â€œThe history and heritage of Barbados is something that we recognize from a bittersweet perspective,â€ he said recently. â€œBarbados would have been occupied by the English. The English were also responsible for introducing slavery into Barbados. Thatâ€™s all part of our ancestry, and we see it as that. But, we look at that and it helps us to understand our present, and what we need to project in terms of our future.â€
Barbados is the most easterly of the Caribbean islands, the closest part in the chain to the African continent. Because of its proximity, it was one of the closely guarded islands. In the early 16th to 17th centuries Barbados developed the reputation as being one of the most important. It assumed the same importance to the British as New York is to the United States of America, Lashley explained.
The minister explained that Barbados was part of the triangular trade, and much of the commerce took place between England, Barbados and Africa. Barbados was a critical point of defense. Barbados had a permanent infantry on the island at all times, able to defend the territories from invasion. Because of that presence, Barbados was never conquered by a foreign force. It remained under English occupation until Independence in 1966.
â€œWe have never been conquered by the Spanish, the French, the Dutch,â€ said Lashley. â€œThat makes it distinctive in terms of the Caribbean islands, because several islands would have changed hands. â€œâ€¦ You will recognize that some of the parishes, like some other Caribbean islands, are named after saints: St. John, St. Michael, St. Phillip. There is a very heavy Anglican presence on the island. In every parish you will find an Anglican church. The streets are named after English places, English monarchs. So, Barbados became populated with the influence of the English.â€
Barbadosâ€™s unique cultural practices have made it a popular destination. Among them is its annual â€œCrop Overâ€ festival, which first celebrated the end of the sugar crop. It has mushroomed into what is now the modern Crop Over carnival festivities. Out of this, kettle and drum musicians emerged, as well as stilt walkers, and the famous Mother Sally with the pronounced posterior. The tradition of stick lickinâ€™, where men used sticks somewhat like swords, also became an art. The development of Land Ship enactments, symbolizing the movement of British ships on the waters also materialized out of the slave society.
Barbados keeps the islandâ€™s unique culture alive through the governmentâ€™s Youth Development Program. â€œBuilt into it is a Barbados Youth Service Program, a para-military style program in which young people are allowed to leave the â€˜safetyâ€™ of their homes to be in a kind of boot camp environment, which reinforces certain values, principles,â€ Lashley explained. â€œThere is a job placement component in which young people go into various businesses to get job experience.â€
In addition, the ministry has a cadre of youth commissioners responsible for developmental projects, which may deal with issues such as sexual identity and HIV awareness. A Young Entrepreneurship Scheme teaches young people the rudiments of entrepreneurship and helps them develop businesses. Meanwhile, the Endless Possibilities program partners young people with established companies in a pseudo apprenticeship environment.
Lashley also stressed sports as an important element of youth development, including training young people in to play cricket and the increasingly popular road tennis sport, developed in Barbados after Emancipation. The new modern Barbados, Lashley believes, rests in the hands of the young. The countryâ€™s National Youth Policy, for example, was crafted by young people who sit in Parliament, exposed to how the government is run. â€œThe reality of what has happened since 1966 has been a total modernization of Barbados,â€ said Lashley.
â€œâ€¦ Barbados can boast of being almost a developed country, where any type of professional that you have in the world you can also find in Barbados. And therefore, the investment of education is a manifestation of the Independence vision.â€