A Caribbean Love Affair with Obama? “We Need Barack! Jehovah Guide Him”

This is really an exciting time in which to be living, something like a rewind of 1968 combined with 1975 — the revolution of the forgotten peoples and the new social movements on the one hand, and the withdrawal of a bloodied empire and the departure of a criminal president on the other hand, along with an oil boom and economic crisis. It is as if we were living a daily J’ouvert.

Added to the comparisons that blend Barack Obama with John F. Kennedy (presumably this is meant to flatter), anointed by Rastafarian prayers (see below), and something is definitely electrifying public debate in North America and the Caribbean.

Therefore, while continuing a trend of articles on this blog about the Caribbean and Barack Obama (for example, the one about Fidel’s response, or the other one about Caribbean musicians singing for/to/about Barack), what I will do is to commit myself to covering this relationship (and the one in the post that is to follow this) as diligently as possible on this blog. Hence, a category that does not sit too well with any of the others on this blog — a new Barack Obama category. So let’s continue.

New Video: Jamaica’s MAVADO sings a prayer for Barack Obama in “We Need Barack” — well worth watching with speakers turned up:

My other favourite, among those presented thus far, is Cocoa Tea’s reggae tune:

Now, see Cocoa Tea’s explanation of his endorsement, on “Wha A Gwaan” (What’s Going On):

Notice how he said that he felt the need to endorse change as represented by an American candidate, more than by a candidate in his home, in Jamaica, because Jamaican politics have no impact on the world, and no change is possible in Jamaica without changes in the U.S. He even seems to reject the label “Jamaican” at one point and reminds the interviewer “we are Africans.” He also feels that Barack’s message is one that invites the sympathy of Rastas: peace, no war, change, respect for the poor, and so forth. What we are getting here is a close up encounter with one trend in Caribbean transnationalism.

Caribbean World News reported that Caribbean American media workers insisted that Barack Obama not select Hillary Clinton as his Vice-Presidential candidate, and their general excitement on the night he captured the nomination.

In a subsequent article, Caribbean World News reports:

It’s been part of the Caribbean discourse for weeks now, weaving itself into countless conversations, TV news segments, and newspaper op-eds. Then, what was lilting background music turned into full-on fanfare when Barack Obama’s quest to be the president of the U.S. broke historic ground on Tuesday, after he crossed the delegate threshold to become the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party.

He’s the first black person to get this far, and newspapers across the Caribbean trumpeted the achievement. Now, days later, residents of the Caribbean are still weighing in, inserting themselves into the international chorus of voices cheering Obama on.

From one party in Jamaica, some skepticism:

“I think it’s going to be difficult to say what this means for Jamaica,” Opposition Deputy General Secretary Julian Robinson told the Jamaica Observer. “We haven’t seen from his foreign policy what his approach to Jamaica, the Third World and the Caribbean will be. So, apart from the emotion of his winning, I think it’s hard to say what his presidency could mean.”

Trinidad and Tobago’s Express reported on Thursday, June 5, 2008:

Prime Minister Patrick Manning yesterday described the US presidential nomination of Barack Obama for the Democratic Party as “a most historic development, which demonstrates how United States society is changing and has changed”.

In an interview with the Express, Manning said the particular message of change that Obama has preached is one whose time has come and represents “a breath of fresh air in a world in which some things having been going wrong”. The Prime Minister said he would like to congratulate Obama.

“We eagerly await the choice of the US people, as that country goes to the polls in November,” he noted. “There are important lessons for the people of Trinidad and Tobago in terms of broad-mindedness, arising out of this (Obama-Clinton) contest, in the society that is as plural as the United States.”

“While we watch very keenly what is happening in the US, because it affects all of us, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, however, stays out of those issues since they represent the internal politics of the US,” he said.

Also in Trinidad, the leader of the Congress of the People, Winston Dookeran, who has previously served in government stated to the Express:

“I think the Caribbean has been afflicted by this mood of change. That’s why we’ve had so many changes in government recently. It’s just we in Trinidad and Tobago have not yet (done so).

“We talk about change but we’re afraid of it. It has to come if Trinidad and Tobago is to be saved,” Dookeran said.

And once again in Trinidad’s Express, member of parliament for the United National Congress, Kamla Persad-Bissessar said the success of Obama is a defining moment in the United States and for the Caribbean:

“Anytime America sneezes, the world catches a cold. In other words, whatever happens in the USA impacts upon the world.

“It is also a defining moment in world history. Win or lose in the general election, this achievement paves the way for a new world order where the second class in the free world can truly believe that there is opportunity at times to become a first-class citizen,” she said.

“It reminds me of the moment in our own history when, for the first time, an Indo Trinidadian, Basdeo Panday, was elected to the office of Prime Minister,” she added.

The leader of the opposition UNC, former prime minister Basdeo Panday, hoped for a similar political transformation in Trinidad, but spoke of what he thinks the main obstacles are: “The majority of the people know that change is necessary, but because of our historical antecedents, society has been divided on racial and ethnic lines and that is what is preventing change.”

In my experience, it is rare if not unprecedented that the results of American primaries receive such high level attention in the Caribbean, such widespread commentary, and such support from across the range of political parties. I would assume that if Barack is elected president that leaders in the Caribbean will loudly invite him to tour the region, possibly a first, and possibly the only time a U.S. president could expect a warm welcome.

4 thoughts on “A Caribbean Love Affair with Obama? “We Need Barack! Jehovah Guide Him”

  1. Pingback: Another Caribbean musician “endorses” Obama « OPEN ANTHROPOLOGY

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