Montserrat’s Memories, Jumbies and the Drum

Slavery did a number on us  and continues to. We don’t want to admit it and deal with what that really means but we need to. Montserrat’s future depends on it.

I know many of us are in survival mode and just trying to get through today. That’s an old memory and pattern. We have to think a bit further and make decisions today which will benefit great great grands and people we will never know.

March 17, 1768 did a number on us too. It was an attempt to obtain freedom which did not succeed. I often wonder if the annual commemoration of it is more of a national reminder/warning to never attempt such again, a forever sign that Montserratians don’t finish what they start and even when they have grand plans they will fail.

Now 250 years later, it is the right time to deal with the memories and the pain and the myriad of ways it has manifested over time for Montserratians on island and around the world.

We’ve got memories in our DNA and our spirits that we won’t confront. We are walking around with the pain of that 250-year-old betrayal. It is why we don’t trust each other. We genuinely believe that everyone is out to get us. We cement this truth in songs every December and we don’t do enough to alter that belief. We’ve lived long enough to see that yeah Montserrat people grudge and we believe it will always be that way. We don’t even notice when it creeps into our own way of dealing with life and people around us.

You ever heard a drum beat that made your foot tap? Ever felt a sound that made your hips move in ways that nice Christian women shouldn’t do? You ever felt the urge to bend your back and let your arms fling out? Has your head ever turned to hear an ancient rhythm that wants to use you as the vessel to come forth?

We need to let the drums pound. We need to cry. We need to wail. We need to laugh. We need to forgive. We need to repent. We need to declare that the season of betrayal is over. We will no longer betray our friends, our business associates, our political partners, our spouses and our children.

We must repent for being comfortable with mediocrity, for begrudging the success of people around us, for blocking rather than empowering. We must forgive each other for the harm we have caused intentionally and unknowingly.

It is time to take off the masks and deal with the ugliness underneath. It is time to have honest conversations about how we will work to change the legacy of failure and betrayal.

Have you ever had a dream that keeps recurring? Often it reoccurs because you won’t see it through to the end. You wake yourself up before seeing the outcome you swear is going to be devastating. I wonder what we would see if we allowed the dream to go all the way to the end? Supposed March 17, 1768 had been successful, what would Montserrat look like today?

The Montserrat National Trust says that they have found information that the signal to launch the rebellion was a fire in the mountain. We’ve had a fire in our tallest mountain since 1995. Why are we not using that as a signal to change things? Fire is for cleansing. Have we allowed the heat of the past 23 years to burn out of us the elements of our nature that kept us grudgeful and fearful?

No we haven’t. Instead we have used the fire to dredge up an old memory. The one that says just when you get your life together, something like a hurricane or a volcano is going to destroy it all, that betrayal is our fortune.

We’ve got another opportunity to reset Montserrat’s trajectory and put those jumbies of failure and betrayal to rest.

The fire still burns in the mountain as a signal that it is still our time to fight.

We need to let the drums beat as a further call to action. The beginning of a new fight, not with cutlasses and knives but as a symbol that we are a people whose history is older than time. We need to have an honest conversation about what we have been doing wrong and stand proxy for all the unconfessed pain in this nation. If we saw this idea/dream through to the end, what would the outcome be? We won’t know because we are afraid of things that other people say we should fear.

If we are going to be afraid, then it should be of our extinction which is imminent if we don’t change the way we live now.

We don’t need to be afraid of our history. We no longer need to let the lies of slave masters who wanted us to deny our names, our heritage, our faith, be the loudest voices in our ears.

Science is proving that we can reconstruct our genetics and our bodies. In the same way young children are using their hands differently because they spend more time swiping on a tablet than holding a pencil, we can change what we have long been believing and practicing. It is time to stop shouting the negatives we swear is as much a part of us as is the green hills and flowing ghauts. We cannot continue to perpetuate behaviours that is harming us and setting up our country to fail year after year. Our problem is not lack of aid, it is lack of belief in our own story and our value.

It is time to see the dream through to the end and do the work to manifest a new Montserrat.

Let the drums beat!

Nerissa Golden is the Founder of Discover Montserrat and an author of seven books including her latest novel In Plain Sight.