by His Excellency Ambassador Arley Gill, Ambassador to Caricom-Grenada, Chairman of the Grenada National Reparations Committee
It is with great honour and privilege that I join millions of people in Africa, in the African Diaspora, and others across the globe in commemorating and celebrating 24 January as World Day of African and Afro-descendant Culture.
Our ancestors are watching and are also celebrating as their children in the Motherland and their children in the Diaspora unite on this day to uplift and amplify the rich and vibrant culture of Africa, and the many ways in which African culture and the culture of people in the African Diaspora continue to thrive and flourish. Today is a reminder that from Ghana to Grenada, African culture is the thread that weaves us together as African people.
As Grenadians, we know quite well that even though African culture is being celebrated today — 24 January — that Africanism is an integral part of our daily lives. From our foods to our festivals; our music and storytelling — our culture is alive and well. Every time we eat Cou-Cou or dance to the beat of a drum, and remember or recite the childhood stories of Anansi, the Spider man — we are celebrating African culture.
Africanism is in our souls — it is what makes us who we are as a people. Our Grenadianism is because of our Africanism. It is a link that cannot be broken — despite efforts to separate and disconnect people in the Caribbean from our brothers and sisters on the African continent — it is our shared cultural heritage and traditions that bind us and bring us together.
Today, as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to change our way of life here in Grenada and across the world — it is our culture, it seems that still keeps us connected. And as we have seen over the past 2 years — when we have been forced to cancel carnival and many other cultural events — we were reminded that our carnival is not just an event — it lives and lingers in our souls and in our spirits. We can play mas wherever we are, and, with whatever we have at our disposal — it is what our ancestors were forced to do!
That — my brothers and sisters is the strength and power of African and Afro-descendent culture — it is encoded in our DNA. It is that same power that guided fueled and, inspired our ancestors to make music, and dance, and tell stories while toiling under the brutality and inhumanity of slavery. Our beautiful jab-jab, j’ouvert and, carnival festivities are testaments to our ancestors connecting and transferring the culture and traditions of Africa — their motherland to their lives in a new and unfamiliar place — Grenada or should I say Camerhogne.
From the Djembe drums of West Africa to the steel drums of Trinidad; from traditional face painting on the African continent to Jab-jabs painting their faces and bodies here in Grenada — we know that African and Afro-descendant culture is alive and well.
However, it is our work — each and every one of us to nurture and preserve these cultural traditions by becoming ambassadors of this rich cultural heritage; committing to passing on these cultural traditions to the next generation of culture workers — dancers, musicians, storytellers and others engage in the cultural industry, and publicly recognising our cultural heroes and heroines — the likes of Auntie Tek, Don Charles, James Clarkson, David Peck Edwards, Bubbler, African Teller, Natty Nuclear dread, Tangler, Winston Fleary, Peter Bain, Brother Resistance, Shadow, Singing Sandra, Bunny Wailer, Frederick “Toots” Maytals, Lee Scratch Perry, Robbie Shakespeare and many more unsung and uncelebrated cultural ambassadors who ensured that the cultural bond between Africa, Grenada and the Caribbean remained strong and vibrant over the years.
Finally, 24 January 24 – World Day of African and Afro-descendant Culture is a day that the entire world must celebrate the important contributions that Africans and Afro-descendants have made to World Culture and we must — as a humanity — recognise the need to protect and preserve this rich cultural heritage for future generation — here in Grenada and across the globe.
Congratulations on this important day, and let us do — each and every one of us — what we know must be done — to keep our rich African cultural heritage alive and well here in Grenada!