By Yao Atunwa
In light of Kirani’s plight to stave off his competitors in the 400m, and the commotion surrounding words being exchanged by members of the public, it behooves me to put this ongoing quarrel, not simply over Kirani, but over town and country, the capital and Gouyave, in its proper context. The shame and the hurt being swirled around over the many generations by Grenadians from those two principal locals can only come to a grinding halt with a re-visitation of the past, an investigation into the historical context that gave life to the infighting.
With that said, Grenada itself was the prize for whomever became the victor between the colonial powers of the French and British. The French lost Grenada to the British in the 18th Century. The French strongholds on the island were mainly the principal agricultural parishes, big parish, St. Andrew and neighboring St. John with their port capitals, La Bay/Grenville and Gouyave. Gouyave in particular was more loyal to the French decentralized and more relational approach to governance over British centralized and more absentee approach. The French and the British were fierce rivals, and perhaps that was best manifested in their allegiance to the Catholic and opposing Anglican faiths (a split of the same church over the issue of politics, i.e., governance over followers and their respective lands). The contention of which played itself out in grand fashion on the little island we called home second to no other place in the Western Hemisphere.
The people of the town of Gouyave would experience a particularly tough time under British Rule for the reason of them being loyal to French settlers. During that period all things French, including family names and places were held suspect. In fact, a campaign to rename places, including Gouyave, was decreed by the British Empire. Gouyave for a brief period became Charlotte Town. Family names with French pronunciations and spelling were being converted into their Anglicized versions. Marryshow is a good example, from Marecheau. Gouyave was most defiant in remaining predominantly Catholic. Also, it blatantly rejected its British name, though re-christened in honor of a member of the royal family, to reclaim Gouyave. And to make matters worse, its people under the leadership of Julien Fedon led a revolt to liberate themselves, mainly Africans, from colonialism, which lasted several months before being quelled with serious British reinforcement. Those feats represented the anti-British establishment sentiment the residents of Gouyave brandished.
The newly minted capital under British Rule, St. George’s, was selected to off-set the well-entrenched stronghold of the French, namely Gouyave and Grenville, not just for the advertised well suited natural harbor of St. George’s. The chosen capital came to not only be the seat of power in the political or secular sense but also in a religious sense (not that the two are different in any meaningful way) with the Anglican Church becoming its parish church. It was at this juncture that this attitude to divide and conquer took root in the earliest of dynamics in ensuring that the British once and for all had a firm grip on this territory. This attitude for what it worth to outsiders would fester for many generations on the Grenadian soil, resulting in great tension between Gouyave and the nation’s capital. Its original intent obviously was to damper the pride and strength of those targeted areas, especially Gouyave for its defiance, in order to guarantee safe passage of British Rule.
I can argue that the nation on a whole has suffered as a result of this intentional work of mischief by the Brits to their obvious advantage. However, I think the case is already made, with the numerous talents shoved aside because they hailed from rural settings or a Gouyave Town, not just in sports but in other spheres of life. Or the obvious deprivation a place like Gouyave would experience from government. Not to mention the unnecessary fighting with respect to Kirani James’ golden shadow, if I can call it that. I appeal to the entire nation to recognize the origin of this strife, and understand that a stop ought to come of it before it renders more stifling of our great potential as a people. This Kirani example might prove to be our best example to bring reconciliation to our participation in such divisive ploy.