There are just over 9,700 Grenadian-born people living in the United Kingdom, according to the 2001 UK Census. How many of them were aware that the island of their birth celebrated its 40th anniversary of independence on Friday, February 7, 2014?
Not many, I’d wager. Especially with the scant number of news articles circulating.
“It’s only a tiny Caribbean island, after all. Who’s going to take notice here in Britain?” was more or less what one of my relatives said to me.
“But, surely, us Grenadians, you and I, we should take notice. Right? It’s an important part of our history – and just knowing about these events enriches your path that bit more,” is how I wanted to respond.
Instead I caused a raucous argument over the value of a former British colony gaining its independence and the need for journalism – as well as novels and history books – to remind its descendants of their identity.
Because what else are stories all about if not identity?
I’m not a Church-going Christian. I’m not a barbershop dweller. And I sure ain’t no ‘ghetto baller’. But I come from a loving family – one that has its far share of everyday troubles, just like any other. And my family has given me some sense of who I am.
But the rest of it has been absorbed from the area I’ve grown up in, the company I’ve kept, the music I’ve heard, the heroes I’ve followed and the stories I’ve treasured.
That last part is the absolute reason for the existence of writers and, by extension, journalists and historians, in my view. Which is why I was saddened when my relative responded with disinterest at the idea that people wouldn’t even bother to write about Grenada’s anniversary of independence.
And my dream is for writing to bring us all closer to our identity – by bringing us closer to the ones we love, closer to our roots and closer to the truth.
It’s a problem that there are so few articles about Grenadian independence and history in general. There absence feeds the idea of the island’s insignificants and, ultimately, cancels out the process of informing/educating readers, and the topical conversations they might then engage in. It cancels out the chance for change.
Had the BBC Caribbean Network still been operating, black Britons might have been given a chance to hear about it from a familiar source online or, perhaps, even on the radio. I was left to stumble across the news on the Jamaica Observer – by way of a soca dance tribute recommended by a friend. (If anybody is keen to learn more about the history of the Spice Island, I recommend this BBC profile and timeline or Wikipedia’s timeline as starting points; while those serious about black history might like to check out Black History Studies.)
There is still time for stories to appear this week/month about the island’s independence and, more appropriately, what the legacy is for Grenadians in Britain today, and I hope to read, hear or watch them. Stories matter because they can change who we might become tomorrow. And black people should not be separated from that.