Thank You Paba, Thank You FRC

TOMORROW is Jounen Kwéyòl (Creole Day) and we all know what that means in terms of the food, creole outfits, ambience, reflections of our past way of life, the outdoor games some of us used to play as children but are no longer played by our children and grandchildren, etc., etc. Showcasing our past way of life has become so popular and endearing to the Saint Lucian people that even in the diaspora, Jounen Kwéyòl is celebrated.

Over the years, several individuals and entities have played more than a casual role in amplifying Saint Lucians awareness of their history and cultural heritage. There is, however, an entity and individual that stands head and shoulders above the rest in performing this particular task.

Monsignor Patrick Anthony, also Known as Paba, and the Folk Research Center (FRC), have gone above and beyond the call of duty in recognising the value in recording and instilling in Saint Lucians, the need for generational recognition of their cultural heritage.

We were indeed pleased when in August 2017 the FRC was renamed the Msgr. Patrick Anthony Folk Research Centre.

History tells us that Jounen Kwéyòl is the brainchild of Bannzil Kwéyòl, an organization devoted specifically to the study and promotion of French Creole languages. History is also crystal clear about the FRC’s role in the earlier stages of the observance of Jounen Kwéyòl, and the height to which Jounen Kwéyòl observance has reached, not just observance by Saint Lucians in the North, South East and West of Saint Lucia, but also everywhere a group of Saint Lucians can be found in any part of the world. Oh yes, the diaspora will be teeming with Jounen Kwéyòl activities this weekend.

The first observance of Jounen Kwéyòl in St. Lucia was in October 1983. The focus that year was on radio broadcasts, which was done in Kwéyòl. From the early days, the FRC has had the responsibility of organizing the festival (collaborating with the National Research & Development Foundation (NRDF) and Mouvman Kwéyòl Sent Lisi in getting Saint Lucians become aware of the strength and value of the Kwéyòl Language. Tasked with broadening Saint Lucians understanding and development of the Kwéyòl Language, and bringing out their mixed identities in dress, music, dance, cuisine and expressions, the FRC excelled.

In short, the FRC had to take on the task of educating Saint Lucians about their heritage. And what a job it has done over the years.

From a community celebration, the first of which was held in the community of Mon Repos in 1984, the Jounen Kweyol guidance provided by the FRC transformed the celebration to the point where communities were simultaneously observing the day, which, in one day, transformed the entire island into a non-violent acceptance of bumper to bumper traffic, mass crowd gatherings, seas of creative creole outfits made out of madras and African wear, mouth-watering dishes and delicacies made out of foods grown locally.

Jounen Kwéyòl attracted nationwide attention so quickly that something had to be done to prevent that brightly lit flame from extinguishing, and so Creole Heritage Month was born, opening to public scrutiny in 1995, showcasing activities that promote Creole culture at community and national levels.

And the FRC was right there, pushing the buttons and handling the levers to make it work. And work it did as today we continue to observe Creole Heritage Month which includes activities depicting the island’s rich traditions and heritage throughout the month.

And so, come tomorrow, the Zen and Alpha generations, particularly the latter, will find themselves journeying back in time to see how the Silent Generation (born between 1928 – 1945) and baby boomers (born between 1946 – 1964) used to live and the technologies that were in use during that time such as wood sawing, manufacturing of brooms, mats, fishpots, the making of farine, etc.

Thanks to the FRC and Mongisnor Patrick Anthony we can go out there tomorrow and enjoy, as much as we can: Green Figs and Saltfish (Fig Vèt èk Lamowi), Pigtail Bouillon (Bouyon Donbwé épi Latjé Kochon), Fish Broth (Bwaf Pwéson), Farine and Avocado (Fawin èk Zaboka), Roast Bakes (Bék Woti), Cornbread (Penmi), Cocoa Tea (Dité Kako), Bayleaf Tea (Dité Bwadenn), Golden Apple Juice (Ji Ponmsitè), Lime Juice (Ji Siton) and more.

To Paba and the FRC we say take a bow for overseeing, through the years, the growth of Jounen Kwéyòl to the point where it is now not only a significant source of appreciation for our cultural heritage but also a major tourist attraction. Without you we would all be the poorer, ignorant of the rich cultural history that makes us what we are. Vive St Lucie.

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