Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 13th 2013 Contents A27
October 13, 2013 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
Tomorrow, Grenada marks 30
years since Maurice Bishop
was placed under house arrest.
The island s 39-year-old prime
minister, leader of the People s
Revolutionary Government, was
ousted by his deputy, Bernard
Coard. Five days later, Bishop
was shot dead.
On October 19, a huge crowd of
Grenadians flooded through the cap-
ital, St George s, in support of Mau-
rice Bishop. Supporters rescued him,
dazed and troubled, from his con-
finement. There was confusion. The
army seized control, and started
shooting. For real.
Bishop was murdered, along
with his education minister and
partner Jackie Creft. We don t
know how many others died that
A Revolutionary Military Coun-
cil led by General Hudson Austin
seized power, and imposed a
round-the-clock curfew. No joke;
anyone out of doors without a
permit was threatened with
At five in the morning on October
25, 7,000 US troops were on their
way from Barbados. Most landed
close to Point Salines International
Airport---the revolution s flagship
project, then under construction,
and renamed Maurice Bishop Inter-
national in 2009.
And that was the end of a rev-
olution which began in March
1979, with the popular overthrow
of the elected but dictatorial,
eccentric and slightly unhinged
prime minister, Sir Eric Gairy.
The Caribbean was bitterly divid-
ed. Jamaica, the eastern Caribbean
states and Barbados joined the US,
sending a small force of Caribbean
soldiers and police. Trinidad and
Tobago, the Bahamas, Guyana and
Belize kept their distance. But the
real splits cut across each nation.
Fierce arguments raged, in homes
and workplaces, schools and aca-
Thirty years on, the story of
those bloody days is still con-
fused and still divisive.
Seventeen leaders and supporters
of the Revolutionary Military Council
were tried and found guilty. Fourteen
were sent to hang. Next to the prison,
backhoes dug a mass grave. Their
sentences were commuted, but at
the last minute.
Thirty years on, all have been
freed. Grenada is a small society.
Terrence Marryshow, fiercely loyal
to Bishop, greets his old enemies
with stony silence.
When Bruce Paddington s 150-
minute film Forward Ever: The
Killing of a Revolution was shown
here at the Film Festival, audiences
were riveted. In Grenada, there had
to be separate screenings for Coard
and Bishop supporters.
To Paddington s enormous credit,
both groups felt the film was a fair
portrayal. Both factions speak for
themselves---often at length.
Most were then in their 20s or
30s. Now, they are in middle age.
Many memories have been
rehashed and reconstructed, in
some cases under legal pressure.
Others speak fresh.
We also hear from those with
bit-parts in the bloodshed.
Pamela, then a school student,
now a market vendor, jumped a
30-foot wall to dodge death.
From some, we won t be hear-
ing again. Sir Paul Scoon, who
bizarrely represented Queen Eliz-
abeth as Governor-General
throughout the People s Revolu-
tionary Government, died just
seven weeks ago. He taught
Coard at the elite Grenada Boys
Secondary School; in his revolu-
tionary days, his former student
tried (without success) to bring
him to Marxism.
And we won t be hearing again
from Maurice Bishop, or Jackie
"Comrade" is a piece of Marxist
jargon, still bandied by party hacks
in Guyana or Jamaica. For the young
revolutionaries in Grenada, it meant
something, at least at the start, in
Thirty years on, it is still hard to
understand how the comrades came
to hate each other enough to kill.
That story may never be fully under-
stood---though many played a minor
role, and may have a tale to tell. Even
young volunteers from the Caribbean
and elsewhere took sides as Coard
or Bishop supporters. Castro doubt-
less has a story; so do a few, now
elderly and retired, in Washington
As Karl Marx said, history repeats
itself, once as tragedy, and again as
farce. Tillman Thomas s National
Democratic Congress government,
elected with a clear majority in 2008,
brought in many former revolution-
aries as ministers. They were among
the most able Grenadians of their
Sadly, they fell again to quar-
relling. In February s election this
year, the remains of Thomas
NDC lost all its seats, though it
held on to 41 per cent of the
Keith Mitchell, who spent the
Bishop years teaching maths at
Washington s Howard University, is
again prime minister, back in a post
he held for the 13 years after 1995.
His tame New National Party holds
all the parliamentary seats. Inter-
viewed in Paddington s film, he
speaks fondly of Sir Eric Gairy.
Grenada seems destined for one-
Grenada marked the end of ide-
ology in Caribbean politics. In the
1970s, Jamaica was riven by a "left-
right" divide, Manley s democratic
socialists against Seaga s pro-busi-
ness Labour Party. That bitter split
was mirrored in many other islands.
Today, the dominant ideology
is Whataboutery. As in: "You say
we stole a couple million from
the highway. Whatabout the cash
you thiefed from the port?"
