IN October 2013, 30 years after the Revolution’s Leader Prime Minister Maurice Bishop was killed and the Revolution committed suicide, I wrote an article in my column Chronicles of a Chronic Caribbean Chronicler in Caribbean News Now and The Voice of Saint Lucia, I called on the then US Ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean to release Bishop’s body.
Three decades after the US invasion, not many people knew Maurice’s body was in US custody, the planted narrative being that his and other bodies had been burned and buried within Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique.
But Maurice’s family and others hadn’t forgotten that the Americans had unearthed the bodies and taken them away to the USA.
For over two decades, Maurice’s mother, Mrs Alimentha Bishop, made annual headlines calling on the US to release her son’s body so the family could afford him ‘a decent Christian burial.’
But for as many years her appeals and cries only became annual one-day headlines buried in the hundreds that make the news worldwide daily in the mainstream media.
The US Embassy did not directly respond to my article, but, questioned about it by Barbadian reporters, a top official there didn’t deny the US had Maurice’s body, only saying that ‘Grenada’ had not asked for it – meaning the Government of Grenada.
Maurice’s mother died without giving her son that ‘decent Christian burial’ – and the idea seemed to have died with her – until now.
From October 1983, Grenadians have been asking: ‘Where’s our leader’s body?’
Bishop’s body — and those of others who also died by his side on that dreadful day – were all dug-up and seized by the American troops during the island’s occupation and have remained on ice in the USA in all of the 37 years since.
Now we know where they are, the return is in the interest of the families, first and foremost, but also of all who supported the Revolution before its implosion, because they too made the ultimate sacrifice of dying in the fight for a free and better Grenada before that war was won.
Demanding the return of the bodies of Maurice and the others is an entirely separate issue from how they died, because how anyone dies has nothing to do with where their remains should be held or whether they should be buried.
The Americans did not – and still have not — explained why they have held the bodies for so long.
But one sure answer came 28 years later in 2011, after US troops invaded Pakistani airspace to assassinate Osama Bin Laden and (claimed to have) dumped his body into the deep blue sea, to ensure that ‘no shrine or monument’ is erected in his memory.
Mrs Bishop died in August 2013, 30 years after her son’s body was unearthed and taken to the USA by the American troops, without him getting a funeral with a gravestone – and without a shrine or memorial in his honor and those who died with him on the day the Revolution died.
But there is even more recent reason to understand why the Americans ignored a Caribbean mother’s plea to be allowed to give her son ‘a decent burial’: The COVID crisis, during which victims in the USA, including many Caribbean people, were dumped in unknown mass graves, without funerals or gravestones.
Caribbean people who’d lived their lives in the USA and the UK — when the virus started to overwhelm hospitals and elderly homes, ice rinks were being closed-down to make way for COVID corpses and when it became clear that Black people were easier prey for the Corona Corbeau – started pressuring their embassies to arrange for them to ‘Go back home’, simply because ‘I prefer to die at home’.
But that was not all.
Caribbean relatives of dead COVID victims in America found out that the people who run American governments don’t care as much as us about being buried with a grave and a gravestone – not even if your name was Maurice Bishop.
Well, Caribbean people, no matter where, do hold sacred our right to bury our dead, no matter how they died, or where.
We borrow heavily to pay to bring bodies back home for burial because a funeral and a gravestone are important elements of our spiritual being, no matter what religion or political persuasion.
I am proud to have planted one of the seeds seven years ago in that editorial responded to by the top official at the US Embassy in Barbados.
I’m also glad to associate with a loud call out of London last weekend (on October 25) by friends of Grenada in the UK, for the Government of Grenada to demand the return of the bodies of bishop and all others still in their custody, to their respective families, for that ‘decent burial’ Mrs Bishop prayed in vain for, every day for 30 years, yet still dying without seeing.
It’s the least owed to Mrs Bishop, the scores not accounted for and the hundreds injured without acknowledgement or compensation during that bleak October week, among them scores of Cubans killed by US aircraft raids on construction workers at the Pointe Salines airport, to whom a fitting memorial was erected on October 25th, the anniversary of the US invasion.
Barbados erected a similarly fitting monument to the Cuban, Guyanese, Barbadian and North Korean victims of the first terrorist bombing in the Caribbean in 1976, when a Cubana Airlines jet was bombed in Barbados by American-backed anti-Cuba exiles.
Bishop and those who died on October 19, 1983 and the many others killed during the days of fighting that followed the US invasion are all, 37 years later, as equally deserving as ever of not only funerals with tombs and gravestones, but also of a memorial befitting of their ultimate sacrifices.
And now for that long outstanding memorial for the Grenadians who also died in October 1983…