In ordinary times, these would have been a few days when we came together to showcase our culture and creativity to the world. It would have been a time for family and friends — from near and far — to get together; reconnecting and rekindling old ties. But this second week of August is not like any second week of August in our lifetime.
The world has changed. Our society is beginning to adapt to a yet-to-be-defined new normal. Amidst this raging global pandemic called Covid-19, nations have been forced to reorganise their societies; and individuals have been asked through discipline and consideration to change their behaviour.
It is in this context that the Government of Grenada, with the urging of the wider community, took the decision a few months ago to cancel this year’s carnival activities. In a society where it has become near impossible to gather for weddings and funerals, it was obvious that even larger gatherings, such as would have happened for Spicemas, were not on the cards. A government’s responsibility is the same as the responsibility of the head of all families – to first and foremost keep their loved ones safe.
Friends, having to forego this year’s carnival was not a conclusion we arrived at easily – although in the end, there was little option. We took time to deliberate on all the implications. We were always very conscious of the impact that the cancellation would have on other aspects of Grenadian life – the sheer joy and sense of community it brings; the explosion of creativity that comes with it, and the economic benefits to so many sectors. We explored all possibilities, especially for the sake of the artistes, vendors, the hoteliers, taxi drivers and all others who depend on this time of year to augment their earnings. But, in the end, we were cognizant of one simple fact: that there would be no economy to promote, and no culture to celebrate, in a nation that collapses under a pandemic. We feel the pain of so many who would suffer direct economic consequences, but we are comforted by the fact that to have done otherwise would have been to create a more difficult burden for all to bear. In the end, we called on everyone to make this sacrifice – and to resist any temptation for gatherings in large numbers, in these next few days.
Freedom has no meaning without responsibility. Dead people have no rights for which they can champion. If we continue with the discipline we have shown over the last few months, we will go a long way to beating this pandemic challenge — and be in a better position to be able to return in 2021 for a bigger and more revived carnival. I may be the Minister of Culture now – but first and foremost I am a son, and a father and a husband — and in this capacity, I want to make a heartfelt plea to everyone, to please, let’s all observe the protocols. We do not want to act in a way that will, in the end, cause a spike in Covid-19 cases, that weeks down the road could force another lockdown. To get back to that place would mean that the many sacrifices made by each one of you would come to nothing. Let us not see this cancellation as deprivation. Let us, instead, see it as preservation…of health, of safety, and of lives. Let us spare a thought for each other over the next few days, and remember our grandparents, our sick and shut-in relatives.
We thank all of you for your cooperation in staying off the streets to keep them safe. To keep us all safe. We thank all our stakeholders for your patience and understanding in these challenging times. The Ministry of Culture stands with you and will do everything we can to keep our culture alive, and to work with our partners to help rebound from this fall. We can only do it if we band together. For now, let us invoke our inherent “grenadianness” and obey the health and safety guidelines that will take us closer to realising Spicemas in 2021, and the many other festivals that are so much a part of who we are. Let the streets be empty for now — because this rhythm that rolls with the Grenadian way of life shall always beat in our hearts.
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