When Barbados says BLACK LIVES MATTER we must mean ALL BLACK LIVES MATTER.

We all know some things are too important to remain unsaid. And today what needs to be said centers around systemic Racism and anti-blackness and the way it manifests, not just in America but in Barbados too. 

Despite being a majority black country the claws of discipline and population control from the colonial era are still clenched tight around the necks of our civil society. How could they not be? The system of oppression that built America’s destructive racial tensions between the white and black community has a foundation in the Slave Code created here  to control the enslaved people in Barbados. 

Because of this horrific historic connection we cannot distance ourselves as if Racism is just an issue “das happen to dem ovuh dey”. The people gathered here know now is the time for us to pull the weeds out of our own back garden. It is the time when we must confront the atrocities of past AND present to build a better future. Now is the time when we must pry the stone cold fingers from around our own necks and the truth is, we know these fingers well: 

The myths of “Bajans real passive yuh” which results in us not only criticizing and stopping each other but our own imagination. We must remember that the docility of Bajans was directly orchestrated by European & British racial tropes. Do you understand the power that system still has over us if 300 years later this myth can still strip away our audacity? Our ability to imagine and ask for a new reality because “das just how iz always been”? Just because something has always BEEN does not mean that is how it should always BE.

Because police brutality is not a foreign issue. It happens here. Our anger and cries carry the names of victims in the US but also those who lost their dignity and life to the Police Force in Barbados. Names I do not know beyond I’Akobi who passed on June 17th 2008. I only know his name because of the hard work and dedication the Rastafarian community did to keep him remembered. We cannot leave each other out like that.  We cannot think “dat is a dem issue”. Today we marched for him and for the untold stories we know but cannot name.  A friend of mine I went to school with was brutalized for skateboarding at 16 in a bus terminal. 

They were black. But you already knew that because police brutality here does not regularly affect those who look like me. How many times have we seen young black people severely punished by our judicial system for a 5 bag, but crimes by the white elite go by with a slapped wrist and no due justice? And it is the responsibility of those who look like me to speak out against this double standard and the injustices our society accepts. Remember that silence is violence. 

Because racial segregation is not a foreign issue. The active removal of the white community from black Barbados is the worst kept secret here. We learn quickly who goes to what school. Who holds the majority of wealth in this country and if they do not want a statue to go down – it won’t. Even if the majority has said it is painful to look at. 

And it is the responsibility of the white Barbadian community to reject the exclusivity and combat the explicit bias and implicit violence at their family dinner parties, in their social circles at the Yatch Club, in Blue Box Cart, and in their company infrastructures too. 

As we marched today we took steps of resilience because to protest in Barbados means permission and request. The Public Order Act asks us if our pain is enough. Keeps us jumping through hoops to accommodate impossible stipulations for approval and if we dare deviate we can be shut down in seconds. It was created to stop black power protests in Barbados to appease the political and economical elite in 1937 because we WERE not passive then and we ARE not passive now. 

Today we are here for George Floyd, yes, and for Breonna Taylor and for all those who we have lost to an unjust system that does not value black lives over white profit. We march for them. We march for us. 

We march against the covert and overt racism Barbadians face. Against the police brutality we know. Against the anti-blackness in schools and businesses where, in 2020, how black hair naturally grows from the scalp, whether dreadlocked or bantu knots or twist outs can result in the denial of job opportunities.  

Against hotels and the business sector that prioritize white tourists over local investment. 

We march against the fallacy that Bajans don’t support each other as if we didn’t have Landship and the Meeting Turn, as if that isn’t our legacy?! 

But the battle to undo these colonial atrocities has not been fought for a day. As the fight continues it must be carried by warriors from every community that call this island home.  No action is too big nor too small as we protect the rights and humanity of the most marginalized identities in our communities. 

So, in the absence of our leaders saying it, let me say unequivocally, when we say black lives matter, we mean the lives of black people with dreadlocks matter. We mean the lives of those black people with mental health conditions matter. We mean black women’s lives matter, black trans lives matter, black men’s lives matter, black children’s lives matter, black queer lives matter, black muslim lives matter, black sex workers lives matter, black neurodiverse lives matter, black poor lives matter, black disabled lives matter. 

When Barbados says BLACK LIVES MATTER we must mean ALL BLACK LIVES MATTER. From past to future. So, Barbados, Azman say lewwe we step heavy because WE AIN PASSIVE. 

And, in a unified voice, lewwe tell dat claw of colonialism clenched around our necks – tek yuh hands offuh me! 

  • Luci Hammans, “Spoken from the skin I’m in”
  • June 13th, 2020
  • Black Lives Matter March and Rally in Barbados 

(Photo Credit: Luci Hammans / Facebook)

About Luci Hammans

Luci Hammans is a queer, Barbadian, Human Rights artivitst; as a writer and theatre director they use their artistic mediums to dismantle intersectional oppression. Their advocacy is built around the principles of radical visibility, ally-ship, community-mobilization and intersectionality.