Ladies & Gentlemen:
They say that the mark of a great man is in the legacy he leaves behind. Today we mourn the loss of such a man who has made his contribution to this country in many different ways over the many decades of his life. As the Patriarch of the Sons of God Apostolic Spiritual Baptist Church, Archbishop Granville Williams has impacted on various aspects of Barbados??? community life through religion, entrepreneurship and culture.
For us, he was a stalwart in the cultural community with a proud history of public participation in Crop Over dating back to the 70???s at a time when many churches were wary of supporting this national festival. He was also a member of one of the early governing bodies of the National Cultural Foundation and in that role contributed to the shaping of institutional policy.
As an iconic part of Crop Over in Barbados from the reintroduction of this modern Festival, the Archbishop has readily participated in the blessing of the Last Canes at the annual Opening Gala event. I am sure many of us have vivid memories of those energetic ceremonial expressions of praise each year as the Foundation officially welcomes in the Crop Over season.
His role was not just one of appealing for God???s blessings on the Festival, but demonstrating the church???s celebration of Crop Over in it???s own inimitable and indigenous way. This demonstration supported the NCF???s philosophy of celebrating Barbadian identity and therefore was very much in concert with the NCF???s mandate as the cultural coordinating entity for Crop Over.
The Festival would have been running for nine (9) years prior to this, and the NCF took over its management and expansion in 1984. It was specifically the Ministry of Culture in 1978 that at the time invited the participation of the Spiritual Baptist Church in the opening of Crop Over.
The Archbishop???s life in itself was a testimony to his faith and pride in black heritage, identity and empowerment, for if you know not from whence you came, how therefore can you know where you are going. This stance also extended into his religious and entrepreneurial philosophies, evidenced even in his support for and involvement in the church???s Cou Cou Village at Bridgetown Market and other community festivals such as those at Holetown and Oistins.
Cou Cou Village has been seen as a key component of the make-up of Crop Over???s Bridgetown Market over the years where the church, under his leadership produced 100% Bajan cuisine for sale at one of the biggest open-air restaurants on this street of bustling commerce. It was probably for practical reasons, as a way of raising funding on behalf of the church. However, it also supported their philosophy of pride in black culture and black identity as expressed via our island???s indigenous cuisine.
As a sincere individual, and charismatic leader, he has certainly achieved iconic status in his commitment to and love of our African heritage. Indeed, his passionate devotion to empowering Barbadians through his assurance of the faithful that black divinity was central to their practice of the Christian faith, separated his church from most others and initially proved to be quite controversial in the early years. We are happy to note that attitudes to such philosophies of empowerment have changed somewhat over the years and acknowledge the pathbreaking efforts of Archbishop Williams.
It is notable that long before there was a formal recognition of the Season of Emancipation or a structured schools programme in recognition of Black History Month, this church under his leadership implemented an annual exhibition on African and diasporic history for the education of its members and the wider community. Archbishop Williams was certainly a visionary, and his leadership in this process is undeniable.??We thank him for his total involvement in such diverse areas of cultural and community life and join with you in celebrating his contribution to the cultural space in Barbados.
I am happy to announce that as a symbol of our appreciation for the Archbishop’s contribution to our culture, a special tribute will be paid to him during this year’s delivery of the last canes ceremony.??On behalf of the Government and people of Barbados, I extend our deepest sympathy to his family and friends and to members of this church on the occasion of his passing. May he rest in peace.