The 7th annual Garifuna conference ended here last Friday March 13th after a three-day conference held at the NIS Conference Room, under the theme “indigenous people- rethinking a strategic direction for reviving Garifuna heritage and culture through education”.

Speaking at the opening of the conference on Wednesday March 11th, president of the Garifuna heritage foundation David “Darkie” Williams encouraged the audience to be proud of their heritage, noting that it was time to retrieve and reclaim the Garifuna heritage and culture. Williams urged the audience to be cognizant of the fact that the Garifuna ancestors played a pivotal role in the fight for independence. He also shared the Garifuna name for St. Vincent which is Yurumei.

Minister of Education, the Hon St. Clair Prince expressed his gratitude to the foundation for hosting these conferences and workshops. He further stated that the Garifuna heritage is a sacred one and the nation needs to protect it. The Minister further added that the teaching of the history of St. Vincent and the Grenadines should be featured and taught and included in school’s curriculum.

Minister of Tourism, sports and culture the Hon. Cecil McKie in his brief remarks highlighted plans that his ministry has to participate in the reviving of the Garifuna heritage, language and culture. Project Director, of Impact Justice, Professor Velma Newton was also present and addressed the gathering.

The keynote address was delivered by Dr. Cleve Scott, historian and lecturer at the Department of History, UWI Cave Hill Campus. Dr Scott shared classroom experiences of how persons perspective on Garifuna was warped. He elaborated that there is the need to educate persons about the facts of the Garifuna heritage and to encourage pride in it. Dr. Scott spoke on the fact that mainstream media has always mixed fiction with some facts and the true story of our ancestral heritage will not be known and recognized if we don’t speak up.

In pointing out that the future cannot be constructed properly without first understanding our past, Dr. Scott paid homage to Prime Minister Dr. Hon Ralph Gonsalves and his book History and the future.

The 7th Garifuna Conference was held by the Garifuna Heritage Foundation in collaboration with the University of the West Indies Open Campus St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Impact Justice (Government of Canada and UWI).