Never has the government of Grenada named March 13 as a significant and memorable day and public holiday. The events that took place on that day, 39 years ago in 1979 are still not part of the educational curriculum, much less mainstream political debates and discussions on the island. Therefore, the current Prime Minister’s decision to name March 13, 2018 as the next general election date leaves one questioning his intent.
There is currently an emptiness, a historical and collective memory void around March 13. It’s not named as a day of significance unlike October 25, the day our island was invaded by US troops and oddly celebrated as Thanksgiving Day.
Considering that March 13 was never deemed significant enough to be named yet the actions that took place on March 13, 1979 reverberate across the Caribbean region and global progressive world. What memories are the Prime Minister and his government trying to erase or replace that void with?
Former Prime Minister Ben Jones of The National Party (TNP) declared March 13, 1990 as the date for the general elections that year. That electoral process saw the National Democratic Congress claiming victory when it won 7 of the 15 seats with a voter turnout of 68.4%.
I hope that our current Prime Minister is not reducing the significance of selecting March 13, 2018 as a way to “get back” at that devastating loss for The National Party.
This exercise of attaching the general elections to the Revolution anniversary without ever formally naming it as such reeks of a historical revisionist project where the historical record of what happened on that day is being reinterpreted to fit another agenda.
If the government in power had policies, programs and even a political ideological stance that reflected the progressive goals of the New Jewel Movement and People’s Revolutionary Government, then this move would not have been so odd. However, the current government continues to prove that profit, privatisation and political maneuvering outweigh the need for accessible, affordable and high-quality education, healthcare, food, land and housing.
One of my concerns is that the results of the 2018 general elections will erase and revise a significant part of Grenadian history that was never commemorated in the first place. A dangerous and irresponsible move by the government and one that seems to imply that the people’s best interests were not considered as the government has failed time and time again to even educate the people about that period of history.
How is it that as a child raised and schooled on the island until I was 18, I never formally learned of the revolution until I began my undergraduate studies at a university in Canada? The shame that I felt for not knowing was real and valid but I also felt such a betrayal by the education system that nurtured my learning for all of those years. How could students in Jamaica be learning about significant parts of my history when I was not?
Attempts by Grenadians such as Dr. Nicole Phillip-Dowe of the University of the West Indies, Open Campus – Grenada to lobby the Ministry of Education to review the curriculum and include books and articles on the Grenada Revolution continue to fall on deaf ears. Young and older Grenadians are writing and engaging in numerous creative works that tell complex, different and memorable stories of those Revolutionary years and their ongoing impact; yet our own government and leaders refuse to acknowledge those works and their significance.
This political exercise feels to be part of a historical revisionist project that sells this idea that Grenadians never engaged in collective liberation work. Despite one’s views about the Revolution, it is our duty to tell our own stories, to hold the pen that illustrates our contributions to global liberation struggles.
It is irresponsible that the only time the government chooses to put March 13 in any spotlight is when a general election that has become more of a pappyshow and about fetes is taking place and less about a transparent democratic process of the citizenry exercising their civil and political rights.
March 13 is not about which political party wins victorious. March 13 belongs to the people, to the historical and collective memory of the Grenadian populace. It belongs to those who risked their lives for freedom and liberation. That day and others such as November 18 (Bloody Sunday) and January 21 (Bloody Monday) which should be integrated into the teaching of Grenada’s road towards independence.
Indeed, days such as October 25 should be a public holiday but that day should also be renamed to remember Grenadian revolutionaries and our allies who we lost on that day. March 13 should first be named as the liberatory and revolutionary day that it is.
Perhaps this is an opportune time for the Grenadian people to take to the polls and remind the political parties vying for leadership that unless your political platform addresses the material, political, social and cultural needs and sovereignty of the working class and marginalised in our communities, then you can head back to the drawing board.
Onward to March 13.