Today, January 21st, is Errol Barrow Day in Barbados, and a national holiday. With our independence in 1966, Errol Barrow became the country's first Prime Minister, and was in fact one of the greatest champions of the independence process and of the integration of the Caribbean region.
I remember that immediately after his death in 1987, our primary school school class was asked to write an essay about him, and our teacher then asked if I'd like mine to be submitted to the newspaper. Of course I said yes, and it was published. My mother cut the article out and took me into town with her to the framing place so I could decide how I wanted it framed. I chose an off-white frame with gold detail, and a week later, it was ready to be hung in the dining room. The text was on the left, Errol Barrow's picture on the right, and the article stayed in that place for years and years, only taken down when friends came to the house and my mother forced them to witness the proof that her daughter had been 'published'.
I tell that story because through that experience, Errol Barrow became probably the only national hero with whom I felt I had a relationship, even though I had never met him. I looked at his yellowed picture in that article for years, and saw him as a kind of uncle/grandfather who had done some pretty awesome things. I think that kind of intimacy with the Errol Barrows of our region should be encouraged in the way we teach young people about their lives and work, so that they're not just some woman or man in a textbook (come to think of it, Barrow wasn't in any of mine. We learnt about him in primary school from newspapers and our teachers' stories. And in secondary school, forget about it. The Renaissance was apparently more important); they're people who had thoughts and visions like the rest of us, and made them happen.
A year before Barrow's death, calypsonian Johnny Ma Boy (John King) became the 1986 Pic-O-De-Crop calypso monarch with the song Tribute to de Skipper, in honour of Errol Barrow. It is one of my favourite songs of all time. I was hoping to find a video online, but couldn't, and I would post the lyrics in my head, but I don't want to risk getting any of them wrong. (If anyone has either, please post in comments.) So instead, here's another song honouring Bajan culture: Gabby singing "Bajan Fishermen". It has nothing to do with Errol Barrow, but I like it.