Balloon flagIf music is the rhythm of life, Windsor Park Stadium couldn’t have been more alive with pride than at Thursday’s National Youth Rally.

It harkened back to the visit of the Queen Elizabeth II. How long ago, I will not say, but I was probably no bigger than a toolulu. And soon, you too can roll the videotape. Indeed, you will hear the narrator report, “The youngsters had been looking forward to this day for months.” Amidst the drizzle and lush greenery of the Botanical Gardens, teachers distributed paper flags on wooden sticks. Unable to see above the taller students ahead of us, we waved our Union Jacks feverishly when we heard the crowd cheer. But our royal guest had not passed our way yet.

At some point, I realized my wet flag had completely torn off the stick. Then another louder cheer erupted from those around me. (So that’s how Zacchaeus must have felt because I still couldn’t see). Everybody started waving – so I waved what I had. Good thing nobody dared tell me, “Gimme dat. You cannot wave a stick, garcon!” I was so excited I’d probably chook him with it by accident!

Click here for amazing historical footage of that event See, Chief Minister E. O. LeBlanc from Vielle Case, Dr. Dorian Shillingford, Alwin Bully. Help me with whom else you might recognize. Dominica footage starts from minute 1:07 to 2:07 and then again from 3:06 to the end.

National Pride

I slipped out of this 2014 youth rally to attend to a patient at Urgent Care next door. When I heard a series of roars, I knew that meant another batch of incredibly excited students had just wowed the proud crowd. I dashed back in the brilliant sunshine as soon as I could. All kinds of innovative drills heightened that ‘what next’ air of expectancy. Cell phones, tablets, and cameras were making la fimay. Perfectly pressed uniforms, pounding chests and practiced precision were on full display. One school flashed a hand over heart salute followed by a modified princess wave. Each strove to outdo the others. Some shifted in slow march, others goose-stepped, a few flashed the reviewing stand curious German-style “Heil” salutes.

Then it was unto four more days of sewo with Creole in the Park. Coming hard on the heels of three nights of World Creole Music Festival sounds a bit much – especially taking all the build-up competitions and events into consideration. But hey, the vendors were not complaining. As they say in New Orleans, “Let the good time roll!” After all, no one is forced to attend all events.

However, culture is more than singing, dancing and jump-up. Putting educational material in the media is all well and good, but not enough. It is absolutely necessary to find ways of disciplining warm bodies to assemble themselves together at the grassroots level for joint action on agro/industrial development. The crowds won’t be the same, but this is no reason not to lead by example.

Likewise, Community Day of Service at present is something of an after-thought. As a developing country we cannot fete for seven days and do something constructive for only one. We can get more creative with the calendar. The wise ones of yesteryear have exhorted us to “Toil with hearts and hands and voices.” Observe carefully that the sequence of words requires us talk less and do more. We have serious work to do with regards to respect, cooperation and mobilizing the skills of with every single citizen in order to truly move forward and prosper as a nation.

Humble-brag

At the celebration of Fr. Kelvin Felix several months ago, I noticed he repeatedly referred to himself as “Your unworthy servant.” Profoundly spiritual, I thought. At least, it certainly had a better ring to it than other religious leaders who portray themselves supreme Lord and Master over their little flock. So what’s the point?

Well, not that I expect similar expressions from politicians, but frankly, an injection of humility is sorely need in this country. We do a disservice when we teach those who have not travelled that Dominica is the greatest place to live. Tone that down a bit. If truth be told, we appear a bit louder, cruder and more selfish than before – I dare say, more so than several other places in the world. (Somebody, please prove me wrong). The main reason? Many are so inflamed with politics dressed up as patriotism, they are premeditated and ready to chook fellow citizens. Please, it is quite unbecoming to spoil the unspoilt Nature Isle with underdevelopment, wrapped in negligence, topped up with arrogance.

Original Christian Brothers: Lemuel, (writer of music for the national anthem) Fire Officer Wendell and Heinkel Christian (Former Deputy Prime Minister)

Original Christian Brothers: Lemuel, (writer of music for the national anthem) Fire Officer Wendell and Heinkel Christian (Former Deputy Prime Minister)

This year we observe independence with an election round the corner. May the best candidate win. Celebrate statesmanship, and downplay partisanship. Easy to say, but hard to do. As leaders or supporters, we ought not to exalt our own self-importance during the our time on this platform. Every one of us, at some point, must ‘exit stage left.’ So let the record of serving others speak for itself. The balance has shifted way too far to how much can I grab or what have you done for me lately. We do recall it being said somewhere, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

Bold Future

We threw off the shackles of colonialism, but the mentality persists. We have come a long way, but what neo-colonial threats lurk in the shadows of our revelry? At the intricately organized rally, it dawned on me what great reservoir of hope we have in this blessed land. Kudos to our leadership, Dominican students have many more tools and opportunities for advanced studies than we had in my time. They have no choice but excel as we give proper guidance.

It’s our nation to develop. We have welcomed new tribes and tongues to our table. They bring a vibrant infusion of energy, gifts and talents. We native Dominicans must shake ourselves otherwise crapaud smoke our pipe. Meanwhile, if a stick is all you’ve got for now, wave it! And, as Fireman Wendell Christian liked to say, don’t forget to thank God for small mercies, bigger ones will come.

Happy Independence!

Click here for more information on Dr. Christian