"His poem Caribbean Man tells all this. Written in 1990, it speaks of his passion for country, place and homeland. His poem "Flotsam" says "Once jewels in a monarch's crown, now flotsam in a carib sea" etc etc. His life-long search for Caribbean unity was never forsaken. His light spirit and optimistic personality covered a relentless and purposful Will." ... from a note announcing Alister's death on 28 February 2005
We're now independent, yes, massa day done,
We're free. It's a new day which now has begun.
So please, let's get working as hard as we can
To foster the growth of Caribbean Man.
Let's take a look backward, remember with pride
Those brave ones who stood up and battled the tide,
Who braced up and faced it when all others ran,
Who fought for the birth of Caribbean Man.
Paul Bogle, as brave as you ever will find,
And Gordon, like true steel in fire refined,
They died in Jamaica pursuing a plan
To fight for the rights of Caribbean Man.
And Critchlow, for gains to the workers he fought,
And when he was fired that counted for naught,
Guyana his country, farsighted his scan,
He called for the vote for Caribbean Man.
More noble nude freeman than full gilded slave
He lived by that precept, and Donovan gave
Example that we too with dignity can
Though trampled, be proud of Caribbean Man.
In Donovan's tracks then came Ted Marryshow
His dream was that we had just one way to go
One country, Westindies, division he'd ban
One nation, one people, Caribbean Man
These are but few of the great ones of yore
Who faced the rough storm in the time gone before
When it was easy to drift with all in the van
With never a thought of Caribbean Man
When all were so willing to swim with the tide
Be accepted, and join in the social ride
Kowtow to the massa, and pray that he can
Forget that you are a Caribbean Man
Be called in to dinner or Government tea
Get an honour, a knighthood or CBE
Think Limies superior and much better
Black, brown or whatever, Caribbean Man
Not so these great ones, much more noble their game
Unselfish, farsighted the stars were their aim
Society's glitter was not in their plan
They knew the true worth of Caribbean Man
They knew that the Masters did'nt dare educate
The objects they ruled in colonial state
The learning they gave us was 'Dan in the van'
The basics, no more for Caribbean Man.
And history for us never touched on our shores
But focussed on Europe, kings, treaties and wars
What mattered, developed, continued, began
In no way included Caribbean Man.
They taught us of Raleigh and Hawkings and Drake
Their exploits and how brave a fight they did make
We saw this with pride, as true British eyes can
But not with the eyes of Caribbean Man
We knew naught of Fedon, Toussaint or Quacko
Nor Christophe, Quamina or loose-mouthed Cudjoe
We knew not of Cuffie away down in Guyan
And what he had done for Caribbean Man
But now we are free, and it's slavery no more
Our fate is our own. We've the key to the door
That leads to our future, let's find if we can
What stuff that he's made of, Caribbean Man
When we were colonials in long days gone by,
To make like massa was what we did try,
To be like the British, our aim and our plan
A synthetic Limey, Caribbean Man.
That's over but, sadly, we've not yet begun
To see our own place, recognize our own sun,
In place of the Limey, we're now African,
Not yet do we know we're Caribbean Man.
How dare we forget and consign to the breeze
Our brother the Indian, our sister Chinese
And others who cover the whole ethic span
For they too, my friend, are Caribbean Man.
We're all of this region, no matter the skin,
Black, white, pink or yellow, we'd better begin
To know we're a nation and one common plan
Is what must develop Caribbean Man.
Let's turn eyes inwards and scales from them shed,
See us as a people, and not that we're wed
And fixed to some Mother, whom never can
We grow and develop Caribbean Man
Not England nor China nor India nor Spain
Not Africa, Scotland nor France nor Bahrain
Can now be our Mother, that can't be our plan.
