Independence: What does it mean to you?
At church one Independence week, the preacher asked, ‘“What does Independence mean to you?” Met by silence from the reticent congregation, he implored the young people to answer the question. One by one, some stood and spoke out what seemed to be regurgitated independence jargon learnt from their school celebrations: “Independence means freedom,” “coming together as one people,” “unity,” “being proud of our beautiful nation,” “getting together with family and friends.” And others spoke enthusiastically about how they celebrate.
Listening to this exchange made me reflect on how Independence had a different meaning to those born afterGrenada became independent compared to what it meant to the generations born before. Nonetheless, what everyone has in common is their strong sense of national pride.
My generation was one of the first born after Grenada achieved its Independence status. We never experienced living in a dependent state. We never knew what it was like to not be a country, to not even have a flag or a national anthem. We had no idea that a generation before us went to school and sang another country’s anthem.
The School Grade Independence Lesson of Yesteryear
Over 37 years on, I am a culturally sensitive, history-aware and extremely proud Grenadian. So how did I get here? Many influences in my life have had a part to play; from the stories told by my parents and grandparents to being exposed to traditional arts from childhood. If I could trace where it all started, however, I would go back to my school days. School instilled in my post-independence peers and me an excitement about being Grenadian. School gave me a strong base that motivated me to find out more. At school, we learnt about our country’s history and national symbols, natural resources and products.
This year we celebrate 46 years of being a nation and, in honour of our Independence day, February 7, here’s a list of seven activities we used to do at school that fostered our sense of national pride in the early post-independence years.
- Sang the national anthem and recited the pledge of allegiance every day.
- Sang songs about the virtues of Grenada.
- Practiced for and participated in the national Independence Day parade.
- Learned the significance of our coat of arms.
- Chorally recited the symbolisms found on Grenada’s flag.
- Had our independence treat, which in my school was a hot dog with a snow ice. (We used to be so excited about this!)
- Wore our house uniforms the day before independence; each house having one of Grenada’s national colours. This was typical of school houses back then.
How about you? Do you remember doing any of these activities at school?
The Modern Day School-Based Celebration
Curious as to how things had advanced since my school days, I recently visited my primary Alma Mater to see how they were celebrating this year; and what a grand celebratory schedule they had…
Their celebrations kicked off a week before with their Independence road relay, followed by a day for classroom decorating on the themes of Famous Grenadians, Famous places and Flora and Fauna of Grenada. Finally, on the day before Independence Day (our nationally recognised national colours day) school started with an Independence themed assembly, in which, as the very enthusiastic principal explained, they learned about all well-known Grenadians. Kids presented Prime Ministers and Governors General. There was an exhibition of local dishes, local spices, crafts from local raw materials and floral arrangements. And no Independence celebration would be complete these days without a big plate of Oil Down which the kids ate with gusto.
As I was there, my eyes truly feasted on the vibrancy of the colours emanating from the decorations all around the school, from the flags to the children’s clothing. The school was just abuzz with a passionate vibe of excitement felt from teachers and students alike. Oh, what a grand occasion it was and, judging from all the colourful outfits worn on the street by students from other schools, I know they were all celebrating in a similarly grand way. One school I passed had drummers lined up with Belè dancers (all kids) getting ready in the background. How I wished I could have stopped to witness the spectacle.
That Unceasing Sense of National Pride
It warmed my heart to see how great an affair the schools have made Independence as the years have gone on. A more elaborate celebratory schedule from what we had but what remains evident is the core value of instilling national pride. I really appreciate the introduction my generation had but judging from what I have seen this year, schools’ influence on our national pride will only get better and better.
As we celebrate 46 years, here’s to all that our nation’s schools, principals and teachers have done and continue to do in making us proud of our nation. Happy Independence to all!