Yes Mi Irieites,
It appears that October has been a landmark for many a revolutionary. First it was Hugh Mundell, then Thomas Sankara and now the Right Honorable Maurice Bishop, the second Prime Minister of the island of Grenada.
Bishop became Grenada’s Prime Minister after seizing power from his predecessor Eric Gairy in a coup, while Gairy was out of the country on business (March 1979).
In the course of his administration Bishop had formed several organisations: the People’s Revolutionary Government of Grenada (P.R.G.G), People’s Revolutionary Army (P.R.A), New Jewel Movement (N.J.M), just to name a few. This development was triggered while studying in the UK. And although he majored in the subjects of Law and Economics, it was during this period that he got heavily influenced into campaigning against racial discrimination in Britain as well as being proactive with the Black Power movement of the USA.
So in the eyes of the Grenadian Population, things were looking positive and bright for Bishop once he took charge, until he aligned himself with Cuba. This initiated an alliance where various projects were to be carried out that he thought would benefit the island. One of the projects involved was the construction of a new international airstrip that was to be located in the southern region of the island. This was a project that was once proposed by the British while the country was still colonised. However, it did not favour well with the US, who, as far as they were concerned, believed that it was a plan to be served as a landing strip to accommodate Russian military aircraft, etc.
As well as US opposition, Maurice was also getting a hard time with those within his own administration who thought that these projects and organisations were a waste of the taxpayer’s money. A proposal for joint leadership was refused by Bishop.
It was in the first week of October 1983, when things grinded to a halt. Bishop, was placed under house arrest by the Deputy Prime Minister, Bernard Coard. His incarceration didn’t last very long once the people got news as to what had happened. The protesting got to such a height that he was immediately released. But within two weeks of the protest, Bishop, as well as close family members and a part of his administration, were rounded up once again and taken into custody. They were all placed against a wall outside of where they were confined and got massacred by a firing squad later that day. Finally, an invasion by the US ultimately took place October 25th, stopping all Cuban participation on building the airport strip.
Maurice Bishop will rise up in history as the bravest leader the Caribbean has ever had in recent times. His stance in favour of working class rights, women rights, and education as well as his stance against racism, Apartheid and sex discrimination has already been noted by those of us who are conscious and concerned in the affairs of the diaspora.
Come to think of it these ideals are a carbon copy of Thomas Sankara’s blueprint policies to elevate all of Africa. Unfortunately, we are living in times where all great revolutionary thinkers get cut down in their prime by their peers, especially peers that are suppose to be working with you side by side, each day. The airport was built and was named Point Salines International Airport but was renamed in honour of the New Jewel Movement leader, “Maurice Bishop,” in 2009.
Here’s a an excerpt from a speech on fascism by Maurice Bishop:
“… the extremely undemocratic, repressive and corrupt nature of the puppet Regimes carefully trained and promoted from among local professionals and bureaucrats by Imperialism to maintain their presence on the backs of our people, is a very consistent Caribbean condition.”
And with only four months to go for Grenada’s 40th anniversary of Independence, here is Steel Pulse’s tribute to the “Real Spice” of Grenada.
Maurice Bishop, Ya Big!!
Incidentally, this is also the 30th anniversary since the Pulse embarked on our first Caribbean tour.
PS - a Happy Birthday to another icon and revolutionary: Peter Tosh!