Sylbourne Sydial on Developing our Political and Economic Clout
2007 marks the Bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade. As a result there has been great fanfare and celebrations with many claiming ownership of the freedom of the black man.
This is also a time when black people are confronted with some real truths and in contrast, some call this period “The Era of the Wilberfarce”.
There is the cry for ‘Apology’ and ‘Reparation’ which seems to be falling on deaf ears and it seems no one is taking the black community seriously. Have you ever wondered why? It takes no rocket scientist to highlight to us that the black community in 2007 has no clout, political or economical.
Forefathers from the Wind Rush
If we retrace our steps to the period when our forefathers came to England on the ‘Wind Rush’ they came as economic migrants with one intention in mind, and this was to make enough money and to return to the Caribbean. They gave themselves a period of 5-10 years to achieve their goals and ‘return to yard’ as the saying goes. As we have now realised that did not happen to the majority of the West Indians who came here with such plans, and as a result, they are still here or they have retired and emigrated back to the Caribbean or other sunny places.
When we look around us and we see, hear and talk about the plight of the Afro-Caribbean community in UK today, as a result we have to ask this question which is a very hard question and is controversial for which I know I may get some stick… “Did our forefathers fail?” “Did they fail us in not leaving a legacy for us to build on?”
The grave mistake made by those who came before us, was that while in their quest to make money, which was all good, they failed to build in order to sustain the future generations. The mentality was one of ‘get what we can and go back home’. In comparison to the Asian and the Jewish communities who came, and especially the Asians who came after us, they immediately started to ‘build’, building their synagogues, temples, community centres etc. They looked and saw down the road and realise that they are here to stay and realised that they had to build a legacy for their future offspring.
As is imminent and obvious to us now, we have to start correcting the imbalance in our community. According to an elderly Jamaican gentleman from South London who came in the 1950’s, with whom I had some frank discussions a few days ago, he said we are at the bottom of the heap and he does agree that his generation has failed the present generation of Afro-Caribbean and has charged us, the younger ones, to seize this opportunity in making it right and correcting the wrong. Until then, he emphasised that the Government or this country will not take us seriously.
We need to develop in the following areas which at present are lacking:
The black community must regain that same spirit that our forefathers adopted when they came to this country in the 1950s. They came as economic migrants they came to make money and they did. They worked together, fought together and supported each other and even kept warm together during that very cold and unwelcome period. They were resilient and even though there were failures they were a great success also.
We need to rekindle and develop the entrepreneurial spirit. We need to own our newspaper companies, own our banks, and own our community centres not just from charity handouts but also from our own pockets. We need to start owning our businesses in the UK. Putting it bluntly – we need to develop economic clout only and until then will we be taken serious.
Political clout is the next strand we need to have. I always marvel at those leaders, writers, politicians that despise rappers like, Kanye West, KRS One and Public Enemy whose favourite catchword was “fight the power”. They tend to have a problem with the outspoken black voice when that black voice has economic clout. I have no problem with black boys looking up to these rappers because I see another side of what they are looking up to. They are looking up to truth, they are looking up to black men who are telling it as it is and are not a sell out. These black men tell President Bush that he does not care for the black of New Orleans; these black voices spoke against discrimination racial or otherwise, to the powers that be – without worrying about their mortgage or lack of resources.
Of course there is the other side with the crime and violence which should not be condoned but amid all of that, what the black community needs is effective voices that will stand on the political platform with an economic backing from the community to support the black politician and the black position. That is what the Asians do, that is what the Jews do and I see no reason why we can’t do so.
Therefore the community should support black candidates for political office irrespective of which the three major parties and stand behind such individuals economically so they don’t worry about their mortgage and become a sell-out.
Until we develop those strands, our economic and political strands, (and in another article I will expound on the religious strand) we won’t be taken seriously. We can shout from now till thy kingdom come, seeking apologies and reparations it will simply fall on deaf ears until we develop a coherent strategy in building our economic, political foundation and influence at the same time while we continue to seek for reparation.
We do have a long way to go but we can plug the gap, which was left open by the shortsightedness of our forefathers, and continue the progress.
© April 2007
Sylbourne Sydial is Founder & Director of Facilitators for a Better Jamaica (FFBJ) a Think Tank and lobbying group that specialises in being an effective voice with a mandate to speak up for Jamaica and Jamaicans’ interest in the United Kingdom and internationally.