Letters & Opinion

An Independence Capsule on Leadership – Beckles Said it Best

By Little Black Girl

Sometimes the ink in my pen dries up and for some manufacturing glitchy reason, I could never fill it back in time with the same exact shade. Then alas, conveniently, I came across a new one, and it writes just the way I like it. Although I must confess, that it was Professor Beckles who jerked my writing chains once again, so here we go.

As part of the Independence celebrations, there is an Independence Lecture that I’m always eager to listen to. This time, for the 44th Anniversary of Fair Helen’s Independence, the brilliantly chosen speaker, if I do say so myself, was Sir Hilary Beckles, the Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies. To know me is to know that I am a sucker for summarized history classes and the metaphors used to penetrate my thirst-trap of a brain. So, you know this little black girl was seated an entire half-hour before the lecture begun so that I could consult with technology in the sternest of voices. There would be no acceptance of technical difficulties of any kind.

To give you a little perspective about Sir Beckles, he is a Bajan Historian and if you believe in horoscopes, then he’s a Leo. Most importantly, his field of expertise is entrenched in Afro-Caribbean History with a focus on the Economic and Social impacts of Colonialism and the Atlantic Slave Trade. He has therefore been a professor and teacher through his intellectual ability to take his listeners back to the vision of slave rebellions, women in the Slave Trade and the ever-glaring effects of colonialism on the current Afro-Caribbean narrative. A man who has held many positions but in the interest of saving ink, only a few of them will be referenced. He was the Leader of the Barbados Delegation at the 2001 World Conference Against Racism, the Director of ICC West Indies Cricket World Cup, Inc. from 2005 to 2007 and he is also the Chair, CARICOM Reparations Commission. Therefore, if you missed this lecture, Crapo smoked your pipe without you even noticing it.

Let us graze through Beckles delivery since I just want to give you a brief synopsis of the first three quarters of the lecture and then focus on the last quarter which really caught my attention. Beckles began the lecture with a historical overview of our ancestors in the Caribbean, their slow but sure journey to changing their status from slave to sort-of-free man. He zoomed-in on the Barbados/St. Lucian connection and comparison of both islands’ ability to manage their growth though their natural and scarce resources at the time. He made frequent references to Sir Arthur Lewis Economic Model, which is still sustainable today, whether in whole or in part across the globe and funny enough across colonial footprints.

His emphasis on Academia through formal education was glaring, especially as he highlighted the erroneous focus of our past leaders and how that oversight cost us some major Socio-Economic improvements and a reasonable position on the Caribbean Leaderboard. Notwithstanding, his offering came with the strong support of statistical references, I believe that it would be remiss of me if I didn’t recognize that as at today, in 2023, we have a plethora of Bachelors, Masters and PhDs on our small island, St. Lucia.

My issue though, is not the number of qualified persons in our pool, but the actual quantification of our collective abilities in output and economic status. It is painfully obvious that we are severely underperforming given our growing academic reserve. Therefore, the argument must now shift from the number of academic accolades to the interpretation of our academic ability through profitability assessments which will reveal our true performance through the vocal cords of our GDP. Especially, given the fact that our politicians love throwing our GDP rate in our faces.

We need that GDP to include a function of its results through our real education. As the professor continued to give Helen some insight into her biggest neglect of her human resources, he segued into a critical area that caught me with my mouth wide opened. He briefly spoke of our inflated masculinity and the inevitable speed with which the world and its social media construct is moving. Then he further caught me with his offering on the topic of Leadership. What I liked about the way he dropped the “L” word, was his impressive focus on leaders without the immediacy of visual sensationalism. I found that angle to be a brilliant, given that in today’s media frenzy environment, the prerequisites for leadership seem to be a flawless selfie and the insatiable need for attention.

Additionally, I believe that the scars caused by our colonial trauma, has given us, in this region especially, the disease of favoring our lighter “shabin” counterparts as our preferred representation when we are called to the global stage. We somehow feel that our tightly coiled hair and our flavoured accents make us less visible and too black for us to lead on. Afterall, look at the faces of a lot of our local advertisements and our obvious leaderboard of skin-shades etched in our faces like Harris Paints.

From light to dark, with dark being the least desirable. Don’t take offense, blame the psychological impact of colonialism, colourism, sexism, classism, racism and a few other ‘isms’ that shall remain unmentioned here. The good news in the lecture was the fact that he focused first on the non-superstardom of the West Indies Cricket captaincy of Darren Sammy during his stint. He reiterated that, notwithstanding that Sammy was not a superstar during that time, his ability to lead is what prompted he, Beckles, to strongly recommend Sammy to take on that mantle.

The rest of that example can go on for a few more lines but let me not forget to tell you that the team went from zero to a hundred real quick, like a rachet girl would say. Leadership is not about showmanship; it’s about a few specific qualities. In my opinion, (and yes opinions are like fingers, most of us have ten of them when we are born so let me at it), a true leader is honest, emotionally intelligent, accountable, a visionary and good communicator. I immediately thought to myself that in Helen’s forty-four (44) years, we have had bouts of good leadership but in this Independence year, we have a leader in our current Prime Minister. He may not look like a superstar, hell he may not even sound like one since his words sometimes take time to download, but he leads with honesty and transparency.

I often say to myself that if I was in his place, I wouldn’t answer so many stupid questions but then again, I also think to myself that that’s why I’m not Prime Minister. As with anyone or anything else, there are areas for improvement and growth, but I believe if we the people look closely, we will rally behind him and give him our support through our only true right, and that’s when we exercise our franchise through voting. Continuity and consistency bring about major changes in the right direction.

Whilst we’ve had continuous five-year recurring decimals, flu-like, failed economic attempts, we need to recognize that continuous work, succession planning, economic moves, honest conversations and un-learned negative behaviours will bring us closer to giving our youth hope within our island. Now hope has always been a motorboat, but I believe with this leader, the boat may actually be moving in the right direction. In closing, I was thoroughly satisfied with Beckles lecture and before you say it, yes with my pea brain, all I got from the lecture was that St. Lucians made the right choice at the last elections and that the CCJ is another move away from hanging on to our colonial poison-laced brew. That the Speaker is the boss at what he does, and that we all need to behave like grown men and women void of throwing tantrums every week.

I can’t resist the humorous anticipated outbursts of the naysayers; it is one of the reasons I write. Nevertheless, may we continue to make bold moves because if we don’t put all our governance feet down, positive, but much-needed changes won’t take place. Let me not forget that our historic female police commissioner better help to sort out our crime situation in a hurry. Please Lead Madam, lead!! She was not referenced in Beckles lecture, I just needed to digress. If I didn’t speak to the crime upsurge and the cry for her to do something, I would bite my own lip. Until another ink to pen episode, like the Rasta man says, “Next Rise”!!

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