I can’t breathe; we can’t breathe

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His voice broke, as it rose to a crescendo. The listeners could identify with his disillusionment. They could feel his pain, and they said so. Indeed, after he ended his phone call in bitter tears of frustration with a regime that had promised so much, and delivered so little, our phone lines and WhatsApp board lit up with scores of Antiguans and Barbudans, from as far away as Switzerland, London, Canada and Georgia, commenting on how deeply moved they were by the baring of his soul.  We’re referring to an impassioned call on yesterday’s VOICE OF THE PEOPLE broadcast by a grandson of the incomparable Oscar Mason, the godfather of our carnival and culture and mas’ and local music. One could hear a pin drop as he spoke of the enormous contribution of his grandfather, and he insisted that the famed South Street should be named for him. We here at NEWSCO agree wholeheartedly with the grandson. And yes, we find it passing strange, indeed, a stain on us, that Oscar Mason has not been given our nation’s very highest honour. Hopefully, there can be some redress in the not-too-distant-future, albeit posthumously. (By the way, the first official funeral granted by the United Progressive Party (UPP) when it took office in 2004 was that for Mr. Oscar Mason).

Not surprisingly, the young Mason scion had other things on his mind, and he promptly launched into a heart-wrenching litany of the sad state of affairs here in this fair land of ours. It tore at our very souls; it reminded us of George Floyd, and his dying cries that he could not breathe. It spoke to our suffocation and hardship, and systemic unfairness here, much as it did to African Americans in the United States. It was a haunting, plaintive wail, and without further ado, we print the full text of that gripping phone call.  

“Good day gentlemen: as it relates to the first thing on my list, South Street, I question whether or not it is being reserved for a particular MP, who used to also be on that street, when he reaches his forty years, he will be named ‘Sir,’ and the street will be renamed after him. My grandfather has done so much for this country, he has put so much into this country – Carnival and culture and stuff like that, and people take people for granted in this Antigua of ours. I am not calling in here to hit anybody, or to go begging for something for my grandfather’s name; it really, really turns my stomach, it sickens my stomach, how people can use people in this country of ours, over years, over years, over years, and at the end of the day, it is just like you are worth nothing, you’re worth nothing, and it sickens me to my stomach. And I am telling you, I feel it in my bones  because his blood runs in my veins, and to see and hear his name, just being vanished; nobody wants to recognise this man; this man stood stood toe-to-toe with V C Bird and others against certain things in this country of ours;  this man stood against his own family for V C Bird, there’s no question – I stood right in front of my grandfather one day when he had the argument with my aunt when he said, ‘you must vote for V C Bird,’  This is how much V C Bird meant to this man. And this is not about V C. This is about what he has contributed to culture, music, Carnival, boxing; this man was an all-rounder – OSCAR EMANUEL MASON. And I will shout it from the top of my lungs: OSCAR EMANUEL MASON’S name will never die from Antigua and Barbuda, no matter about signage on a road. So those who are trying to erase his name from history, it will not die from the books of history.

“Franz was asked by Construction Warrior if you guys want to go into politics to commit suicide? Right now everybody is committing suicide in Antigua! The status quo cannot remain the same! Antigua is a cesspool of corruption!  It CANNOT, and will NOT, remain the same. It is sickening now! I’m telling you! I am sick to my stomach with this place they call Antigua, and for what I see going on, and know going on. Nobody has to tell me, nobody has to tell me, Franz and Mr Quinn, ‘cause I experience it everyday!

“They talk about lands; you want people to invest in lands, you know what V C should have done when the 39’s and so forth were around, and when he went to England to get the land, why did they not use their initiative back then, to say everybody who help put forward to help get the land, should get these lands; [they should have said] ‘Ok, I am going to allocate to you a half-acre for you to live on.’ When you go into the different communities, you see everybody ‘kotch-up’ in a little two-by-two and a little ten-by-ten; there was no plan, there was no structure, there was no forward thinking. Yes, V C did good, but there was still no forward thinking; and everybody who came after, there [is] still no forward thinking. And then you have ministers of government getting land for peppercorn prices, and then people out there – young men, young women, you have to pay this, you have to pay that, and then you’re told, ‘Oh, there’s not enough land there right now, the land is scarce,’ but then yet still you hear five acres given away, twelve acres given away, fifteen acres given away, WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON IN ANTIGUA?! WHAT IS GOING ON?! You come and tell me one thing in one breath, and then this is given away, that is given away for little or nothing. Concessions . . . given away left, right and centre, (voice rising) young business people CAN’T BREATHE, WE NEED TO BREATHE, I NEED TO BREATHE!! (crying) I’M SICK, TIRED AND FED-UP! WHAT KIND OF COUNTRY WE’RE LIVING IN? I am a young businessman in this place and I can’t breathe!!!” Gasp! Ouch!

Talk about the cries of discontent! Talk about the voices of the people raised in angst and protest! We here at NEWSCO cannot add a blessed thing to that. It speaks for itself! We can’t breathe! Gasp, gasp!We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.

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