Memories of My First November First
Antigua and Barbuda celebrated its 31st anniversary of independence on Thursday, November 1st. As an Antiguan national recently transplanted to St. Lucia, I indulged in a proud display of nationalism. Photos of what I consider to be the most beautiful flag in the world adorned my facebook page, and I tweeted YouTube links to the patriotic son-of-the-soil calypso renditions of yesteryear.
In 1981, I was six years old — old enough to appreciate that something of great significance was occurring. I remember standing uniformed in the dusty schoolyard of the local Maria Montessori school singing our national anthem, ‘Fair Antigua and Barbuda’, and waving mini flags as a tribute to our newly independent nation. Later, there would be impressive fireworks and copious celebratory rum-drinking.
Has Our Nation Gone Astray?
Perusing cyberspace from abroad, I noted this year that along with the swelling comments of pride were the usual copious helpings of negative feedback about our progress as a nation. Some cried foul about allegations of corruption, others criticized the state of the national debt, inability to reliably generate enough electricity and still others denounced perceived failures in education. At 31, we are still but a fledgling nation, and like many young adults we have had our share of blunders. I suspect that most of our errors have been of the character-building variety, with fewer tending toward the reputation-obliterating.
Nation Building is Everyone’s Business
By gaining independence, Antigua and Barbuda shed the heavy burden of colonialism. Our nation-building forefathers took risky leaps of faith; they looked beyond their own shortcomings and personal inadequacies to heavily invest in a dream yet unfulfilled. We are that dream. We are here because of those who have gone before us, clearing the path we speed on today. We enjoy the fruit of struggles long past.
Our forebears fought for the right to shape their own destiny. They made the changes that helped to shape our present, but our nation’s future depends upon our own actions. Breaking the yoke of colonialism meant accepting the heavy burden of personal responsibility. Our forefathers, nation-builders believed in us. They entrusted the future to us. That future will not be bright unless we, like them, turn disappointment into activism and criticism into commitment.
I believe Antigua and Barbuda will move on, continue to grow and be strong, because I believe that its people will continue to grow and be strong. And here is the challenge for us all: instead of continually pointing out the shortcomings of the land we love and *smh* ‘shaking my head’, why not consider the bolder alternative of suggesting solutions and *rmh* ‘raising my hand’ to take responsibility for making difference? I believe a personal pledge is what King Short Shirt had in mind when he sang his first tribute to our independence so many years ago:
We pledge to be good citizens from now on
Casting away victimization
Corruption will cease
Throughout the whole nation
Our country then will be
Not just a society
But a just society
Let this be our pledge
~King Short Shirt, Our Pledge
Happy birthday, Antigua and Barbuda.