West Indies, Let Me See Your Hands Please
For four heady years, from January 3, 1958 to May 31, 1962, seven of the islands of the Caribbean were united in the form of the Federation of the West Indies. Now, forty four years and one more attempt at a Caribbean Community later, the Federation that never really was is being revived in sport and in spirit.
Terry Joseph, a respected Trinidadian journalist and prominent member of the T&T branch of the organising committee for the World Cup, described the Anthem of the West Indies as ” one-minute song designed for rallying regional self-esteem.”
As an advocate of greater Caribbean integration, and as someone who has just written several thousand words on football as a vehicle for both nationalism and unification, I’m particularly struck by the general outrage which greeted the announcement that the Anthem would make its debut at the T&T vs Peru match.
“I really don’t object to the anthem itself, but why at this football event? This is TRINBAGO’S moment in the sun and we should bask in it.”
“I agree with this statement, totally. We should be on showcase, it’s our day, and we should put the spot light on us and no one else.”
“This is WE time not WI time”
“So there is an initiative for a West Indian Anthem, so what if it is played along with our National Anthem at a sporting event? Do you feel any less a Trinidadian, or Jamaican, or Grenadian, or Barbadian if two songs are played instead of just one?”
“It is never inappropriate to promote Caribbean unity.”
Objectively, I can appreciate the more ‘nationalist’ expressions of dissent. This whole journey to Germany has generated an unparalleled level of international attention in T&T, and we do want to show the world that we’re in Jamaica, amongst other things.
On the other hand, the very slogan that will drive the Warriors in Germany – “the Fighting Spirit of the Caribbean” – alludes to the idea that we are also a part of something bigger – a region, a culture, a history.
Indeed, the official line regarding the Anthem is obviously designed to placate any concerns that the uniqueness of T&T will be in any way diluted: “Each island will be allowed to have its own interpretation, according to its heritage but without altering the fundamentals of the work.”
At the match, the anthem will be performed by a local choir and accompanied by steelpan.
The lyrics are as follows:
We are united through struggles
And triumphs of history
We are the children
Of proud generations
That yearn to be free
Rainbow people resilient and
We’ve created a home where we
The greatness of small
Treasures on earth
Paradise lands where cultures
To make West Indian nations
Colourful and proud
West Indian nations
Always shining as one under
I am a Trini to the bone, a Trinbagonian, a West Indian, a citizen of the Caribbean; just as I will always stand up for the National Anthem of T&T, just as I brim with pride whenever I hear the Anthem of the Warrior Nation or recite the Warrior Pledge, I will be proud to one day sing the anthem of the West Indies.
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