Reminiscent of the recent presidential campaign, some sharply toned pro- and con-Barack Obama rhetoric has resurfaced 1,757 miles from the U.S., in the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda.
Riding the wave of pro-Obama enthusiasm, Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer recently announced his intention to rename Boggy Peak - the island nation’s highest point at 1,300 feet - to Mount Obama in honor of the American President-elect. Spencer revealed the name change in a congratulatory letter to Obama.
“Your election will not only transform America, it can transform the world. Your message of change will ignite hope and action in people of many countries who might still be passive in the face of inadequacies and injustice,” Spencer wrote.
The excitement generated by Obama’s win is still reverberating around the region. Newspapers like the Jamaica Gleaner and Trinidad and Tobago’s Newsday hailed his victory on their front pages. Throughout the week, Obama remained a topic of conversation and a source of pride.
The manager of the Avis Rent-A-Car just down the road from Princess Juliana International Airport in St. Maarten summed it all up with just two words to an African-American visitor. “We won,” he said, referring to the election victory.
“Nobody slept that night; we were all up here,” said William Pemberton, day manager of the Flamingo Beach Resort and Villas, noting many outbreaks of Obamamania in St. Maarten.
On the nearby island of Anguilla, residents were also embracing Obama and his message of change.
At the Blowing Point ferry departure area in Anguilla, van operator Nell Connor of Nell’s Taxi and Tour Service drove past a vehicle with an Obama ‘08 bumper sticker on its back window and said that on Election Night, “There were fireworks in Anguilla.”
“He is the President of the United States, but he’s the President of global view,” said Merlyn Rogers, marketing director for the Anguilla Tourist Board. “He’s ignited an interest in politics all over the world.”
In Antigua, public relations specialist Avonelle Pole of Pole Vault Communications recalled that Obama T-shirts, buttons and bumper stickers have long been common sights on the island.
“The Caribbean was gung-ho. It was like little America down here,” said Pole.
But “the whole naming of the mountain peak has been very controversial,” she admitted.
At home, Spencer’s move received approval from D. Gisele Isaac, the nation’s speaker of the House, Ambassador Anthony Liverpool and the nation’s Pensioners Association, as well as many Antiguans.
But Antigua Sun columnist Tim Payne summed up the feeling of a sizable number of Antiguans who were clearly not happy about the name change and the lack of community participation in the gesture.
“The elevation of Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States of America will change the thinking of probably the whole world, but to take the highest point in my country, the most obvious landmark and name it in honor of anyone or any situation that is not indigenous is tantamount to sacrilege. That is how strongly I feel about the matter,” Payne wrote.
Five days later, the Sun published a commentary by activist Frank Southwell, airing his argument in favor of Mount Obama. Southwell called the Obama election “the greatest achievement of a single black man in the history of mankind.”
“Nelson Mandela has never done ‘anything’ for Antigua, yet, in recognition of his inspirational sacrifice and triumph, the street north of the Christ the King High School was named in his honor. It is surprising that other than Nelson Mandela Drive, there is no other place in Antigua that bears a name of African origin. All the villages and streets 30 years ago bore the names of English royalty and slave owners,” wrote Southwell.
“It must be noted, however, that the renaming was not done primarily for the tourism improvement or pandering to President Obama,” said Southwell. “If tourism gets a boost or President Obama makes a special trip to see the mountain, then that would be the “icing on the cake,” but we should not lose the importance of recognizing Obama’s ascension to the presidency over secondary benefits.”
Stories of Trinidad
Readings from Trinidad Noir, a new collection of stories by writers Robert Antoni, Elizabeth Nunez, Lawrence Scott, Oonya Kempadoo, Ramabai Espinet, Shani Mootoo, Kevin Baldeosingh and others will be held Friday, November 21 at the Trinidad Consulate, 475 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan from 6 to 8 p.m. To R.S.V.P., send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 718-643-9193. The event is sponsored by the consulate and Akashic Books.
Locke-d up talent
“Master Works/Recent Works,” an exhibition of drawing and mixed media sculpture by brilliant Guyana-born artist Donald Locke is on display in Manhattan at the Skoto Gallery, 529 West 20th Street, on the fifth floor, through Saturday, November 22. Call 212-352 8058 or visit www.skotogallery.com for information.
This column is reprinted from the November 9 Sunday editions of The New York Daily News. If you have items suitable for this column please e-mail them to email@example.com.