Beating the odds, celebrating achievers Caribupdate Weekly, Editorial February 9, 2017

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As a people – as Grenadians, and also as people whose majority population can trace their roots to Africa, and intricately connected to the global community of Black citizens – we spend an inordinately amount of time complaining about our shortcomings and weaknesses, and not enough time highlighting our achievements.

People of African descent in the west – from Canada and the United States in the north, to Guyana in the south – were stripped of everything during 400 years of colonialism and slavery. And, less than 200 years after the end of chattel slavery and left empty-handed and penniless, Black folks have established an amazing track record of achievements. One of the most striking examples of this came to the fore with Serena Williams’s recent Grand Slam win at the Australian Open tennis championships; it was her 23rd major title – a modern-era record.

The victory cemented Serena’s reputation as the greatest tennis player ever. But more than that, Serena, her sister Venus and their father Richard Williams arguably are the most outstanding tennis family ever to walk the face of the earth.

Think about it. Richard Williams was born in Louisiana, where he was a sharecropper. He raised Venus and Serena in the depressed neighborhood of Compton, California, and taught them to play tennis;

Williams Sisters and Father Richard

taught them to serve big and hit hard on every shot from anywhere on the court. The Williams sisters overcame poverty to become millionaires and not only have they dominated female tennis, but virtually have re-invented it.

But more immediately at home here in Grenada, we have just celebrated outstanding achievers at the sports awards of the Grenada Olympic Committee (GOC) and at the Independence Day event at the National Stadium. We can pluck from any of the awardees, an incredible story of overcoming the odds to succeed in life.

Take, for example, Brother George Wilson, who received an Olympic Committee lifetime award. Most students today begin secondary school life before they are 12 years old. Not George Wilson. He left primary school at 16 and had begun working, until St John’s Christian Secondary School (SJCSS) opened in January 1965.

Former Principal of St. John’s Christian Secondary School

SJCSS founder, the late Reverend Melvin Schaper, offered Mr Wilson a change to return to school. Wilson accepted the opportunity, passed his GCE subjects and went on to university studies in the United States. George Wilson returned to Grenada and, as principal of St John’s Christian Secondary, put his heart and soul into developing the school’s academic and sports programs. As the Olympic Committee puts it, Mr Wilson took “personal responsibility in recruiting, training and coaching his school’s boys’ and girls’ teams’’.

Caribupdate Weekly congratulates all the sports nominees and the eventual winners of the GOC’s top awards, including the Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year in both senior and junior categories. It was a well-run event, with pointed remarks to the athletes from keynote speaker Edward Frederick; although, in our view, some aspects of his speech could easily have been interpreted as too much free advertising for Spice Isle Beach Resort and slightly veering into word-throwing.

We also take this opportunity to reiterate our suggestion to the Olympic Committee to consider revising the annual awards, dividing them into two categories: one for Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year (international competitors); and another for athletes who compete only locally and regionally.

The four Independence Day awardees were medical surgeon Dr Kester Dragon; former government minister in Sir Eric Gairy’s Grenada United Labour Party government, Nadia Benjamin; the late Paul Slinger, a former senator who served as tourism minister; and Johnson Beharry, a decorated Grenadian-UK soldier of the war in Iraq that toppled President Saddam Hussein.

Coincidentally, Beharry was among thousands who became tangled in the US immigration clampdown that followed the signing of the executive order by President Donald Trump. Beharry, who has an Iraqi stamp in his passport, was attempting to visit the United States for a charity event, when he was delayed for three hours at JFK Airport in New York.

“I felt humiliated,’’ Beharry said in commenting about his experience at the New York airport. “Maybe I am a bit Asian-looking; but that doesn’t mean I should be treated with the same suspicion as a terrorist,’’ Beharry complained. “I explained that I had been in Iraq fighting for the British army but they didn’t seem to care.’’

As far as the commemoration of independence is concerned, we have one major wish at this time. We urge, that between now and our 44th anniversary of independence in 2018, that some urgent attention be given to cleaning, repairing and sprucing up the tomb of Sir Eric, our first Prime Minister who died in 1997 at age 75.

At the moment, Sir Eric’s burial place is unattended and in an untidy and dilapidated condition. The Father of Grenada’s independence deserves much, much better than that.

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