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The renaming epidemic

William Shakespeare once wrote in the play Romeo and Juliet: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other word would smell as sweet.” It is a beautiful sentiment in that context, and even still you might say that there is some truth to this saying in a lot of ways.

Amongst other more serious epidemics, there is one global epidemic which has escaped comment. This is the renaming of institutions, roads, buildings, parks, or whatever, for a variety of reasons, among them political correctness, historical reappraisal, religious bigotry or ethics.

Over the past years, we have seen the renaming of schools, playing fields, streets and other public places in Grenada. In November 2021, Bro. Arley Gill, Chairman of the Grenada National Reparations Committee (GNRC) and a former Minister of Culture, recommended that Government rename several streets, schools, and other landmarks as part of the 50th Independence Celebrations in 2024.

The reason he gave was that historical research shows that many of the individuals that were commemorated, and honoured were involved in the Transatlantic Slave Trade or were direct beneficiaries of the slave trade, He added that the time has come to identify and amplify the lives and memories of outstanding nationals, who made valiant contributions to Grenada’s civilisation.

Among the streets he identified for renaming were Melville Street in St George’s and Depradine Street in Gouyave, St John; as well as Sendall Tunnel.

In this article, I will look at how schools, playing fields, streets and other public places in Grenada are named. The renaming usually raise several questions, among them, what purpose does it serve? Is it a way of erasing unpleasant public memories, a salve for collective emotional wounds caused by history and historical figures? Or is it a form of retributive justice, and a warning for current generations?

Or simply a way of replacing heroes of one generation with those of the more recent past with whom they have more connections and from whom they can draw inspiration?

BONAIRE GOVERNMENT SCHOOL:
Around this time over 27 years ago, thoughts of joining forces with another school were far from the mind of the management and staff of the St. Mark’s Anglican and St. Mark’s Roman Catholic School. By 1983, however, as a consequence of poor enrollment, leaders at both schools acknowledged there could be benefits in consolidating into what they saw as a more sustainable model.

As a result, after months of discussions and extensive due diligence, the merger into a Bonaire Government School took place. The two schools were closed, only to be reopened on a different site, with the same facilities – but with a new name. Bonaire Government School was therefore founded on 17th January 1983 with a merger between the St. Mark’s Anglican Primary School and the St. Mark’s R.C

ST. GEORGE’S RC BOYS SCHOOL:
In 1956, a building located on Grand Etang Road previously owned by the Roman Catholic Church was used for setting up its boys’ school. These boys were transferred from the St Louis RC Girls School to form what was known at that time as the St. George’s Senior Boys School and which became known as the St. George’s RC Boys School.

Its first male Principal was J.W Fletcher and as was customary in those times, it was unofficially referred to as Fletcher School. Later when Mr. Fletcher retired, and Mr. R.O. Palmer became Principal; it was referred to as Palmer School.

In the 1980s, the school was moved to Archibald Avenue, because of safety concerns for the children due to the heavy vehicular traffic with people going to the General Hospital and to the Central Police Station which was located at Fort George which was renamed Fort Rupert for a short time in honour of Rupert Bishop, the father of revolutionary Prime Minister, Maurice Bishop.

In 1984, the St George’s RC Boys School was officially closed and in its place the J.W Fletcher RC Secondary School was established. In the meantime, the old building on Grand Etang Road was refurbished and became the offices of George F Huggins.

HAPPY HILL SECONDARY SCHOOL:
This school was initially a junior secondary school and was referred to as the Happy Hill Secondary School. However, On 19 June 1980, thousands of supporters of the Grenada Revolution gathered at Queen’s Park at a rally to honour two Grenadians who had been named among the Heroes of the Revolution: Tubal Uriah ‘Buzz’ Butler and Alister Strachan. A bomb exploded under the grandstand, injuring scores of people, and killing 3 young women.

One of the women was a student from the Happy Hill Secondary School named Bernadette Bailey. As a result, the school was renamed Bernadette Bailey Secondary School. At the demise of the revolution in October 1982, the school reverted to the name Happy Hill Secondary School.

FORT GEORGE:
Fort George was built from 1706-1710, on an early battery erected by the French in the 1600s, to protect the capital of St. George’s and originally named Fort Royal; it was renamed Fort George in 1763, in honour of King George III when the British took possession of the island.

