by Celucien L. Joseph
Our task at the moment is to contribute to a national way of thinking indicative of our feelings, our strengths and our weaknesses. We can do so by gleaning ideas generated by ideas contained in the masterpieces which are the pride of humanity's common heritage. This is the only way in which the study and assimilation of the works of the mind play an indispensable part in the enrichment of our culture.
But by the way, what is the true qualitative and quantitative worth of our intellectual achievements? That is yet another question which I have asked myself and that I have attempted to answer... Consider for a moment the deficiencies of our education system which were cited earlier. Think of the consequences if our elite had inadequate and unreliable schooling. Lastly, consider the various factors dividing our people into mistrustful, hostile groups opposing each other and you will agree with me that together, all those factors turn our social environment into an arena very ripe for the seed of disorder and destruction. You will also agree with me that of necessity, such an environment exerts an extremely destructive force on the morale of our country, making any attempt at sustained progress impossible. You will agree in short that together, these factors continue to make us responsible for the state of affairs through which an outsider dared raise his flag on the moral ruins of our country.
So, to assist in the reconstruction of our country on a different foundation, to have the elite and the masses exist in harmony in this reconstructed arena, I launch a firm appeal to all men, to all men of good will. The task before us is immense. Whatever its future status, our bounden duty is not is not to abandon our country, nor to let it be snatched away. If we remain with our arms folded in perpetual expectation of what will be will be, what will be will come about without us and against us. Our only alternative is to come together, to unite our forces through the creation of private social programmes. We have maintained an atavistic trait of mistrust one for the other and a pronounced reluctance--I almost said an inability--to unite. These are the main weaknesses used against us. Because of this impotence, we appear to be not only below other civilized peoples, but also quite below what we were when our enslaved forefathers united to oust the intruder from this land and far below our brothers in the United States.
Whenever I receive newspapers from that country [United States of America], my heart is filled with joy and I applaud what our American brothers are doing, while I feel ashamed at our inferiority because we can not imitate them. Would you like like some examples? Here is what I learned from the November issue of Crisis, a Negro magazine published in New York:
1. "The fortieth meeting of Free Masons in Alabama collected funds for the Lodge this year totaling $ 118, 855."
2. "At the 23rd meeting of the Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission in Virginia, $ 11, 000 was collected for religious work."
3. "At a conversion held in Tyler, Texas, Bishop Carter of the African Episcopal Church collected $ 14, 000 on the spot for work in education."
4. "The Negroes of Texas have given $ 10,000 to the Freedman's Aid Society to assist with its school programmes."
So there you have it. In one year, our brothers in a single American state collected $ 24, 000 tax free for religious and social work, from among only 690, 049 Negroes, almost three times less the size of Haiti's population. Are we not ashamed that with a population of two and a half million we can offer nothing that even remotely resembles such initiatives and such social solidarity? Are we so selfish or so indifferent that we can't impose a certain discipline for the defense of our rights and interests? Can't we set aside a mere tenth of our resources, even a tenth of what we spend on pleasure, for educational projects on which the safeguard and the future of our children depend? Of course, we readily spend thousands on clubs for fun and games and on the cinema, but we can't support a good literary magazine, set up clinics and night schools or build good secondary schools where, in contrast to the dilapidated schools provided by a State negligent of its mission or a traitor to it, we could provide a better education for the elite of tomorrow?
Shame! Shame on you who don't have the courage to devote your energies to a worthwhile activity in cordial cooperation with other conscientious entities in order to achieve the well-being of our people and our country.
I hear it being said everyday that nothing more can be done because we have no political power. That's the resignation of slaves and cowardice of eunuchs. On the contrary, against the state, whether local or foreign, we must pit the demands of the society in its desire to overcome any attempts to demoralize it.
All branches of society--the Church, the school, corporate entities-must have only one doctrine and one goal, which is to save our political heritage. It can only be saved by private groups within the goal of a better provision of a better education system.
Make a methodological, rational effort and if you don't succeed, try again. It is only when you have exhausted all your initiative and good will that you can look back forlornly on the past and say with regret: "Nothing more can be done."
Until that time comes, you have an obligation to keep o trying.
Source: Jean Price-Mars, "The Vocation of the Elite," translated by Bernadette Farquhar, in Yanique Hume and Aaron Kamugisha, "Caribbean Cultural Thought: From Plantation to Diaspora," pp. 25-7.