Basseterre, St. Kitts, January 30, 2017 (SKNIS): At a ceremony to mark the 82nd Anniversary of the Buckley’s Riots on Saturday, January 28, the Honourable Shawn Richards, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Culture, honoured all those who sacrificed their lives in 1935.
“I wish to recognize those that gave their lives as they stood up for the right to earn a living wage, namely, Mr. Joseph Samuel, Mr. Allen James and Mr. James Archibald. The sacrifice which they made and to which their family bore can never be measured but must always be remembered,” said Minister Richards. “Others have given over time but it is the ultimate sacrifice of their life which made it possible for others to give. We must also recognize that one of the first great sacrifices of 1935 was executed by the unemployed workers who agreed to stand with the workers in strike even though it potentially meant continuing in abject poverty. It is always harder to stand in tyranny when those in charged show no value for your welfare or even for your life.”
Minister Richards reflected on the theme of the 82nd anniversary, “We Shall Embrace the Ultimate Sacrifice of the Buckley’s Uprising”, noting that it is “a timely reminder of the multifaceted nature of one of the most significant incidences of our nation’s history”.
“For many, what began here at the Buckley’s Estate Yard was a foundation for the social, political and economic redirection of the Caribbean and the awakening of the Caribbean as a people with unique culture which they can call their own,” said the minister of culture. “As we remember and we celebrate the events that occurred here at Buckley’s in 1935, it is important that we remember the causes of the uprising that led our people to stand up to the forces of disregard and disposition. We must also remember those that sacrificed so that others may have hope and realization of who we are today as a result of actions taken 82 years ago.”
The minister of culture gave a brief account of the events leading up to the Buckley’s uprising, adding that in 1934 it was said that some estates paid eight pence per ton, while some paid three and others paid none for cane cut.
“There are other reports of failed negotiations to raise the wage weight per ton of cane cut and to institute a guaranteed Christmas bonus. However, history has taught us that often what is written is this story is not always the reality of other people’s story,” he said. “Frequently, we omit to mention the disappointment that must have been felt by the workers as they toiled long and hard hours to be told that there would be no increase in wages. This came in the face of a unilateral decision taken five years earlier to reduce the wages in the sugar industry by 25 percent.”
Minister Richards said that only when we begin to understand that the sacrifices made were made in attempt to make us one, can we begin to honour the brave men and women who sacrificed for us. He added that the success of the workers riot of the 1930’s did not rest with any one person and for that matter, while it was born here in St. Kitts, the successes of that unrest do not belong to any one country.
He encouraged Kittitians and Nevisians to pledge to honour the sacrifices of those who came before them by speaking out against all forms of injustice to make the work of our communities better by being more caring, loving, and making our communities places where we all feel safe and empowered.