Prime Minister's Message on the Occasion of Spiritual Shouter Baptist Liberation Day 2022
It is with deep-felt emotions that I bring 2022 Greetings to the Spiritual Shouter Baptist community on behalf of the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, members of my family, and myself, as Prime Minister.
Every year, I feel a rush of emotions whenever this celebration comes around because I attempt to transport myself into an observer, trying somehow to experience going back in time to the historical road, which the early members of the Spiritual Shouter Baptists faith travelled in Trinidad and Tobago.
Theirs is the sad history of a people seeking legitimacy, a right to worship what they felt deeply in their being, and a defence of their sense of self. Theirs was first a small struggle, then a movement of resistance in a world which had deemed the African as a person, unworthy of respect, “primitive”, “barbarous”, “uncivilised” – a stereotype perpetuated by the European world, which still lingers in some minds.
Franz Fanon wrote of “The Dammed”; Derek Walcott in his “A Far Cry from Africa” tells of a history of “violence of beast on beast” and of the “upright man” who sought “his Divinity by inflicting pain” on others; and Professor Lloyd Braithwaite, one of our early sociologists wrote of Willy Richardson’s poem which recounted the despair:
“We are men without a country
We are men without a faith
We are men without a future
We are men, who wait for death.”
Such was the colonial experience, and road the Spiritual Shouter Baptist travelled. Thankfully, we can all look at how far we have come.
Today we celebrate in the magnificence of our dress, the elevated haunting notes of our melodious voices and most importantly in the embrace of the faith by the young generation of the Spiritual Baptist youth, ably guided by generations of ancestors.
The struggles and pains which they suffered are now acknowledged as part of our socio-historical matrix, and today the entire nation commemorates their struggles; lifting it into celebration, we recognise too, that their story is not wholly exclusive. We recognise that, given the breadth of the colonial experience, other religious and ethnic groups residing here have travelled their own rough roads to achievement and legitimacy.
But March 30th is the Spiritual Baptist day - the day in 1951 on which the Shouter Prohibition Ordinance of 1917 was repealed, and in Trinidad and Tobago, the only nation to so celebrate the achievements of this community, we all, regardless of our faith, reach out to our brothers and sisters of that faith.
I commend members of the faith for their steadfastness, holding unshakeably to their beliefs, and always visualising, beyond their day-to-day struggles, to the coming of a millennium in which everything will be made whole again.
Having now received from the Government, the land grant and the availability of assistance towards the building of your cathedral, I anxiously await the day when we can meet to celebrate in the shadows of the edifice and as God wills it, to meet in praise at your own cemetery grounds which you now have within your grasp.
Progress is being made and celebrated on this day.
At this stage, what is required among all citizens is first the recognition of that need for tolerance, then a search for forgiveness and healing, which the Spiritual Shouter Baptists have shown us.
We should each try to reach into ourselves, searching, up and beyond, for that place within, in which we can all live every day with the dictums of Christ in which we can find Love, then showing, in some measure, tolerance and respect to those around us, individually, collectively and as a people, as a nation.
May we all celebrate on a Happy and Holy Spiritual Shouter Baptist Day.