Monday, December 08, 2008

The Revo Blog. Part 1

Some people suggested I start in the middle, others that I begin with a random image. The possibility of fictionalising my memories was mooted.
But the consensus is clear:
Just start writing.

So this is it.
Part 1 of The Revo Blog.
And it feels weighty with significance.

I've realised I need to give some background before I begin to tell what happened in that time when my own personal story became entwined with that of the island of Grenada.
This is not a diversion tactic, not is it control freakery.
I just don't want to keep interrupting the flow with distracting explanations once I begin.

So this post will operate as a kind of appendix. Scene setting, if you will.

Grenada - statistics
Area: 344 sq km (approx same size as London)
Population: approx 90,000 (less than the smallest London borough)
The people: 80% African, 3% East Indian, 10% mixed
Capital: St Georges
Principal exports: cocoa, bananas, spices

Grenada - a short history 1951-1983
1951 - Eric Gairy wins election
1962 - government dismissed for corruption
1972 - Gairy wins another election. JEWEL and MAP (see below) are formed
1973 - repression and unrest. JEWEL and MAP join to form NJM.
1974 - 3 month general strike. Rupert Bishop (father of Maurice) assassinated. Grenada achieves independence from Britain. NJM leadership arrested.
13 March 1979 - Revo! Gairy ousted in near bloodless coup
June 1980 - 3 women killed by bomb at rally
1982 - IMF congratulates PRG (see below) for economic performance. US becoming increasingly threatening and paranoid
Feb-March 1982 - my first visit to Grenada
1983 - Reagan refuses to meet delegation aimed at improving relations with US. Rifts appearing in NJM. Rumours and unrest.
19th October 1983 - coup
20th-23rd October 1983 - curfew
25th October 1983 - US invasion
June 1983-February 1984 - my 2nd stay in Grenada
September 1985-March 1986 - my 3rd stay in Grenada

Map - Movement for Assemblies of the People
JEWEL - Joint Endeavour for the Welfare, Education and Liberation of the People
NJM - New Jewel Movement
PRG - People's Revolutionary Government
PRA - People's Revolutionary Army
RFG - Radio Free Grenada

The people in Grenada's story
Eric Gairy - corrupt dictator ousted by revo
Maurice Bishop - charismatic Prime Minister and personification of the revo

Image of Maurice Bishop from Spice Islander
Bernard Coard - deputy PM. Widely perceived as the leader and would-be beneficiary of the coup (though he has consistently denied this)
Hudson Austin - head of the PRA and 'voice' of the coup
Jacky Creft - Minister of Education. Maurice's partner. 5 months pregnant with his child at time of execution

The people in my story
Me - nice(ish) Jewish girl from London
H - the English woman I traveled with during my first 2 stays in Grenada
C - the English woman and close friend (still) who I met during my 2nd stay
J - the English woman and close friend (still) who was in Grenada June/July 2003. Mother of Gorgeous Goddaughter, born October 1986.
L - my Grenadian partner
B - H's Grenadian partner
W - C's Grenadian partner
M - J's Grenadian partner. Father of Gorgeous Goddaughter
PC - local wheeler and dealer who acted as our mentor

In the next post, I will be starting at the beginning, explaining how I came to be in Grenada in the first place and sharing my experiences of the revo at a time when it was still filled with hope and potential. Over the following posts, I will be relating events as they occurred , using my diaries to ensure accuracy.

Writing this as fiction is impossible. For me, the whole point is that the truth should be known. The truth, unvarnished and unpalatable though it may be to some, as I saw it at the time.

I said in the comments on my previous post that I only cried once during my 4 hours with Faye, the film maker. That response crystallised everything for me. I remembered all over again the exact moment when the Grenadian revo, and with it my own world, fell apart. And I remembered also how crucial it had seemed to me at the time to ensure people understood. I felt this huge weight of responsibility and it's never been discharged.

As the years passed, it was clear that the defining event that most people associated with Grenada was the invasion. Not the revo. And not the coup. I too succumbed in the end. US Imperialism was an easy enemy to focus on. War is something people think they're able to wrap their minds around. And traumatic though the invasion had been, it became less painful for me to reflect on than the events that preceded it.

Over time, my experiences coalesced into a series of well-worn, neatly-packaged anecdotes. Gone were the days when I had first returned to London in 1984, when people would go to great lengths to avoid my Ancient Mariner-esque intensity, determined to force them to see what I had seen and learn what I had learned.

Well, those days are back. The posts that follow will comprise a true and full record at last. Being a blog, people can choose whether to read or ignore, without me having to deal with the angst.

But the words will be out there. Accessible to all. At last.


Anonymous said...

"... determined to force them to see what I had seen and learn what I had learned."

That line has such significance for me.

Testify! We are all here for you.

Liane Spicer said...

Speak it.

Rich said...

Glad to see you've started. I will follow the thread with interest.

Unknown said...

I know how much this means to you and I think you will find a new kind of clarity about it when you are done.
I am standing beside you.

Saaleha said...

Good for you Debi. I'll be reading.

Anonymous said...

Hurrah, well done. Solidarity from over here and yes, I admit it, a certain amount of intriguedness.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.