Transcript at remarks given by Prime Minister of Dominica to declare Black History Week open
Location: Public Library, Roseau
February 10, 2014
Thank you very much, Madam Chairperson. Let me, first of all, recognise the presence of His Excellency Dr. Liverpool, former President, and his wife; our Chief Librarian, Mrs. Robin; our benefactor, Mr. Franklyn Georges; ladies and gentlemen; staff of the Wesley High School and very importantly our students who are present.
Let me, on behalf of the Government and people of Dominica and the Ministry of Education in particular, thank Mr. Georges for his most generous gift to all of us in Dominica. Giving us books to read, making them accessible to us is an important form of national contribution and Mr. Georges, through his own pride and passion for black history and his desire to see all of us in the country, irrespective of our race, have an appreciation for the contribution which black people have made not only to Dominica’s development but to the development and advancement of the world over. It is an important element of our own education. So it is very important for us to have access to the reading material so that our students coming there could make use of it.
On the issue of teaching of black history at the schools, the authority is in the hands of the teachers and parents, so they have the authority to introduce black history into the school system. So it does not have to take a directive from myself as Prime Minister or the Minister for Education to instruct this because there are a number of things those in charge of the schools, from time to time, do with no authority from myself or the Minister for Education. It has to be a call and a decision by the school system and to say that they have my full support to introduce black history at the secondary schools.
I look forward to the day when we can have the most prestigious library in the Caribbean. I have received a design for the library but I am not satisfied with it. I want to better what you see at your back in respect to the State House when it comes to the library. So we are now redesigning the library and we will present it to the country in very short order. The people of Dominica would have to assist the Government in determining where do you place the library because, clearly, the space between this library and DBS Radio will not have sufficient space. It will require the demolition of one of the buildings. I understand that there is strong opposition to the demolition of this present library structure so we have to look at where we place this library; it has to be in close proximity to the population walking distance so it cannot be out of town, so to speak. Once we have designed the library we will be in a position to engage the general public as to where we place the library. Clearly, in this second decade of the 21st Century this cannot be our national library; we have to do better than that and we must do better than that and the Government is committed to doing better than that.
I really want to recognise the efforts of Mr. Georges and our friend Mr. Blanc who told me he is 76 years old. When I am 50 I would like to look like you, Sir. So they have been at the vanguard of the promotion of black history in Dominica and I really want to recognise their efforts. These are gentlemen who have been back in the country, who have built their homes here, who are involved in farming, who are involved in education, who are involved in culture and quietly doing a number of things to the advancement of Dominica. That is what we have to seek to promote. Yes, you have gone out there to better yourselves but not forgetting from whence you came and when you do return to enjoy what we have, you are coming here to improve on it and not to criticise what we have but recognise the way the gaps are, where the shortfalls are and playing your part in filling those gaps and improving on the shortfalls. So I really commend the efforts of Mr. Georges in particular.
With the advent of talk shows and, of course, we are not a hugely reading population, too many of us do not read in Dominica. So when you listen to the talk shows, for example, every caller calls to react to what the previous caller said not to draw to our attention something that he has read and he would like to educate the masses and likewise most of the talk shows hosts, they themselves are not well read. So they introduce the topic not knowing anything about the topic and the little that they know they are not in a position to share it with the listenership. So we are going down a very dangerous road where those who are supposed to educate us through the mass media themselves are not reading and if you are not reading how are you going to educate us? How are you going to inform us on new things and how are you going to guide us on the way forward?
So as students these are the things that you have to look at. How do you differentiate facts from fiction; how do you differentiate news from gossip? So it is important that the education system pays particular attention to these things and not necessarily be too perturbed about the CXC results and how many 1s we can get and how many 2s we can get but ensuring that we produce students who can stand the test of time and who can withstand all of the pressures out there in the world, Dominica included.
So when Mr. Georges invited me, several months ago, to be here and to receive the books on behalf of the library I did not know where I would be on this day but I told him certainly I shall come and the good Lord has allowed me to be here this morning to be part of this very important ceremony and to say that the Government fully endorses these efforts.
I have looked at some of the books and I can say to the students these books are important books for you to read. They are very important books to read from Maurice Bishop to Marcus Garvey to Dr. King and all of the wonderful leaders, Mandela, all of the wonderful leaders who have assisted us in our own freedoms, assisted us in our own enlightenment; they are all there, books written on them informing us of what they have done and to shape our presence here today. So it is important for us to recognise that and when you read about these men you will see that while they would have negotiated words they never negotiated principles. That is an important element of all those black leaders, they never negotiated their principles and they stood by them and many of them died for these important principles.
I wish you all the best and I look forward to Mr. Georges, possibly on your 80th birthday so we could have a huge celebration and maybe another time we will have not only a Black History Week but a Black History Month.
Thank you very much. God bless you students.