Who are we? Who are you?
by Baba Elombe Jakuta
Saturday Night Fish Fry
You don’t have to pay the usual admission
If you are a cook or a waiter or a good musician
So if you happen to be just passing by
Stop in at the Saturday Night Fish Fry.
– Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five
Martin’s Bay like a loop. A loop that curls like a noose to knot a shallow beach between a black scarred reef and a black macadam road. Potted once upon a time in the sands were singularly lean coconut trees to shelter this fragile loop of beach in a speckled shade. That was a time when fishing boats had sails. A distant loop from a distant past where the sea salt blinded ambition.
And Martin’s Bay people always lingered in my mind as having a sense of privacy that was uniquely their own. There wasn’t much land but what there was was planted with bay houses and homes held precariously together by rust and paint.
Martin’s Bay is an outpost. As far from the tourist industry as imagination can make. Not interesting enough to force the tourist buses down the loop. Not even to see the remnants of a long gone train or to hear the strains of the mythical and mystical Brumley band hiding in the wind.
Martin’s Bay today is sedate and settled but how I would like to see a Martin’s Bay Saturday Night Fish Fry on the slender beach, replete with Sam Lord’s lanterns and Julian Hunte bonfires, roast breadfruit, fried plantain, potato pickings (the extra sweet potatoes) and other delights.
In a two by four island like ours everything counts. There should be no wasteland.
Tourism has developed as an industry far removed from the rest of us. It was precious to a few, hoteliers by and large, who saw their properties as oases in a dessert of primitive yahoos. And who used to get every concession, tax free holidays as if they did tourist themselves, tourist from taxes. And to some others the historical sojourn in plantation houses with silver forks was touted as the places to see.
As far as planners and developers expect, we are to be the hewers of wood and carry water buckets on our heads forever. And regardless of how sophisticated everything appears in Barbados, there are now some sophisticated hewers of wood and some sophisticated water bucket carriers.
What I am driving at here is the absence of real benefits to black Bajans. Somehow I get the impression that we are still getting the pickings from the fields of tourism. The pickings from a field of sweet potatoes, those premature finger-sized potatoes that were usually good for feeding hogs. When roasted and served with raw salt fish and washed down by a frothy-head mauby, served as food for many of our parents.
And much of it seems to be our fault, it is said.
We have a billion dollar tourism industry and seem to feel that it should operate on automatic pilot. For the Concorde class of course – there are real estate permits and pathways to heaven. For us we must dress-up in our Sunday go-to-meetings and stand-up outside like our parents used to do outside the Marine Hotel pun old year’s night.
Exactly what is it we must do to get noticed, to get fair treatment? Get it straight, I talking bout those who get scratch grain scatter in their path like if dem is starve out bare-neck fowls…
We don’t have to bend down.
Tourism is valid and all Bajans who want to be in it must be in it. Some can’t don’t know what is the product and some do. Some can’t suck the sweet and rest suck salt. It cyan be that. It ent to say that some of we ent there. Some of we there. And that is why the rest of we want to get in too. Some cyan have and the rest ent to have.
Every body got beach and sand and de sun if the devil and he wife don’t fight fuh de coocoo stick too often and too long. But Buhbadus is we, all of we and all of wunna. Everything that get pack up and send down the line to we from we father and mother father and mother is what is Bajan. So it just cyan be for some of we and not the rest.
Martin’s Bay got people that does fish for a living. Them know every fishing ground from Martin=s Bay to the Cow and the Calf and the Horse Nostril right thru to the Bowbells. So why them can’t get piece of the action offering sea tours? Is only imported bus that is to get used?
Culture is what people do in a particular environment. It different. So what wrong with Martin’s Bay people? Them ent to live and enjoy the sweets too?
So Martin’s Bay, don’t wait. Light up the coalpots and the smut lamps and fry some fish pun a sarduh night. Yuh don’t have to pay the usual admission. Forget the scratch grain.
Baba Elombe Jakuta 1998