Walter Rodney: a revolutionary Caribbean hurricane
Walter Rodney was an exceptional man. He was not only a leading scholar and historian, but a Marxist revolutionary who sought to unite people in Jamaica and Guyana. A new book of essays pays tribute. Review by Susan Jappie
The book is a tribute to Walter Rodney’s short but inspiring life which started and ended in Guyana, with periods in Jamaica, London and Tanzania as well as brief visits to the USA and Zimbabwe before his brutal assassination in 1980, aged only 38.
Walter A Rodney: A Promise of Revolution is a collection of personal memories of friends and revolutionaries from around the world. Fellow Guyanese Clairmont Chung has compiled these histories in connection with his 2010 film, W.A.R. Histories.
Several of the contributors knew Rodney as fellow lecturers at the Universities of Guyana, the West Indies (UWI) in Jamaica and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, and others from London University’s School of African and Oriental Studies where he did his post-graduate studies. He was also visiting Professor at Cornell University.
Jamaica’s right-wing Hugh Shearer government expelled the 26-year-old scholar in 1968 and barred him from returning to the island – in what Guyanese historian Michael O. West has called “a triumph for the Jamaican intelligence services”. Rodney’s expulsion – he was not allowed to disembark from the airplane which had brought him back from a black writers’ congress in Canada – led to the so-called Rodney Riots.
“The day he was banned,” West writes, “the UWI campus erupted; angry students quickly arranged for buses and trucks to take them to the offices of the prime minister and the ministry of home affairs to protest the following day. The vehicles failed to appear, and the students blamed the heavy hand of officialdom. Undaunted, the protestors took to their heels, only to be met by police officers wielding batons and firing teargas. The larger procession dispersed, the determined students made their way in small groups to the ministry of home affairs, where a delegation met the permanent secretary.”…
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