With the recent release of Quentin Tarantino’s movie “Django Unchained” came sharp protests from fellow director Spike Lee about the use of the “N” word in the movie.
This was nothing new for the controversial Lee who over the years has stood up for political correctness and historical accuracy to be afforded the portrayals of blacks in film and popular culture. I could well imagine the presence of Spike Lee at the launch of the Freedom Bay project here and what his response would be to the claims of the developers for so naming the project with no input from the “natives.” This thought went through my mind all weekend long, even as I soaked in as much T20 Cricket at Beausejour as I could.
No doubt, former English cricketer Andrew Strauss, an endorser and investor of the Freedom Bay project, would have been proud of the ability of our people to successfully host such a world class event. Even if Strauss, like many of his countrymen would struggle in their verbalization of the name of the cricket ground. BCG would have to suffice.
In any case, in the presence of no less than five government ministers, Phillip J Pierre, Lorne Theophilus, Stanley Felix, Emma Hyppolyte and Harold Dalson, the developers announced their reasoning for naming the project Freedom Bay, even whilst their historical facts appeared slightly skewed.
The occasion was the cocktail launch of the Freedom Bay project on Saturday January 5 where developer Robert Whitton announced that the name of the new hotel was not “flippantly” chosen.
According to him, it was so named in honour of “the brigands whose fight for liberation of St Lucia from imperial rule started in Malgretoute.” That being partly true, some historians still believe that the Brigands who were part of the French revolution between 1795 and 1797 were so led into a selfish battle that included the white French, petit blancs and free coloureds all coming together to form a coalition during the “French Revolution.” The actual road to freedom was engaged in by the “Neg Mawons” who many saw as the real rebels leading up to a more or less quiet abolition of slavery eventually in 1834.
According to a press release, the exclusive Freedom Bay development by Whitton International is named in commemoration of the slaves of Soufriere who rebelled against the British in 1795. This led to the formation of the Brigands, a freedom movement that liberated Saint Lucia from imperial rule, albeit briefly. “Today we are seeking to create a new freedom by redefining the benchmarks for luxurious living through iconic design and exemplary service,” the release states. According to Whitton, in spite of the massive investments his organization has made in real estate, it has a healthy respect for the environment, people development and the communities within which it operates.
Despite more than a week of heavy PR, the Freedom Bay project however is not going down well with many environmentalists here, neither Saint Lucia Nobel Laureate who has spoken out on the issue. However, other environmentalists have for one reason or the other, remained publicly silent on the development, a few speaking to the STAR“off the record.”
Organizations like the Saint Lucia National Trust who are entrusted by the public with such matters have not issued a statement position on the hotel development taking place at the foot of “Petit Piton.” Last week the “Trust” sent out a press release to say the following; “The Saint Lucia National Trust takes this opportunity to inform the public that we are currently investigating the matters surrounding the Freedom Bay Development in Soufriere. There are a few issues we need to verify before issuing a statement. They are (i) the impact of the development to the World Heritage Site Status; (ii) Government’s Commitment to the World Heritage Committee; (iii) the impact of the development on the historic assets of the area; and (iv) if the development will affect people’s access to the beach. Please be assured that an informed statement will be made after our Council is furnished with all the information at our upcoming meeting at the end of January.”
The Saint Lucia Archeological Society has also been mum on the matter telling the STAR this week that they will be conferring with their general membership soon. However some members are concerned about the Malgretoute Lands where the project will be erected. These lands according to sources were donated to the Government on behalf of the people of Saint Lucia for “perpetuity.” This according to our source means that the lands should not have been sold or transferred and was only to be used for the benefit of the poor and under-privileged of Soufriere. “This is why the Malgretoute home was built there for example,” our source says.
Another historian told the STAR that name changes have occurred here in Saint Lucia by some of the imperialists from since those wars. “So it may have been simply a question of the developers having trouble pronouncing Malgretoute and deciding to change it to Freedom Bay,” our source said half sarcastically.
The controversy surrounding this project we believe is far from over and we intend to stay on it whilst getting as many facts about the matter as possible. In the meantime, we will be pursuing the whole issue of the Malgretoute lands which were supposedly donated by “The Baron” to the people of Soufriere and how were these lands transferred into the hands of developers.
It is anyone’s guess whether we will have our own Spike Lee speaking out for us, or our own set of Brigands and Neg Mawons fighting for freedom, justice and more bread in the baskets of Soufriere people. Wonder what the “Black Bay”
project would have been renamed!