Books about Anguilla


Thursday, 28 July 2011


So far July has been a month of significant events, which have brought considerable attention to our heritage as a people. July 12th was the premiere viewing of “Nuttin Bafflin”, a documentary film by Anguillian, Mr. David Carty.  Mr. Carty is a man of many labels, but perhaps the most pertinent to that project are historian, boat builder and conservationist. I am unable to more aptly describe the film and the atmosphere at the Da’Vida Restaurant during the presentation, than what Mr. Marcel Fahie wrote in his review in the Anguillian last week entitled: “A TRIBUTE TO THE EARTHY STRENGTH, TENACITY, ADAPTABILITY, INVENTIVENESS, LOVE OF AND PRIDE IN COMMUNITY OF BOBO JOHNNY”.  In fact, it could even be considered sacrilegious for me attempt to do so.

Mr. Fahie said it all --- so I am content to simply quote him in part as follows:  “--- it covers the movement through the whole range of social, economic, cultural, religious and political life and the factors therein that have contributed to what is today the national sport by acclaim.  --- I went through a whole gamut of emotions, as I was absorbed in viewing “Nuttin Bafflin”. I experienced, joy and happiness, excitement, amazement, great pride, surprise, satisfaction; but also sadness, anxiety, sympathy, anger and vexation.  Above all I experienced a renewing of my love for patrimony given to us by God. My determination to cherish the Rock, to continue to ask God to bless Anguilla and to nurture and keep her …” A testimony in my estimation to the quality and content of the production as well as the variety of sentiments it engenders in all Anguillians --- indeed all who came to be a part of that historic occasion. It catalogues the parallel courses of our development as a nation and that of boat racing. THE JOURNEY OF A PEOPLE!

On July 22nd, the Anguilla Bar Association celebrated the achievements of Dame Dr. Bernice Lake, QC. It began in the morning with a special sitting of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in her honour simulcast from Anguilla throughout the OECS. And in the evening it culminated in a Gala Dinner, again at Da’Vida’s Restaurant, with the appropriate toasts, reflections, announcements and awards.  In the very brief biographical note in the souvenir booklet Dame Bernice is described as “diplomat, jurist, constitutional lawyer and distinguished Caribbean legal scholar.  However, during the reflections on her life many additional attributes and talents were exposed, which suggest that she is truly a woman of vast accomplishments.

The various speakers were appropriately extravagant in their accolades and expressions of admiration for Dame Bernice and her life’s work. And the sincerity of their comments was obvious in the common threads, which ran though all the presentations and the impromptu anecdotes, which illustrated them. From her professional colleagues to her family, their stories illuminated the trails she blazed through the region. Let me lift a small testimony from the biographical note I mentioned earlier. It reads: “Dame Bernice Lake’s career is distinguished by two major themes: commitment to securing a climate of constitutionalism in her region, and to the protection of human rights and women’s rights. She was the chief architect of the Anguilla Constitution in 1975 and a member of the team, which framed the Constitution of Antigua and Barbuda, in 1981. She was very active in her communities of Anguilla, Antigua, St Kitts and Nevis, she spearheaded Justice Corps in Anguilla, Antigua and St. Kitts and Nevis which provided free legal services to safeguard against constitutional violation of the Peoples of those territories.” A testimony in my estimation to a woman committed to creating an environment for the optimal expression of human rights within our communities. A woman who constantly expresses pride in her upbringing and the lessons, which inspired her fearlessness and tenacity in pursuing the goals, she set for herself. THE PRODUCT OF A PEOPLE!

Even though it is not typically considered, a milestone year, on July 25th the Ebenezer Methodist Church in the Valley celebrated its 181st Anniversary since its dedication. It was obviously built before the abolition of slavery and as a consequence most likely built by slaves. It is also the oldest church in Anguilla and the oldest Methodist Church in the OECS. There is only one other standing building in Anguilla purported to be older than Ebenezer, that is, Wall Blake House. Considering the fact that all of my paternal forebears worshipped at Ebenezer, I do feel a great sense of pride and history to belong to and to be a product of the oldest church on Anguilla.

I can recall several years ago, when we were removing the concrete plastering from the original rock and limestone walls --- obviously placed there at a time when looking modern was “in vogue” --- it “dawned on” us that we were uncovering the handiwork of our ancestors. Perhaps it was a similar feeling to uncovering one of the lost pyramids but in this case “lost in plain sight”. On that occasion bruised by the “coal chisels” and “marl hammers” --- we could vividly imagine the hard work of our ancestors (probably slaves) laying the stones for those solid “eighteen-inch” wide walls almost twenty feet high at some points. Our forebears built this fortress to their God, which has withstood the hostile elements of nature over the ages --- a refuge, a haven, a sanctuary, an altar and a testimony to the contribution of Methodism to the lives of the Anguillian people. More than nine generations of Anguillians worshipped and were schooled and trained at Ebenezer.

