From left to right: Chief Education Officer, Dr. Ramona Archer-Bradshaw; Senior Sales Manager, Radisson Aquatica Resort Barbados, Simone Reid; Administrative Technician Officer, OAS (Barbados), Erika Watson; winner of the OAS poetry competition, Abayomi Marshall; third place winner Nicia Thompson; Education Officer (Secondary), Henderson Wiltshire; second place winner Abianna Fenty; RBC Area Vice President (Business Banking), Shimon McIntosh; and Director of the Education Reform Unit, Dr. Idamay Denny, at the prize-giving ceremony today. (E. Walker/MRD)

Poetry and poetry writing is alive in Barbados, says Chief Education Officer, Dr. Ramona Archer-Bradshaw.

She emphasised this today while addressing the prize-giving ceremony of the Organization of American States (OAS) Poetry Competition, where three winners were declared and presented with their prizes, at the Ministry of Education, Technological and Vocational Training, Elsie Payne Complex, Constitution Road, St. Michael.

Expressing pleasure at the level of participation and lauding the trio, Dr. Archer-Bradshaw said: “This event demonstrates that the art form of poetry and poetry writing is still very popular and loved by our young people in Barbados.”

Also acknowledging that the top poems had adeptly explored the theme given by the OAS, the Chief Education Officer added. “We are grateful for the many good poems shared by our students; they made us more aware of the slave trade.”

The OAS was commended for conceptualising the “noteworthy competition” and Dr. Archer-Bradshaw applauded the quality of the contributions by students and the interest shown by all 28 participants saying: “I am confident that the next Kamau Brathwaite or Derek Walcott, or Grace Nicholls is on the horizon.”

Urging students across the island to research these great West Indian poets and their contributions to the region and the world, the Chief Education Officer said their work had caused a “paradigm shift” in the thinking of many, as it relates to products of the Caribbean.

The winners heard too that research had shown that writing poetry improves language skills; sparks creative thinking, and promotes self-awareness.  “For both the reader and the writer, it can improve cognitive functions, heal emotional pain and help us to celebrate, inspire and educate others,” Dr. Archer-Bradshaw added.    

The competition targeted individuals 16 to 25 years old, and was held collaboratively with the Ministry to commemorate the Fifth Annual Inter-American Week for People of African Descent in the Americas, March 21 to 25, 2022.

The winners were: Barbados Community College student, Abayomi Marshall, who came first with a poem entitled Black Coffee; Harrison College student, Abianna Fenty, placed second with Colourism, and University of the West Indies graduate, Nicia Thompson, third, with her piece Enslaved Thoughts.

Erika Watson, speaking on behalf of the Administrative Technician Office of the General Secretariat of the OAS (Barbados), outlined the origins of the competition by pointing out it was established through the Permanent Council Resolution 1093, which was adopted by OAS member states in February, 2018.

“The resolution mandates the OAS member states to mark the Inter-American Week ‘with activities that foster greater awareness and respect for the diversity of the heritage and culture of people of African descent’,” she stated. 

She further pointed out that the theme Stories of Courage in the Americas: Resistance to Slavery and Unity against Racism was adopted by the OAS, in keeping with the theme chosen by the United Nations, in observance of International Day for the Remembrance of Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave trade, celebrated on March 25.

The competition was also sponsored by RBC Royal Bank Barbados Ltd. and Radisson Aquatica Resort Barbados, which both contributed prizes to the three winners. All other competitors received certificates of participation for their efforts from the OAS.

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