Fellow Citizens, Residents, Constituents and Friends, this is Harold Lovell, Political Leader of the United Progressive Party.
Under normal circumstances, it would have given me great pleasure to wish you All a Happy Independence, as the Nation marks its 39th anniversary of political self-rule.
Under normal circumstances, I would have been full of the spirit of this season, which we associate with National Pride, Homegrown Culture, Patriotism, and Country First.
But these times are not normal, and I am not simply referring to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the life of our Nation, we have not seen an Independence like this one. And, it is a testament to your spirit, you, the wonderful People of this great Nation, that there is still joy and pride in the moment.
Most of us are doing our best to make the best of this time, we must remember those for whom this Independence only underscores the worst of their times.
Pause a moment, Brothers and Sisters, remember the hundreds of former LIAT workers who are now themselves grounded. Remember the pensioners whosegolden years are being tarnished by later and later and even later Social Security payments. We must recall at this time the hotel workers struggling to provide for their families after months of unemployment and a future that remains uncertain. The small and medium-sized businesses barely treading water, do not forget them….
There is an ominous feeling of anxiety hovering over the land. We cannot pretend — even as we wish each other a “Happy Independence” – that it is a happy occasion for all.
It cannot be happy for Barbudans who worry about being dispossessed of their land; or for Antiguan farmers and households who, in the abundance of rain, are still thirsty for pipe-borne water.
On November 3rd, when the revelries are over, there will still be hundreds of unemployed and under-employed persons facing the danger of losing their homes. There will still be un-tested frontline health workers, who will still be vulnerable to the virus that they get up every day to fight. Contractors will still be unable to access desperately needed funds from the Government Treasury. And our infrastructure will still be falling into decay.
But we should not use this time to mourn. WE must use this period set aside for commemoration to reflect on better times. We must use it to remember the struggles and triumphs of our ancestors. We must use it to call on our memories of them to equip us with the strength and fortitude to survive this night of weeping, to the joy of the morning when our trials and tribulations will be over.
Let our trials not weaken us. On the contrary, let our trials trigger reflections on our official National Heroes and those unsung heroes in our history.
Let us remember the actions of Vigo Blake the head slave on Blakes Estate and his fellow slaves who in 1813 built the first school room for slave children in the British West India Colonies, which later became the village of Bethesda.
Let us reflect on the life of John Andrew Buckley born Greenbay in 1818, who in 1856 was, first Antiguan Black male ordained in the Moravian Church.
Remember Joseph Gomez born in 1890 in Willikies and who overcame racial prejudice in the United States of America as a charismatic African Methodist Episcopal minister, teacher, civil rights pioneer, scholar, writer, and humanitarian, who rose through the ranks of the African Methodist Episcopal Church to be ordained a bishop in 1948.
Reflect on the work and labours of John Nanton, the Black Antiguan mariner and Freedman, to acquire the land that he sold to the Weslyans to help with the erection of Methodist Chapels in St. Johns and English Harbour.
They were heroes who above all odds worked and were triumphant over the hard challenges of their time to change their destiny.
So do not let us be overpowered and down trodden by the very real gloom the pervades the land.
No! Rather let us awaken on November 3rd energized and with the resolve to be the writers of our reality. Let us rise from our beds committed to be the changers of our destiny.
As the Political Leader of our great Party, I have faith in “The Team to Redeem”. We, the Team, believe in you as a people of strength and of endurance. A God-fearing people of faith and of hope. We believe that the resistance of King Court and the principle of Sir Vivian Richards and all the other heroes still resides in your body, in your bone, and in your spirit, and that you work for the brighter day for which our ancestors yearned, toiled and gained in their time.
And we also know that this period of mourning, loss, fear and anxiety – soon and very soon – with your actions, will be replaced by a celebration of hope delivered and realized.
Until then, I encourage all of you – and, especially, the Magnificent People of St. John’s City East, who continue to command my love and respect – to dig deep within; to remind yourselves that we have come through before; and to work toward that better day which is on the horizon.
Share this message with your family and friends and your communities as you make the best of this Independence Season. I encourage you to support the small businesses that have made the investment and taken the risk to prepare for us an alternative celebration of food and music. And, above, all I encourage you not to let down your guard – or your mask – and remain safe!
May God bless and redeem Antigua & Barbuda.