During the Grenada Revolution it was renamed Fort Rupert in honour of revolutionary leader Maurice Bishop’s slain father, Rupert Bishop. Maurice Bishop would later be executed on the fort on October 19, 1983. After 1983 the fort reverted to the name Fort George.

Today, the Royal Grenada Police Force headquarters occupies the interior of the fort while the public is free to wander among the stone structure and its canons on the top tier. Between 1979 and 1983 the fort served as headquarters for the People’s Revolutionary Army.

A Fort George Enhancement Project is presently being done with funding provided by the Washington-based World Bank. Under the project, the “Historic Tunnel” at the fort will be upgraded and the enhancement will include a museum and restaurant to make the place a major attraction especially for mainly cruise ship passengers who will be charged a small fee to enter the facility.

The Royal Grenada Police Headquarters will be moved to the Cable & Wireless Building on the Carenage. This will be the new home for the headquarters of the Royal Grenada Police Force, which is being retrofitted, and is expected to be handed over next month.

QUEEN’S PARK:
Queen’s Park was a cricket ground in River Road, St. George, Grenada. A Grenada cricket team first appeared in West Indian cricket in 1887 against a touring Gentlemen of America team at the old Queen’s Park. Ten years later the team was recorded playing against Lord Hawke’s touring team although, unlike several matches during the tour, that match did not have first-class status.

In 1899, G.A. de Freitas and William Mignon became the first Grenada cricketers to play first-class cricket. The ground was replaced by the National Cricket Stadium. The newly rebuilt National Stadium became the 84th Test venue in 2002 when it hosted its first match between the West Indies and New Zealand.

After being rebuilt in 2000, the new complex was damaged in September 2004, as a result of Hurricane Ivan. It was rebuilt by the People’s Republic of China.

WINDSOR PARK:
As you approach the town of Gouyave from the south, a metal bridge straddles the river, where the coastal road passes to the west of Windsor Park before entering the town. This name was given in colonial times.

The Park has since been refurbished and its name was changed to the Cuthbert Peters Park after the late Cuthbert “Chuff” Peters, one of Grenada’s Iconic Sports Administrators in the Parish. He played football for St. John’s Sports in the 1950’s. He was also a referee and organised the Annual 24th May Sports Meet in Gouyave plus managing Track and Field, Cricket, Football, Cycling, Table Tennis teams from the parish with free Transportation most times.

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ELIZABETH PARK:
It was located in Victoria, St. Mark. It got its name after Queen Elizabeth II of England who first visited Grenada during her Caribbean tour of 1966. It was later refurbished, and its name was changed to Alston George Park to recognise the contributions made by Alston “Heads” George to football and sports in general in Grenada.

TANTEEN PLAYING FIELD:
Tanteen Playing Field is a cricket and football ground in St. George’s, Grenada. The area in which the ground is located was formerly swamp land, which was drained in 1905. The Tanteen playing field on the outskirts of St. George’s was renamed in honour of Mr. Roy St. John a few years ago.

Mr. St. John was a former national footballer who served as Minister of Sports during the reign of the Eric Gairy government. He has been described by many here as an architect of Grenadian sporting excellence, especially in the area of sports administration.

SANTA MARIA HOTEL:
The Santa Maria Hotel was constructed in 1943. It was Grenada’s first luxury hotel equipped with a ballroom-sized dance hall that was the go-to spot for weekly parties and events – the building became the Islander Hotel in 1962.

The hotel later become the property of the government in 1979 and was renamed Butler House and served as the office of the Prime Minister for Comrade Maurice Bishop. The site was leveled during the 1983 US-led invasion of Grenada. It was purchased by English investor Peter de Savary’ and was demolished to start construction on a high-end luxury 120 room resort as part of the Port Louis Grenada development.

Peter de Savary has since passed away and Joyau des Caraibes Ltd (JDC), owner of Silver Sands Grenada, has announced the acquisition of Port Louis Maritime Village where a new luxury hotel will be built in the area once occupied by The Santa Maria Hotel (Silver Sands Port Louis Resort)

GRENADA BEACH HOTEL:
The Grenada Beach Hotel was named the Grenada Grand Beach Resort. It was then renamed the Renaissance Grenada Resorts. In December 2013, it was named the Radisson Grenada Beach Resorts.