We're nobody's child, we're Caribbean Man
We have our own customs, traditions, folk lore,
Like Carnival, John Canoe, Big Drum and more
Anansi and Tigue, Lajabless and steel pan
A heritage rich of Caribbean Man
And pepper-pot, oil-down, ackra and bush tea
With foo-foo and jug-jug, bul-jhol and bodi
And ginger beer, sorrel, all foods that we can
Be proud are produced by Caribbean Man
Walcott, Louise Bennet, Rhone, Peters and Hill,
McBernie, Keens-Douglas and many more still,
In drama and poetry, dance, none better than
These greats, they're the soul of Caribbean Man
Our foods and our culture are not second place
The're unique and reflect our multiple race
We're a nation, a wonderful blended clan
We're special, we're vibrant Caribbean Man
And why, in this climate, continue to try
To ape the ex-masters with jacket and tie.
That garb is for cold clime, can't we find a plan
Of suitable dress for Caribbean Man ?
That may seem a small thing but symbols must be
The pointers which prove to our children that we
Are not orphan people who catch as they can
At standards to govern Caribbean Man
We must know and teach, we're a people by right,
We're not bastard offspring in desperate plight,
Pretending we're British or African clan
Ignoring the fact we're Caribbean Man
Let's shake off inertia, let's find a new birth,
Let's lift our heads high, recognize our own worth,
Our future awaits with unlimited span
Awake and move forward, Caribbean Man. !!!
And this is Alister's "Explanatory Note" --- the page numbers refer to Alister's original typescript of the poem.
Cover Logo and word "CARICOM" refer to the Caribbean Community and Common Market, the grouping of Britain's ex-West Indian colonies.
Page 1, verse 3 Paul Bogle a former slave in Jamaica, led an armed protest uprising (riot) in 1865 against injustices to ex-slaves in that country. He was tried and hanged. George William Gordon, also born a slave, a mulatto, educated himself and became a wealthy influential landowner. He was a member of the Jamaica House of Assembly and used his position to try to get better conditions for the ex-slaves. He took no part in the riot but, because he was known to be a friend of Bogle, he was tried, with no opportunity to defend himself, and was hanged.
Page 1, verse 4 Hubert Critchlow formed the British Guiana Labour Union in 1919, the first registered trade union in the dependent British Empire. This came in the midst of serious labour unrest in British Guiana and, championing the workers cause, Critchlow was dismissed from his job.
Page 1, verse 5 William Galway Donovan, Grenadian, newspaper-editor, patriot, lived late in the last century, and is well known for his principle that "A naked freeman is better than a guilded slave". He had the vision of a united Westindies. He went to jail rather then withdraw his public criticism of what he considered to be an unjust decision of a corrupt Judge.
Page 2 verse 1 Theophilous Albert Marryshow (1887-1958) was a protégé of Donovan and inherited the drive for a united Westindies. He is known as the "Father" of the West Indies Federation which, born in 1958, died in 1961.
Page 2, verse 4 C.B.E., (Commander Of the British Empire), an honour conferred by the Queen of England.
Page 3 verse 1 Natives of Britain's colonies had no vote in Britain and were, therefore, more "objects" belonging to the Queen than her "subjects". A calypsonian, ridiculing a totally unsuitable and inadequate booklet specially produced for the education of children in the colonies, used, in his song, a line from that booklet, "Dan Is The Man In The Van".
Page 3 verse 4 Julien Fédon led an unsuccessful revolution in Grenada in 1795. Toussaint Louverture and Henri Christophe were leaders of the Haitian revolution in 1791. Quamina was the leader of a slave up-rising in British Guiana in 1823. Cuffie was the leader of a slave up-rising in British Guiana in 1763. Cudjoe was one of the leaders of a slave conspiracy in the Virgin Islands in 1759. However, he violated security and the slave owners were able to avert an up-rising.
Page 4 verse 5 and page 5 verse 1 With the breaking of colonial ties to the "Mother Country", Britain, there has been an unfortunate tendency of some Westindians to seek Africa as a "Mother Country".
Page 5 verse 2 John Canoe, a Christmas traditional street dancing in Jamaica. Big Drum, a traditional dance routine in Carriacou, Grenada's sister island. Anansi and Tigue, traditional folk tales. Lajabless, a supernatural figure in folk lore.
Page 5, verses 3 and 4, Self explanatory.