Nobody wants a return to dog-
matism or bloodshed. But it
would be nice if, just sometimes,
political debate was about the big
ideas. Or even the small ones.
He might have been the first
Indian I ve met who was
out for duck at the mention of
the world s greatest batsman. I
could tell that the cashier at the
Dunkin Donuts next door to my
office building always wanted to
talk to me and he finally did.
With little success.
"Where you from, bhai?" he
asked as he handed me the
"West Indies," I replied.
He turned to the Indian
woman preparing my latte.
"West India, he say."
"No, no. West Indies. Do you
know Brian Lara?" I did my best
imitation or swinging a cricket
bat having never actually swung
a cricket bat.
Facepalm. Maybe it was the
way I held my imaginary bat.
It was the woman who liked
to give me sweet eye as she pre-
pared my latte, she knew. "Brian
Lara, cricket," and then, smooth-
ly carving her "w" into a "v,"
she said, "Oh, you from Vest
Indians take a while to warm
up to me. I don t know why.
The Dunkin Donuts staff, the
dollar store owner with the PhD,
the man in the convenience
store with the fuzzy ears... I m
not fond of Dunkin Donuts but
it s the only chain coffee brand
in the city just north of Boston
where I work. I pass it every day
twice a day as I traverse Pleasant
Street walking from and to the
Pleasant Street is, indeed, a
pleasant street. It s the only
pleasant street in this small city
that has endured seismic demo-
graphic changes: from the Pen-
nacook to the Puritans, Irish
fleeing the potato famine to Jews
fleeing the Holocaust, Viet-
namese escaping wars to
Haitians escaping quakes.
It s one of the most diverse
cities in America. It was once
called "one of the best places to
live." Its high school is often
studied as a model of immigrant
integration. I don t know how
much of this integration was
deliberate; I feel it just sort of
happened that way.
I get that feeling from Pleasant
Street. Quaint buildings with
old-world signs are lined with
totally renovated sidewalks with
trees, a stately clock and pretty
lampposts from which fly flags
at Fourth of July and lighted
wreaths at "holiday" time.
The short walk takes me
around the world and back.
There s the Middle Eastern gro-
cery that sells goat meat and the
Jamaican food truck that plays
reggae on evenings. There are
two optometrists, one an old,
severe-looking German man and
the other a young, gay Thai fella
who knows about T&T because
of Anya Ayoung-Chee.
I can buy my lunch from the
beautiful Ethiopian woman
whose authentic fare could just
as easily pass as Trini food: dhal,
rice, stewed beef and tomato
choka, just with different names.
There s the pizza place owned
by the smiley Moroccan guy,
Khalid, who pronounces it with
a long "e" sound rather than a
short "i." You can get two large
pizzas for $15 or a falafel accom-
panied by Arabic music and a
I get my hair cut by the Viet-
namese hairdresser, oddly named
Maria. She s a waif-like woman
with the finest bones. She con-
soles me about my stray greys
and complains that she never
gets to take a vacation. Her Eng-
lish is excellent but you can t
always tell. Last time, one cus-
tomer showed her pictures of his
"This is Julie, the youngest,"
"Oh wow, she s cute!" my
"And this is Jake, the trouble-
"Oh wow, he s cute!"
"And this is the oldest, Jessi-
"Oh wow, she s cute!"
When the daughter of Indian
immigrants won the Miss Amer-
ica pageant a few weeks ago
there was an explosion of hate-
filled responses. She was called
non-American, an Arab, a
Dunkin Donuts cashier, a terror-
ist, Miss Al Qaida. Nina Davuluri
handled it brilliantly given that
her platform was "celebrating
diversity through cultural com-
petency." Overcoming racism is
not just about seeing and know-
ing that there are other ethnici-
ties around you but through
engaging with others, learning
In discussing this with Trini
friends the talk fast turned to
one focused on us. Is T&T
mired in racism? Seems an easy
answer. But the divide in
responses was huge. According
to some, they ve worked, lived
and played with people of all
kinds throughout their lives. Or
they are of mixed-race, them-
selves, the fastest growing ethnic
It s strange, indeed. We ve
gone through Miss America s
processes towards cultural com-
petency of engaging with one
another and knowing about each
other s ethnicities, religions and
cultures. So what s our excuse?
The renovated Pleasant Street
casts a particular light on all
these diverse businesses with
their diverse business owners.
It s an inviting place conducive
for not only engaging with one
another but also building up
economies, relationships and the
community as a whole. The
structure is flat and open mak-
ing everyone seem equal.
If environment determines
culture, then the structures that
have been built up by politics,
economics and religion to insti-
tutionalise racism in T&T con-
tinue to hold it in place. If those
structures collapse and a new
one is built up, maybe other
things will disintegrate, too.
GRENADA: FROM MARX TO MITCHELL
PLEASANT STREET, USA
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