Thirty-six years haven’t seemed to erase or dull the misrepresentations, falsehoods, ignorance, disparagements and, I might even add, a kind of grudge that have been perpetrated and perpetuated by some people against one of our finest heroes ‒ Walter Rodney. Babies born on the day of his assassination are now grown-up youngsters and are repeating and peddling the poppycock and hogwash fed to them. David Hinds’s letter in the Stabroek News edition of June 13 captioned ‘Rodney still represents light in the midst of darkness’, was like sort of gentle breeze, wonderfully refreshing and reassuring, and in some ways rekindled a sense of hope.
Definitely all is not lost. I felt the joy and pride as he spoke about the acclaimed scholar-activist Angela Davis’s memorable address at the recent annual Conference of Caribbean Studies Association held in Haiti: “When she got to the point of her address that discussed underdevelopment, she asked the audience who she was thinking about and hundreds of voices responded in unison – ‘Walter Rodney’, followed by a generous round of applause”. Oh he certainly took me back a long way to the turbulent radical Black-power period when the big Afro sister was on the move. Which Guyanese present there as David was would not have felt the way he did: “I felt a rush of pride as a Guyanese, as a comrade and a descendant of Rodney and the Caribbean…” After witnessing the esteem in which he is held, the respectful and open encomiums that are constantly lavished on him by scholars from all parts of the world 36 years after his demise, tell me who wouldn’t? And I do understand the point that David followed on with: “Guyanese of the post-1980 generation do not get to experience moments like those when their country is lifted to the mountain-top by the mere mention of his name”. What a pity and how unfortunate ‒ Oh, by the way, isn’t there a video recording?
I think that if only some of the young adults could have had the experience of seeing and hearing the brother being talked about by others – both ordinary, everyday working-class folk and intellectuals from other countries, what a difference it could have probably made, and could have helped to debunk the foolish backwardness. The brother in that letter was right about so many things; we are prone to blinding our eyes to the truth and hypocrisy, and are even getting better at this. Even the daily papers where you try to express your sincere and objective opinions are dealing you short; chipping your thoughts to pieces, denying you, conspiring in piling on the frustration. There is no denying that our heaviest shackle, our highest hurdle and flourishing hypocrisy is race and our politicians can play this game well.
But David reminded us of two things that Rodney wasn’t tired of saying and which annoyed some of his detractors. One of them is “… the value of asking questions of power even when the face of that power looks like ours”. This is definitely a thorny matter today, seldom seen in good light. And here I need mention not so long ago David Hinds made a criticism of the coalition and one of them responded to him “reminding” him that it is because of the coalition that he now enjoys the latitude to criticise them. This is the style of behaviour – the ‘granting of freedom’ that we have to keep an eye out for. Remember what goes around comes around. The other: “That the educated sons and daughters of the poor must serve the poor in word and deed”. Well this is like looking for a needle in a haystack, for we all know that the educated/intellectual class serves none other than itself. Finally I have to agree with the brother in saying: “The revolution which Rodney started and for which he was murdered by the hand of the state is still incomplete”. Indeed, just the mention of the name Walter Rodney is a legacy of hope, an inspiration, and he will remain a shining and guiding light in our darkness.