BASSETERRE, St.Kitts (Friday 31st January 2020)- The Public Relations Officer of the Rastafari Nyabinghi Theocracy Order, Ras Iyah, told the audience gathered for the 85th anniversary of the 1935 Buckley’s Uprising this week that the organisation- which spearheads the annual commemoration ceremony-is not waiting on a governmental move to name the martyrs involved as National Heroes.
“Those who were killed and jailed, we recognize them today as national heroes. We ain’t waiting until no Independence Day celebration…,” he commented in part at the ceremony held at Buckley’s Estate on Tuesday 28th January 2020 under the theme ‘Buckley’s Uprising- St.Kitts birthplace of Caribbean Democracy.’
Ras Iayh is of the view that while the historical event has influenced not just St.Kitts-Nevis but in the wider section Caribbean and South America, “We realise that many emphasis has gone out and recognize this plight but we our people have not taken it in the initiative to give honour and respect due to 1935.”
That day, three community elders Sylvine Henry, Earl Clarke and Ras Zambo Heath (deceased), and well-known media and entertainment personality Maurice ‘EK’ Flanders were honoured with a plaque each for their contribution and supports towards the honouring of the Buckley’s Uprising event over the years.
First Vice President of the St.Kitts-Nevis Trades and Labour Union Larry Vaughan, during his presentation, commented that the Union heralds the singular event as significant turning point in the social and economic advancement of workers on this island and across the English-speaking Caribbean.
“The shouts of the people here at Buckley’s on Monday, January 28, 1935 have echoed across the years. We meet today as children and beneficiaries of the progress made by the men and women who were faced with economic and social ills that could not be ignored or tolerated one hundred years after the emancipation of their parents and grandparents from slavery in August, 1834. As children and grandchildren of freed men, the workers on Buckley’s and the surrounding estates in the 1930s understood that freed men were to enjoy living and working conditions that were free of oppression,” he remarked.
“Today, we are the inheritors of the victories won by individuals such as Joseph Samuel, John Allen and James Archibald who lost their lives on that fateful but pivotal day in 1935. Because of their sacrifices, the workers in Saint Kitts and Nevis today enjoy universal benefits such as union membership, holidays with pay, minimum wage provisions, sick leave and more. Because of this, the Saint Kitts and Nevis Trades and Labour Union believes that on this day, there is no more fitting place to be than at the site of the Buckley’s uprising – the birthplace of Caribbean Democracy,” Vaughan also stated.
Chairman of the Christian Council Canon Patrick Allister Rawlins invited members of the audience to reflect on the historical happenings of 1935.
“Let us walk down memory lane for a bit as am aware that many of our citizens are not familiar with the events which have brought us here today. In casual conversation with someone who like me went to school in Basseterre, I mentioned that I was speaking here today. The retort was I didn’t know that Buckley’s had riot.’ I have subsequently learnt that despite these commemorations many of our citizens are unaware of what took place in these parts on January 28 and 29, 1935.”
“After a hundred years of quote on quote ‘emancipation’-because I have some problem with that because I think emancipation is still coming; we’re not there yet- the workers were awaking to the fact that their lot was not much improved. They were hearing of the teachings of the Honourable Marcus Mosiah Garvey with respects to black pride and dignity. They were learning of the The Pan Africanist movement and the Black Star Line which had been created by Garvey and which existed from 1919-23. So they were at a period where they were becoming conscious, of the need for unity as black people and conscious of their dignity and their rights as human beings,” he said.
Rawlins continued: “So as the workers understood that they had rights and that their employers were not doing them any favors they decided to clamor for a just wage. Joseph Nathan’s Universal Benevolent Association made a demand for a 12 and a half % increase on their 1934 wages before they would start the 1935 crop that was due to start on this day January 28. We’re told that there was a Workers’ League with middle class leadership and they gave the impression of being principally preoccupied with political aspirations and not genuinely with working class grievances and aspirations. I don’t know if much has changed.”
In further sharing a history lesson, Rawlins further told: “The planters refused the demands and on January 28, the uprising commenced.
He referred to a book by the late Governor of St.Kitts-Nevis- Anguilla and historian Sir Probyn Innis, who talked about the movement of workers from cane field to cane field estates around the island in rounding up numbers for the march.
“The uprising continued up to Tuesday January 29 when it was in full force, and it was on that day when the three men were shot dead…Joseph Allen (a labourer), James Archibald (a labourer) and Joseph Samuel (Sugar Factory watchman),” he highlighted.
Rawlins pointed out that the labourers were at the forefront of the uprising and commented that the ten (10) individuals wounded were mostly likely labourers too.