TYRREL STREET:
Tyrrel Street, in St. George’s was renamed H A Blaize Street, in honour of Herbert Augustus Blaize, a Grenadian politician and leader of the Grenada National Party. When Grenada was still a British Crown Colony, he served as First Chief Minister from 1960 to 1961 and again from 1962 to 1967.

In 1967, he briefly became the first Prime Minister of the autonomous state of Grenada. In the first elections after the 1983 coup and the American-led invasion of Grenada, he served as Prime Minister from 1984 until he died in 1989.

THE FREQUENTE ROAD:
The Frequente Road was renamed the Maurice Bishop Memorial Highway. It is next to The Limes in Saint George, Grenada and has a length of 0.97 kilometres.

ALBERT STREET:
It was renamed Ben Jones Street after Ben Joseph Jones who was a Grenadian politician. He was a lawyer before being elected to Parliament as a member of the New National Party in 1984. In 1984 he began serving as foreign minister in the government of his party’s leader, Herbert Blaize.

When Blaize died in December 1989, Jones became Prime Minister of Grenada. He served until March 1990, when his party lost elections. Ben Jones Street intersects with Seaton James Street, St Andrew.

THE POINT SALINES INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT:
This airport was constructed in the early 1980s to accommodate medium and long-range aircraft and is Grenada’s sole airport. It is located in the parish of St. George’s on Point Salines, the most southwestern point of the island. It was renamed the Maurice Bishop International Airport in 2009 after former Prime Minister Maurice Bishop (1944–1983), who championed the construction project in 1979.

HOLY INNOCENTS ANGLICAN PRIMARY SCHOOL:
There is now a call for the Holy Innocents Anglican Primary School to be named after a past pupil, Louise Langdon Little. Adjunct Professor of Caribbean Studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York, Martin P Felix has suggested that action be taken to rename the Holy Innocents Anglican Primary School in La Digue after Malcolm X’s mother, Louise Langdon Little, to honour her legacy.

Louise’s childhood school was Holy Innocents Anglican Primary School. The public is anxiously waiting to see if the name of this school will change with the times.

GRENVILLE STREET:
Grenville Street in St George’s and the town of Grenville are both named after George Grenville, a British Whig statesman who rose to the position of Prime Minister of Great Britain. Grenville was born into an influential political family and first entered Parliament in 1741 as an MP for Buckingham.

As far as can be determined, he never visited Grenada or the Caribbean. Should some of these streets and towns be renamed in honour of people with more of a connection to Grenadians and Grenada?

HER MAJESTY PRISON:
Her Majesty Prison in Richmond Hill was built on land that was used to house a military hospital since the late 18th century and the current building was converted into a prison in 1880. The wing for female prisoners was added in 1904. The prison is overcrowded.

At a recent Townhall meeting, Prime Minister Hon. Dickon Mitchell indicated that it is overcrowded, and it is something his government will address because the prison also poses a national security risk as he provided justification for the building of a new prison.

The view from the prison sweeps over the horseshoe-shaped bay of St. George’s, where fishing boats lie next to yachts and the siren of a cruise ship greets you. It is the feeling that it would be the prime location for posh villas or luxury hotels since nowhere on the Caribbean Island of Grenada has a better view.

If a new prison is built in another location, it will be renamed, and the renaming epidemic will continue.

CONCLUSION:
There should be a policy in place for the naming of public buildings, parks, streets, etc. based on a set of criteria. This can prevent conflict within a country and can provide a historical context for future generations, especially if the name was intended as a tribute to someone from the country’s past.

Consideration should be given to providing honorary buildings and street names but retaining the official name. In the USA, the Black Lives Matter Protests inspired activists to demand the removal of controversial names from campus buildings.

The renaming of institutions, roads, buildings, parks, or whatever, for a variety of reasons, among them political correctness, historical reappraisal, religious bigotry or ethics may not be the answer.

The remedy for the historical success or guilt of a leader or a community does not lie in renaming a few buildings or removing statues but in the re-education of present societies in the successes or wrongs they represented or else we will be living with distorted history.

Simeon Collins is a former Director of the Grenada Bureau of Standards and first Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Caribbean Agricultural Health and Food Safety Agency (CAHFSA), a CARICOM Institution. He is also a certified OSHA Auditor