Have you missed parts one, two and three on finding freedom in Barbados? Scoot along and click on the links to read them first. The rest won’t make sense otherwise (chances are it may not make sense even after you’ve read those but what can I say? ;-) )
When the change came, the island held its breath. What would happen the following day?
Would people turn up to work? Or would they leave?
Would it be business as usual? Or would anarchy arrive?
The sun spilled its sparkle across the water of the ocean. And in the morning, those who had been slaves…
…went back to work.
The abolition revolution had come – and already gone.
“One hundred years later,” Morris explains, “those families were worse off than when they’d been slaves.”
We continue our walk past the tombstones outside the church and on to the graveyard by the synagogue.
It’s an interesting thing, freedom. It sings with a breathless promise, and whispers a burden of pain.
It is one thing to achieve freedom in the headlines and the history books. It is another to find it in reality, to have freedom of thought, freedom of movement, freedom of hopes, dreams and aspirations. Or looking at it another way – to have options that extend beyond “do this” or lose your food, water and shelter.
With no money, no other experience and no other connections what else could freed slaves do but return to the plantations? Barbados, as you don’t need me to tell you, is an island. An island it’s expensive to leave.
So the mills turned and the white sugar continued to bleed from the profitable green cane. True freedom was not an overnight affair.
The drive back from Bridgetown to St James’ parish where the Bajan story began offers glimpses of the sea between the high walls of hotels and private villas and the weather-torn wood of the chattel houses that plantation workers used to fold up and transport between fields in the quest for work.
By the time we reach Holetown, the chattel houses look pink, perky and perfect, marking the gentrified shopping area that runs from The Club Resort & Spa on to the shiny new Limegrove shopping centre.
Today, Barbados holds the title as the third most developed country in the Western Hemisphere and ranks 4th on world literacy tables. It attracts a pretty jet-set crowd and exports include the songs of an unapologetic Rihanna.
Barbadian culture – or “Bajan if you want to sound cool” according to our driver – is a strong and colourful thing. It thrives on flying fish and cou-cou, world class cricket, Christian hymns and the soulful voice and sinful body (say the radio talkshows) of Rihanna.
The island has forged an entire identity, quite literally, from nothing. From a mix of Britain, Ireland, Ghana, Nigeria, Brazil, Holland, Guiana and Spain, this island’s success story has written its chapters through sweat and tears and a remarkable scarcity of blood.
“The other Caribbean islands say we’re arrogant,” adds Emerson. “But that’s only we’re because we’re so much better than them.” And with that he doubles over in deep-bellied laughter at his own good humour and fortune.
I’m still thinking about those words, freedom and fortune, as I walk back to my room.
As the door opens, the birds scramble away, sprinkling sugar across the floor. The sky is an empty, coral blue that hangs over water with slow patches that glitter into turquoise and grey.
I switch on my laptop, reach for my cable and let the uploading of photos begin. The modem blinks, I make notes on lined paper and think back on this room and its view of the world.
The truth is, I have seen it before. Nearly ten years ago, I looked out at these waves, heard the tweeting of these small birds and watched the sunset splay drama across the sky. Back when I worked as doctor and remembered my dream to make a living from words.
Back then, I picked up a notebook and I started to write.
In this same room, with this same view, I started again. And in that smallest of ways, I found my own freedom.
I stayed at The Club Barbados Resort & Spa (formerly the Almond Beach Club.)
Morris Greenidge offers several different types of fantastic walking tours around Barbados that focus on the history of the place – contact him at mgevents at usa.net
As usual, as ever, as always, I was free to write whatever I liked.