The Centre for Hybrid Studies (CHyS) in collaboration with the St Peter Parish
Independence Committee and Parish Organizing Committee successfully staged its
inaugural Speightstown freedom event in 2021. The walk, art exhibition and
performances linked Speightstown in Barbados with Accra and Cape Coast in Ghana for
joint Emancipation Day commemorations on August 1. The theme highlighted the shared
history of Barbados and Ghana and drew inspiration from historic African plots and
rebellions that sought to forge a society free from enslavement.
During the period of the Trans-Atlantic trade in Africans who were enslaved under the
barbaric chattel slavery system, Barbados acquired the dubious honour of exporting to
the Americas the system that became the hallmark of southern United States – white
supremacy and endemic racism. The colonizers of the Carolinas and the exporters of that
terrible system sailed out of Speightstown.
Speightstown has a duty to address that ignominious chapter and become an exporter of
justice and freedom. It is interesting that one who represented Speightstown in the
Parliament of Barbados for 34 years, the Rt. Hon. Owen S. Arthur, was foremost in the
struggle of Barbados and other small-island states of this hemisphere against unjust
impositions by the OECD. It was he who stood up to former US President Bill Clinton.
Barbados’ position at the time was referred to as “a confrontation and a war of words
between a superpower and the tiny eastern Caribbean island.” Prime Minister Arthur
said, inter alia, “…massa day done.”
Our struggle has been global. It was against this background – the ongoing struggle for
freedom and self-determination – that current MP Colin Jordan conceptualised the lecture
“From Cuffee to Owen” which was delivered in Speightstown by Professor Sir Hilary
Beckles in February 2020.
The important history of African plots and rebellions was reinforced when, just prior to
the 2021 Emancipation Day event, the Speightstown Committee launched and
highlighted Sir Hilary Beckles’ book entitled “Barbados Cuffee’s Kingdom.” While
elaborating on Cuffee’s fight for the first black new world freedom plan that was centred
in Speightstown, Sir Hilary emphasized that it was Prime Minister Mottley who prodded
him to write the book.
The Prime Minister was also the driving force behind the UNCTAD Spirit of Speightstown
declaration which she announced in November 2021. In addressing the crisis of the
global common good, the Speightstown declaration states that
As a consequence of the combined effects of the pandemic and climate change,
we confront today a crisis of the global common good. This impinges on every
aspect of human life: health, education, housing, safe and nutritious food, clean
water and decent work, not to mention the resilience of our institutions. It
jeopardizes the right and hope of every human being to enjoy a life of dignity in
security and freedom.
It goes on to challenge us to
work across the boundaries of faith, culture and nationality to arrive at a shared
moral vision for our interconnected world; a vision grounded in universal respect
for human rights, and particularly the eradication of structural racism, structural
discrimination against women and all elements of unconscious bias.
Emerging from the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic, there is a need to stimulate
economic activity in Barbados generally and in Speightstown itself. This will be done by
attracting international visitors with a passion for promoting human rights while looking
for new experiences. This supports the Ministry of Tourism’s drive to attract well-
travelled and informed tourists who have developed a deep appreciation for cultural
diversity and now actively seek out history, heritage, education, and entertainment.
The platform is therefore set and the timing ripe to take up the challenge of UNCTAD
with the launch of the Speightstown Global Freedom Festival (SGFF). The world will
be invited to Speightstown to experience the excitement and inspiration of sharing,
learning, and visioning a future of wealth, prosperity and peace built on a foundation of
freedom. With the authority of its heritage of freedom-fighting, Speightstown will serve
the centre to commemorate its heritage of freedom and equality while confronting the
coming challenges to these global human rights ideals.
The festival will be an explosion of culture, history, and philosophy that includes
everything from art exhibitions, music, poetry, and parades to discussions and academic
seminars. The focus will be the idea of freedom in support of the Government of
Barbados’ Season of Emancipation (SOE) which commences on April 14 and culminates
on August 23. It is a period of national commemorations to mark historic dates of battles
fought and won for freedom. The Speightstown Global Freedom Festival will therefore be
launched on April 14 in recognition of the Bussa rebellion. Festival activities will continue
every month in the lead-up to the major event on Emancipation Day. Awards and
recognition activities will close the festival on August 23 to commemorate UNESCO’s
International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition.