at. 

Many people have no idea that the heavyweights of Western civilisation such as Socrates and Plato proudly and honestly declared that they spent 15 and 18 years respectively learning at the feet of African master teachers.

But here’s the 1787 account of the Frenchman Count Constantine de Volney on visiting Egypt for the first time.

“Just think that this race of Black men, today our slave and the object of our scorn, is the very race to which we owe our arts, sciences, and even the use of speech! Just imagine, finally, that it is in the midst of people, who call themselves the greatest friends of liberty and humanity that one has approved the most barbarous slavery, and questioned whether Black men have the same kind of intelligence as whites.”

Or we can take the recorded history of Aristotle, who captures the words of an Egyptian master teacher addressing a Greek official, “You Greeks are infants to us. Egyptian civilisation is hoary with age.’ Sadly, none of this is taught in schools. As a result, our people show disbelief when told that African people invented philosophy, mathematics, and engineering. 

Nothing is connected to the other. So here in SVG, Labour Day and Emancipation Day were given their rightful place on the calendar, but no serious effort at mobilisation and education places Labour Day and Emancipation Day in their proper historical perspective.  

Heritage Square is declared with much fanfare, but nothing of heritage is displayed there. An anti-piracy law is passed, but the onus is on the local artistes to police the pirates. Piracy continues apace as it relates to the stealing of regional and international property. We passed a seatbelt/helmet law to protect us in the event we crash, but allow drivers to use cell phones while driving. Cell phone usage distracts drivers and triggers more accidents than any other cause.

We acknowledge that the Westminster system offers too much power to the prime minister, but do nothing to wean ourselves of the excesses. We are a government of all the people, but tell ministers of government to look out for those who vote for them. We say we are for freedom and justice, yet refuse to condemn aggression against the sovereignty of our innocent sister people of Venezuela and Palestine. We profess our love for Cuba, but maintain a parasitic, one-sided relationship with our socialist cousins.

There is no doubt that we are more focused than ever before on development, but our development will be easily derailed because of lack of cadre, training and education. We won the government and lost the party.  We boast of the number of party members, while party structures crumble in a state of disrepair. We embrace new friends and distance ourselves from reliable fighters for emancipation. We are for the people, but fear the critical consciousness necessary to build and sustain a real people. We make one step forward and two steps back. We are “half steppin” our way towards emancipation.

Martin Luther King, in his famous letter from the Birmingham jail, called on change agents to become non-conforming conformists when the conditions demand it. In this very spirit, we must and can be supportive of reforms without becoming reformists. It was Dr. King who also warned that if we stand for nothing, we will fall for anything.

Oscar Allen was right: emancipation never came… emancipation is yet to come. If we are serious about the liberation of the people, we must work harder at connecting with the people beyond election time.

Be warned! This emancipation business is not easy. Those who cannot or refuse to learn, unlearn and relearn, will not make it.

(Parts of this column were first published in August 2007.)

*Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to news.iwitness@gmail.com.

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8 Comments

  1. Mr Jomo thomas.l do not agree with your comment. I believe that the problem is illiterate people who believe it’s good to be that way.There is a different between people who don’t want to learn and dose who can’t learn.dose who can’t have some form of mental problem.the oders embrace ignorance as a way of life.And that is a very serious problem to our civilization.As much as I will like to see you step down as speker of the house.beacuse of decision you make to challenge Constitution in respect to same sex.This topic is timely.but given your involvement in the same sex issue.You don’t have any morals for this topic.And who So ever read this you should read about a block Americans slave name THOMAS FULLER.

    Reply

    1. Rawlston Pompey says:

      WHAT OF NEGRO TOM – 1710 -1790?

      Sold into slavery at age 14.

      Said to be illiterate, but a great ‘…mathematician.’

      Marveled his owners with his exceptional skill in ‘…enumeration.’

      Provided mathematical answers with almost pin-point accuracy.

      However, this commentary by ‘Jomo’ speaks to ‘…modern-day attitude by people and government and concept of ‘…Emancipation.’

      What of independence?

      It is not to say that some people are not intelligent, but most choose to remain ‘…slaves to their mentality,’ while some governments believe that it is better to build relations with a ‘…parasitic mentality.’

      See what you can make of Jomo’s commentary by looking at the running vines locally called ‘…Love Vines.’

      They know no love, speak no love, show no love, but live only on other plants.

      Reply

  2. Here we are being lectured to by Jomo, a man who sides with a pseudo Marxist family regime to drag us back onto today’s plantation! Charles. H. Spurgeon, that Victorian protestant clergyman, had this to say about such a hypocrite; “Sincerity makes the very least person to be of more value than the most talented hypocrite”.

    Reply

  3. Rawlston Pompey says:

    NO HALF-WRITING – PARASITIC MENTALITY

    Though he seeks only to bring awareness, ‘Jomo’ must tell them like it is, and in (a) …language that shall be understood; (b) …In forums where it shall be heard; and (c) …In an environment conducive to learning.

    Alvin Toffler shall not turn in his grave.

    One time it was ‘…Slave Mentality;’ today it is ‘…Parasitic Mentality.’

    This commentary is as thought-provoking as the ‘…blood that had drenched certain communities’ and had been frighteningly dubbed ‘…Bloody September’ [IWN: September 28, 2017].

