In honor of Emancipation Day Pont Casse Press has released a memoir by its co founder attorney, Gabriel J. Christian -Aboard the Commandante Pineres. The work which is available online at Amazon.com – https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/sitb/B01GS4OIUY?ref=sib_dp_aw_kd_udp
can be read across all e-book platforms, worldwide. The hard copy version will be in stores by mid August 2016.
In writing the book Christian confirms the absolute importance of Dominicans having knowledge of their history as a pathway to attaining the self confidence and national pride which are indispensable elements in the continuing struggle to liberate a people from mental slavery and the acceptance of subpar governance of their affairs. Without such a mental cleansing from the inferiority complex imposed by colonialism, slavery and misrule, it is the author’s view that Dominicans, indeed Caribbean people, will never unleash the creativity, and sense of industry by which to attain the fullest potential in all areas of arts and sciences.
This work is the first detailed insight by someone who was engaged in 1970s student activism, the black power movement, opposition to the notorious Dread Act and the brutal Dread War, the drive for Dominica’s independence, support for African liberation and Kalinago pride, the rise of Dominica’s vibrant creole culture, the opening to Cuba and the Cuban scholarship program, and the rise of the Diaspora’s role in the development process.
The work provides new insight into Jamaica’s Michael Manley daring efforts to build greater Caribbean unity, a more just society and a new international economic order; the audacious Cuban military intervention code named “Operation Black Carlota” which defeated South Africa’s invasion of Angola and inexorably led to the end of Apartheid; the May 29, 1979 Riot and the popular insurrection which followed; the little known role of Algie Maffie, the unheralded hero who disclosed the US Nazi Party and Klu Klux Klan led “Operation Red Dog” plot to invade Dominica; a candid evaluation of the rise and fall of the Grenada Revolution; and the continued efforts by progressives in the Diaspora to contribute to the development of Dominica and the wider Caribbean.
In the words of distinguished sociologist Dr Cecilia Green of Syracuse University who taught Christian at the Dominica Grammar School:
“This memoir by Gabe Christian has recreated a period of our history that might otherwise be lost to young Dominican and Caribbean people, and the memory of which many “retired” activists such as myself have somewhat shamefully suppressed. I am touched and refreshed by this poignant and unabashed evocation of the proud legacy of pan-Africanist and anti-colonial activism and solidarity movements of the 1970s and beyond. I may not share every nuance of Mr. Christian’s political positions, but I definitely see in him a fellow-traveler, and, as one of his former high school teachers, I remain alternately proud and in awe of the astonishingly wide-ranging and multilayered documentation of Dominican history and historic lives that has been undertaken by him and his distinguished colleague, Judge Irving André, under the aegis of their own, independent Pont Casse Press.
Two features of this memoir are particularly noteworthy. One is the historically unique and noteworthy perspective of a radicalized son of the emerging black professional middle class, founded on modest public service careers during the pre-independence period. Christian describes his neighborhood as “the middle class enclave of assorted civil servants such as nurses, policemen and teachers amongst whom we lived,” and a family headed by a patriarch steeped in the values and traditions of British colonial order and Christian discipline. Mr. Christian is disarmingly candid about his rejection of some of his father’s values and his embrace of others, and the pragmatic, but steadfastly anti-colonial political path enabled by this complex (but familiar) amalgam. The other feature of note is the palpable evocation of the near-forgotten, indomitable spirit of resistance and actual political accomplishments of the national liberation, civil rights, and independence struggles of the scattered children of the African Diaspora and other Third World peoples during the 1970s and 80s. Gabe Christian was there, in the midst of some of the most significant world-historic Caribbean (and Dominican) events, and we are indebted to him for reminding us, in a most timely fashion, of the emboldened awakening of our consciousness, the standing up for ourselves, the connections we forged in solidarity and common struggle with others, the sometimes horrific mistakes we made, and the lessons we learned … and should never forget. This is an important testimonial to the unfinished struggle for Caribbean nationhood and independence.”
Dr. Irving W. Andre in his introduction to Commandante Pineres reveals:
“Gabriel Christian’s Commandante Pineres takes us on an excursion into history when the Eastern Caribbean in general and Dominica in particular was bristling with political upheaval. Union militancy, Rastafarianism, an incipient socialist movement and political radicalism coalesced and found expression in publications, public meetings and political activism. The return of Rosie Douglas to Dominica in 1976, after being deported from Canada, and the proliferation of “study groups” in Roseau, Portsmouth and Grand Bay, leavened the bread of militancy that nourished Dominica’s intelligentsia within the decade. Among secondary school students, youthful leaders such as Christian and future Prime Minister Pierre Charles fought an ideological battle with their ideological rivals who nested in the Roseau-based Young Freedom Movement, whose political leader was the intrepid Dame Mary Eugenia Charles.
With this turbulent period when the ideological lines in Dominica were rigidly drawn, Gabriel Christian and a few members of Dominica’s radical intelligentsia embarked on a Cuban vessel, Commandante Pineres, in July 1978 to attend the Eleventh World Festival of Youth and Students the theme of which was Anti-Imperialism, Solidarity and Friendship. Christian captures the idealism of the historical moment when the Eastern Caribbean, specifically St. Lucia, Grenada and Dominica, were on the verge of a political upheaval which would significantly change the trajectory of the region’s history.
And yet this euphoria or idealism is seduced by the siren of authoritarianism from 1979 onwards. Christian writes about the Grenadian Revolution, or “Revo” as it was affectionately known, and the internal struggles that culminated in the massacre of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and dozens of Grenadians in the Red summer of 1983.
As one who was front and centre in the struggle for political change, Christian does not sugar coat the fundamental reason for the Grenadian debacle. He does not attribute it to the machinations of U.S. Imperialism or the Grenadian “bourgeoisie”, but on the personal shortcomings of those who knelt at the altar of socialist revolution in Grenada.
But Christian’s remarkably frank analysis does not end with the Grenadian revolution. He is brutally frank about the schisms and chasms that divided members of the political left in Dominica in the 1970s. Indeed, Christian has a refreshingly frank assessment about the political ideologues who battled for supremacy in Dominica… Christian has the advantage of being an active participant in the ongoing political activism of the period and paid a price for this involvement. Denied a scholarship largely on account of his radicalism, he subdued his ideological demons and moved to the United States in the early 1980s, for further study. Success in the U.S. however, did not extinguish the ideological fervor that drove him in the 1970s. In the over three decades that Christian has lived in America, he has played a seminal role in the founding of the Pont Casse Press which is devoted to publishing books about Dominica, urging Diaspora investment, resuscitated the Dominica Cadet Corps, and co-founded the Dominica Academy of Arts and Sciences which has made a sterling contribution to the development of Dominica…
Gabriel Christian’s Commandante Pineres, fills a lacuna in the history of Dominica and the Caribbean.”
Christian points out the benefits of consensus building, application of the scientific method, having a keen grasp of one’s’ history, duty to country over party, integrity, competence and transparency in governance – alongside strict adherence to due process of law principles – as essential to building a just and prosperous society. By such a relentless scholarly probing of Dominican/Caribbean history as pursued by Pont Casse Press, and by offering solutions to the development challenges of his region, Gabriel Christian’s Commandante Pineres makes a monumental contribution to our understanding of ourselves and points a beneficial path forward for our people. On Emancipation Day 2016 and always, may we be relentless in the process of liberating ourselves from mental slavery.
Gabriel J. Christian, Esq.