Grenada officially launched the start of its 50th Anniversary of Independence celebrations on Tuesday night along the scenic Carenage in St. George’s with drumming, steelpan and dancing. Celebrations are expected to take place across the eastern Caribbean country over the next three months leading up to its actual Independence Day on February 7, 2024.
“This is our journey, this is our people, and we are doing this for our future,” said Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell as he addressed the launch event via a live broadcast.
In a recent sit-down interview with ESSENCE at his home, Mitchell spoke about the country’s intent on republic status, race, and reparations, the growing U.S. Caribbean partnership, and how his new administration, which just took office in the summer of 2022, is supporting important yet often under resourced sectors such as the creative sector.
When asked if he thought there would be a Grenadian republic in his lifetime, Mitchell told ESSENCE that he remains “hopeful” that it would happen under his government, meaning the British Monarchy would be removed as Head Of State. However, he shared that it was not an “immediate priority for the country” and that the current focus is the economy and social issues.
Turning to the role of Grenada and other Caribbean nations in the global movement for reparations, Prime Minister Mitchell said that racism and its impact on Black people all over the world, as well as the need for reparatory justice, are issues that the region must not only continue to talk about but be leaders in.
“When we talk about the need to ensure that people of African descent worldwide are treated fairly, that’s an ongoing challenge that we face, and we have to continue to talk about it,” he told ESSENCE.
“CARICOM [The Caribbean Community], certainly given our own experience as well, will continue to lead on this issue and will continue to advocate because we are small. Even when you put us together, we have smaller numbers. But I think the one thing the region has shown is despite the fact that we are small in numbers, we punch above our weight in almost any aspect,” Mitchell continued.
“So, whether it’s diplomats, advocates, you know, entertainers, sportsmen, Nobel laureates, you name it, we have it. I think we just have to continue to make sure that we don’t let our size limit our need to continue leading and advocating on this particular issue of reparations.”
The Prime Minister’s remarks come amid growing calls for the United Kingdom to pay reparations to several Caribbean countries, which are former colonies of Britain, and as more countries in the region, including Grenada, share their intentions of replacing the Monarchy and becoming a republic.
Grenada is one of the 20 member countries that comprise CARICOM, an economic and political community that works together to shape regional policies and support economic growth and trade. As part of the Caribbean’s push for reparations, CARICOM drafted a 10-point plan that calls on European governments to make full and formal apologies, to provide funding for health and education, and to support access to technology in Caribbean countries.
The conversation also touched on the most recent developments of the U.S.-Caribbean Partnership. In June, Vice President Kamala Harris made a historic visit to the Bahamas to meet with Caribbean leaders. She announced a $100 million investment in the Caribbean region by the Biden-Harris Administration to crack down on weapons trafficking, expand humanitarian assistance, and combat climate change.
When asked about his perspective on the partnership and its effectiveness thus far, Mitchell highlighted the longstanding allyship between the U.S. and the Caribbean and expressed gratitude for the initiatives. However, he was critical of the impact it could have on climate change mitigation for Caribbean islands, which are highly vulnerable to climate change.
“There is renewed interest in the Caribbean, and we welcome the initiatives, particularly regarding climate change. But that’s really, in a sense, at best, a drop in the bucket, not even a drop in the ocean, because Grenada alone could use 100 million, and it wouldn’t be impactful in terms of the significant challenges we face with climate change and the need to transition to renewable energy and the need to deal with mitigation and adaptation measures, particularly when it comes to infrastructure, because of damages that are posed by weather patterns,” says Mitchell.
“What I would certainly say is that it’s a start, but we need to do significantly more work, and crucially, we need to simplify how we actually get the resources,” he said, adding that he hopes to focus on simplifying the process by which relief funds are obtained so that it can have a positive impact and not delay recovery progress.
Mitchell reiterated that his administration continues to prioritize economic, health, and social issues of Grenada, which includes supporting often under-resourced sectors that have the potential for major growth with proper backing. One of those sectors is the country’s creative sector. Although an important cultural and economic industry, professions such as dance, music, and visual arts are often seen as hobbies rather than as viable careers.
“We are taking a very strategic and comprehensive approach to the cultural and creative sector. And I think we are perhaps well placed to do so to some extent because we have a blank canvas. I don’t think the word economy is something that was popular two or three years ago. In a sense, I think creative people were either viewed as persons who had hobbies and did something because they simply liked fit or the fun of it,” he says.
Under Mitchell’s administration, The Grenada Office of Creative Affairs, a division of The Ministry of Planning and Economic Development, was officially formed this year. The office is tasked with developing policies and legislation to support the growing sector, facilitate training and funding opportunities, establish and maintain a creative industry registry, and raise awareness about creative industries in the country.
“If you don’t know who the people are, then you can’t connect them, you can’t speak with them, you can’t help them. And that’s just one of the things we did right off the bat,” says Mitchell. The government also ensured that the tools that are needed for professionals in the sector, such as musical instruments, camera equipment, and art supplies, for example, would no longer be subject to an import tax, which in turn will make the industry more accessible.