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Grenada looks to the past and the future at its Golden Jubilee Independence celebrations!

By: Bee Quammie

Forward ever, backward never.

These words from Maurice Bishop – Grenada’s revolutionary son and the nation’s 2nd post-independence prime minister – were ever-present during the island’s 50th independence anniversary celebrations in early February. Shouted in call-and-response on stages in front of crowds, uttered reverently on street corners, painted onto the rear windshields of taxis that darted through the winding roads, these four words were a fitting mantra for a nation that is looking to the past with pride, and to the future with anticipation.

As a guest of the GTA — Grenada Tourism Authority — I was honoured to visit the Spice Isle and take part in a number of Independence celebrations across the island, where patriotism was in full force. Independence Day banners and Grenadian flags waved on nearly every available surface, and the entire island was awash in red, green, and gold.  We celebrated Colors Day, visited Concord Falls, and toured the Rivers rum distillery. Still, one of the most meaningful events was the Prime Minister’s address, where a packed auditorium heard Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell speak.

 A running sentiment during the entire week was the pride many Grenadians feel towards their current Prime Minister. At the event, Mitchell was accompanied to the stage by waves of applause, cheers, and jubilant shouts, and subsequent conversations with Grenadians — from the beach vendor I met while staying at the beautiful Sandals Grenada to the thousands of citizens at the Independence Day Celebration a few days later at the National Stadium — solidified an emotion that I have personally grown unfamiliar with : dedication to a political leader. 

(Grenada PM Dickon Mitchell and Writer Bee Quammie)

At the address, Prime Minister Mitchell covered two important aspects of the Independence celebration: the “Vision 75” national sustainable development plan, and the unveiling of a new symbol of Grenada’s national identity: an updated $50 Eastern Caribbean note that will go into circulation later this year.

This eye-catching note contains shades of the Grenadian flag, with an image of the Hon. Sir Eric Matthew Gairy (the Prime Minister who ushered in the nation’s independence in 1974) on one side and the aforementioned Maurice Bishop on the other. Additional design elements include Annandale Falls, Carriacou’s Big Drum players and dancers, bougainvillaea flowers, cocoa pods, and more. 

While covering Vision 75, Prime Minister Mitchell spoke on the multipronged approach towards a new future for the island. Streamlined into pillars of Education, Healthcare, Agriculture, Energy, and Society, Grenada’s national plan highlights reform, improvements, revitalization, and innovation. This plan was initially developed under the leadership of Grenada’s former Prime Minister, Dr Keith Mitchell, and has now been adopted and continued under the new Mitchell administration.

A Grenada that becomes world-renowned as a leading medical tourism destination? A Grenada that bolsters its agricultural sector by halting the import of poultry and the export of raw nutmeg? A Grenada that reduces vehicle emissions, encourages students to be curious in educational and career pursuits, and moves toward a society that is safe and prosperous for all? Under Vision 75, this is all a possibility for Grenada’s future.

Vision allows us to look back and look forward, and that is what we did a few nights later at the Golden Jubilee Independence celebration at the National Stadium. After precise military presentations, greetings from Prime Minister Mitchell, Governor-General Dame Cécile La Grenade, and visiting dignitaries and heads of state, and rousing cultural performances, the Stadium was delighted with a captivating and emotional drone light show, which told Grenada’s story from before slave ships arrived to the present. Drones lit up the sky and transformed from nutmeg to the faces of historical figures to Jab Jab to Olympian Kirani James, alongside a booming narration and musical score.

Once the drone show ended, the stadium erupted into a 20-minute fireworks display, where all eyes turned to the skies. Colours and light blazed through the night sky, and it all seemed to solidify the main point of the entire week: Grenada’s past is powerful, its present is vibrant, and its future is bright.

About Bee Quammie

Bee is a Jamaican-Canadian multimedia storyteller: a writer, radio host, TV personality, and public speaker.

She’s written for publications like The Globe and Mail, Men’s Health, Today’s Parent, Macleans, and more. Bee previously hosted radio shows on Flow 98.7FM and am640 Toronto and is a featured commentator on shows like CityTV’s Cityline, CBC’s The National, and CTV’s The Social. She writes and speaks on topics like race and culture, parenting, mental health, and pop culture — and her debut book, The Book of Possibilities, will be published by Penguin Canada in 2025.

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