Mr. Christian Richardson, a product of Ebenezer in a powerful and inspiring tribute to the Church on its anniversary last year said:  “Time was when the main doors of Valley Ebenezer Methodist Church used to be deliberately left open all day long every day. The idea and the purpose was that anyone who was then passing through a dark patch and a dark moment in life could enter the church and find Light, the Light of Christ, and let himself or herself become inflamed with the Light of Christ, thereby dispelling the darkness by which their lives were then overcome.

Time was in the past darkness of “dark night Anguilla” when people would choose to come at night and sit for hours on the steps or on the paved platforms of the Church, or even lean their backs up against its walls and talk, debate and discuss, and socialize generally, for hours. It must not have been necessarily on a night or evening when there was a church activity or meeting going on. It could have been any night. It stands to reason that such persons felt that just being by the church was really a matter of feeling oneself full of light in the face of the darkness that was everywhere around.” A testimony to a church, which was the shaping ground for generations of Anguillians who used Ebenezer as an institution for community building, training, fellowship, stability and hope. THE MONUMENT OF A PEOPLE!

But whether it is boat racing, exceptional individuals or inspiring buildings --- our people must be reminded of the heritage, which is ours. And we should continue to find ways to preserve, celebrate and promote any aspect of that heritage which will cause us to appreciate who we are, where we have come from and what we must do to secure the future for generations to come. Not only for those of us who call ourselves Anguillians but so that all who come to our shores, for whatever reasons, can sense the pride that radiates from within our people.  So that being Anguillian will no longer be the “flavour” but rather the “stock” of the “melting pot” of the many persons who will inevitably make our island their home.

This month of reflection will bring us to the heart of the Anguilla Summer Festival during a period, which marks the emancipation of the very slaves who would have helped to build Ebenezer. As usual many will forget the reason for August Monday and the conditions which had to be overcome to ensure some measure of freedom for us as a people. While some of us will remember the hard times which we have endured in every generation --- there will be many who will take the present for granted --- and entertain no real thoughts of the future.  There will be those who will use the holidays to unwind and relieve themselves of stressful issues for a time; there are those who will use the holidays for getting together as a family; they are those who will take advantage of the business opportunities; they are those who will take an off-island vacation; they are those who will be out to have fun as well as those who will be out to cause trouble; they are those who will find the time to rest and there are those who will find the time to work. In short, everyone resident on Anguilla will have an opportunity to do what suits him or her best. Quite naturally, it will also depend on what one can afford.

But whatever the choices made the principal purpose of the Summer Festival Holidays is to provide an atmosphere of merriment and amusement, steeped in the tradition of celebrating the abolition of slavery. Such an atmosphere will require the participation of people both as an audience and as performers and producers. And the success or failure of the festival is usually measured in the level of enjoyment brought to the audiences as well as the amount of money they spent. But no period of celebration is without a context and this Festival falls in the heart of a recession. The question arises then: how will this festival be different?

As the United States struggles with its huge debt and deficit issues it appears that the greatest nation on earth is falling asunder. And while many of us may be awake on the dawning of August 2nd on the beach in Sandy Ground listening to the final sounds of the biggest beach party in the region --- the American people will be concerned about the debt ceiling and how it will impact its standing in the global economy. The fact that we are extremely susceptible to the vagaries of the United States economy must make us equally concerned.

But despite these realities, visitors and residents alike will be looking forward to the usual entertainment. And many apprehensions will abound. For example: Will the usual revelers be sufficiently moved by the rhythmic sounds of the many bands to come out on J’Ouvert Morning putting aside their worries at least for a day? Will the Calypsonians capture the essence of this period of our history in their melodies and lyrics for posterity?  Will the various pageants celebrate extraordinary talent rather than superficial beauty? Will the parade of troupes depict important aspects of our culture, history and tradition? Will the winds be favourable for an enjoyable week of boat racing? Will the season be a time for refreshment and merriment or a chance to spread hate and perpetuate violence? Will our St. Martin friends and family come over?  There will be a reason for everyone to enjoy the holidays even as the future seems ominous.

It occurred to me as I look forward to a safe, enjoyable and “incident-free” week of celebrations that there are lessons to be applied from the journey of our people over our history. The parallel courses of our development as a nation and boat racing, to which I referred earlier, instruct us. The Democrats versus the Republicans; the Chief Minister versus the Governor’s Office; the Chief Minister versus Developers; The Chief Minister versus his Minister for Social Development; the Chief Minister versus this British in his undeclared war; and so on, can all benefit from a principle and practice, which ensures the protection of life, assets and a fair outcome for the people they represent. They must all know when it is time to call for a “HARD LEE!”

A cry for “hard lee” requires mutual respect and trust as well as a readiness to give up some benefit or advantage for a greater good, namely, safety and security for all concerned.  Can such a useful principle save the United States from a rendezvous with financial and economic disaster or save our Chief Minister from the ignominy of leading Anguilla into a state of economic dependency and all the indignity, which such implies?  Chief Minister it is time to call for a “hard lee!” You cannot safely cross the several “vessels” you are at once engaging, and navigate the good ship “Anguilla” into the calm waters of economic recovery --- even in these baffling winds of global recession. Hard Lee! Captain Hubie! Lest we all perish!

Victor F. Banks
Sachasses Estate
July 26, 2011

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