March 23, 2006

Happy Birthday Walter Rodney (from xango music)

When I was growing up, the name Walter Rodney was never spoken out loud in my family. He was accused of many plots against the government—the most infamous was that he and some UWI students (read radicals) were going to poison the water in the Mona reservoir. Walter Rodney struck fear in our collective “brown” middle class hearts.

It wasn’t until I was in fifth form and preparing for my GCE “O” Levels that I began reading his banned book (with “fear and trembling”—I was going to hell for reading those kinds of books), How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, that I began to realize his importance, and it was years later that I would appreciate his value as catalyst for social change in the Caribbean. Long after his assassination in Guyana, as I read his essays and transcripts of his speeches, I realized that Rodney was using a line of reasoning similar to CLR James in The Black Jacobins, who argued the economic and social challenges during the Haitian revolution (and by extension the Caribbean) are rooted in class distinctions masquerading as racism.

Rodney, in the words of another undervalued Caribbean scholar, Leonard “Tim” Hector, was “far and away the most significant intellectual and political personage of the post-independence history of the English-speaking Caribbean.” He belonged to that group of Caribbean intellectuals who began the process of the decolonization of the Caribbean psyche”—a process that still continues because the insights scholars such as Walter Rodney have not permeated the popular culture and consciousness of the Caribbean people. We still have a hard time seeing and appreciating our beauty, our genius, our intelligence, and figures like Rodney remain maverick and outlaw characters in our story. To put it another way, until we appreciate our value we will remain only producers of raw materials to be exported and remain forever underdeveloped (“Buy me cheap, sell me expensive”—Morriseau-Leroy) or “hewers of wood and drawers of water” (for the recovering Christian fundamentalists).

Walter Rodney helped to shape my political worldview, and his work along with others such as CLR James gave me an intellectual basis for the feeling that permeates Rastafari and Reggae: One Love. We are brothers and sisters.


Anonymous said...

What would you say to the idea of trading Miami sun for Montreal wind? How 'bout it?

Geoffrey, I stopped by to take you up on your birthday-livication-of-Jamaica Kincaid offer. I would absolutely love to contribute such a piece to your blog. I'll be in touch.

Geoffrey Philp said...

Dear Mar,
First, give thanks for offering to write the Jamaica Kincaid birthday-livication.These blogs are really bringing the community together.

However, on the matter of togetherness, I must decline the offer to swap. I've purposefully stayed here in Miami instead of venturing to colder climes.


FSJL said...

You were going to hell for reading Walter Rodney? What would the punishment be for reading Orlando Patterson?

Geoffrey Philp said...

Descent to the 9th circle

FSJL said...

In the immortal word of Patterson: rassclate!