BIG SISTAS OF THE REVOLUTION!
Grenada – Forward Ever! held its first public event on 1 March 2019
The celebrations of the 40th anniversary of the Revo’ (13th March) and International Women’s Day (8th March) together with the launch of Phyllis Coard’s just published prison memoirs titled Unchained, were focused on the struggles and gains of the women of the Grenada Revolution.
Among the speakers at this uplifting event, held at Unite the Union’s Diskus Centre in Theobalds Road, London, was Jacqui McKenzie, immigration and asylum lawyer, who spoke with infectious enthusiasm about her and her friends’ experiences as young people, during the Revo’. She attributed her commitment to campaigning and representation on human rights issues to the learning experiences she had had during that time.
The leader of the National Women’s Organisation, among who’s many achievements were securing equal pay, maternity leave, free school places and equipment and free milk was Phyllis Coard. She was one of the Grenada 17, subjected to an illegal, US financed trial and given a death sentence which was later commuted to life. She spent 16 years in prison, 7 of them in solitary confinement. Being the only woman of the 17, she was much more harshly treated than the men. The powerful and moving extracts from her prison memoirs: Unchained, recorded by her sister Bev Noakes, and played at the event, had a great impact on the 80 strong audience. A stirring message from Phyll to the meeting was read out, in which she pointed out that,
“…many Grenadian women still possess the skills, confidence and pride they acquired during the Revo’…” She said: “…It is up to women – and conscious men – to assist both our sisters and our brothers, to make a world that works for everyone!” This elicited a heart-felt response from all.
Selwyn Strachan, a founder member of the New Jewel Movement, reflected on the energy and vibrancy of the Revo’. He had been a minister in the People’s Revolutionary Government, and also one of the Grenada 17, imprisoned for 26 years. Highlighting all the gains, and emphasising the critical importance of the role of women at the same time he deeply regretted its demise.
Calypsos from the Revo’ accompanied by slides, together with readings of the poems of Merle Collins, and quotations of women expressing their feelings at the time raised the spirits of all.
The final speaker, Patsy Cummings, Croydon councilor, talked of coming from a tradition of strong Black women and of some of her own struggles. She encouraged the audience, especially women, to look forward to making change now and in the future, in the spirit of the Grenada Revolution.
Forward Ever! Backward Never!
The music played as the audience took their seats
Selwyn Strachan, founder member of the New Jewel Movement and Minister of Mobilisation under the Peoples Revolutionary Government provided the audience with an insight into some of the successes of the Revo’
Jacqueline Mckenzie, now a prominent immigration and asylum lawyer, was involved in key aspects of the Revo’ growing up in Grenada
Readings from Unchained
Bread and Water
Teaching Others to Swim
Poetry Readings from Merle Collins by Michelle Beaute, Diane Megahaes and Sandra Johnson
Jean Tate – from the Chair
Music and slideshow played while the people left