    There was clearly no ‘…Half-Stepping or Half-Writing’ about what the writer intended to communicate of a ‘…people and government attitude toward the concept freedom- their intellect, mentality, culture, destiny and even relations with other nations.’

    This may have been discerned from the statement, ‘…We profess our love for Cuba, but maintain a parasitic, one-sided relationship with our socialist cousins’ [Paragraph 14].

    Though ‘…some professors share no such views,’ if it was then immoral to hold humans in captivity as animals would be held in Zoos, now it would be immoral to demand compensation on behalf of the dead slaves.

    Likened to the reference made to our attitude towards the socialist countries as ‘…parasites,’ it would also be seen as ‘…parasitic; to ‘…press or demand or solicit or beg the British for $18 million for ‘…reparatory harm, reportedly inflicted during slavery and colonization.’ This could never be the cost of human life.

    Moreover, this could never remove the ‘…endured suffering; …indignities subjected and atrocities inflicted’ upon the innocent African people, not only commercially sold into slavery, but also as property associated with animals held in captivity by farmers.

    Whether or not for the establishment of ;…National Parks,’ no nation shall demand ‘…Blood Money’ or ‘…money derived from Human Trafficking (Slave Trade and Slavery).’

    Reply

  4. A recent report presented to The Organization of American States says that Venezuelan Migration could grow to 8 million being the world’s largest ever by 2020 as Venezuelans legs it out of the country, The OAS members are Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, United States, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

    Following on from that report the “US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order imposing an economic embargo against Venezuela, in the latest move against President Nicolas Maduro and his government.

    The order, signed late on Monday 5th August, freezes all Venezuelan government assets in the United State and barred transactions with its authorities. Trump took the step (in light of the continued usurpation of power by Nicolas Maduro and persons affiliated with him, as well as human rights abuses), according to the order”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nj_4NG67lAo

    Jomo would have us believe that the ULP under the Gonsalves, is a government of all the people of SVG however, our experience tells us differently and that only the wearing of a red shirt matters here in SVG, other than such, one needs be one of the family’s cronies, very much like what the Venezuelans are now experiencing under the Maduro family regime.
    https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/08/trump-imposes-economic-embargo-venezuela-190806020407778.html

    “The Wall Street Journal tells us that Trump’s move against Maduro was the first against a western hemisphere government in over 30 years, and that the move imposes on Caracas restrictions similar to those faced by North Korea, Iran, Syria and Cuba”. https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-expands-sanctions-against-venezuela-into-an-embargo-11565053782

    Emancipation quite obviously has a different meaning for the Gonsalves, Maduro and Jumo compared to what both the American President, ordinary Venezuelans and some Vincentians would expect.

    According to Jumo the freedom on offer to us and the one that we should eagerly embrace, are the same kind of freedom as that which is on offer in North Korea, Iran, Syria, Cuba and Venezuela. And we know what the Venezuelans are thinking of it. Thanks Jomo but no thanks!

    Therefore, may one join with Woodrow Wilson the 28th president of the United States in saying Jomo that; “Liberty has never come from Government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of it. The history of liberty is a history of limitations of governmental power, not the increase of it”.

    Or with Ronald Reagan the 40th president of the United States who said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same”.

    So when we next stand in that Dickensian and derelict place that passes for a “Heritage Square” on Emancipation Day, we could all try and smile a little bit, while counting the number of black Rats vying there for living space, knowing that you Jomo, is yet half steppin’ to emancipation!

    Reply

    1. Good information James but often what is in the news or history books is misleading. Those were great words from Woodrow Wilson although he is considered by many to be the worst US President in history and his actions are different than his words. He got the US into WW2 and signed the Federal Reserve act which took away the people’s Financial Freedom. It is very true that to judge a president you should not pay attention to thier words but instead thier actions. The same with Bush and Obama, they generally did the opposite of what they said.
      Those countries that you list as being terrible are in large part, or almost entirely that way because of the USA. Iran would be a great place to live if it were not for the US. The fake news told us how anti-jew the government is, but in reality Iran, which has the second largest population of jews on earth, is considered the favorite place for jews to live. They have more freedom and a better life there than in Israel. That is FACT! Stop listening to the FAKE news. There are far more executions in Texas alone than the entire country of Iran.
      The government of SVG is certainly messed-up and so is the government of Venezuela. They have a terrible system there. Simon Bolivar would be rolling in his grave. The answer is not in fake history or fake news, nor is it in the indoctrination of politicians from the governments of SVG or Venezuela. Maduro may be an idiot but Gonsalves is only intellectually lacking in economics and finance, (unless what he is doing is truely his intention). If a doctor gave a medication to a patient and the patient kept getting sicker, the first thing to do is STOP giving that medication. Both governments need to consider that.

      Reply

  5. No disrespect JAMAL but you must get your facts right the US has the largest outside Israel with a population of 5,700,000! However, in the Middle East, Iran is home to the Middle East’s largest Jewish population outside Israel, but in a population of 80 million one can hardly call 9.8 thousand a lot of people JAMAL.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_population_by_country

    “Today, the vast majority of Iranian Jews live in Israel and the United States, especially in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, and on the North Shore of Long Island. According to the latest Iranian census, the remaining Jewish population of Iran was 9,826” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persian_Jews

    Reply

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