THIS IS A RE-POST TO COMMEMORATE WITH BLACK HISTORY MONTH
• Thu, Mar 28, 2013
Editor’s note: We had promised this piece in our last issue, but because of certain circumstances were unable to do so. We are pleased to carry it ion this issue.
The name Ebenezer Joshua is a household name in SVG. He is remembered as being the first Chief Minister of SVG, and for his fight in advancing the cause of the poor and marginalized.
However, many persons are still puzzled about who or where are Joshua’s offspring. During a remembrance service for the late leader, at the Kingstown Cemetery, Tuesday, March 19, two of ET Joshua’s children were in attendance: his daughter La Fleur Johnson and son, Dr. Michael Joshua. THE VINCENTIAN newspaper spoke briefly with Michael Joshua for an insight into his father’s legacy.
Michael currently resides in Virginia, USA, having retired as a professor at the Virginia State University.
According to Michael, his father had 5 children with his first wife, one adopted daughter and 2 out of wedlock.
Michael’s mother was Gayther George, a Vincentian of Grenadian descent.
He described his father as a great teacher, who kept him at home for almost two years in order to teach him, “because he didn’t like the school in the village. He would go out to teach in the day and in the evening, I had my lessons,” Michael revealed.
Joshua returned to St. Vincent in 1951 after ten years living abroad, including in Trinidad where he became a student of Uriah Buzz Butler, a renowned Trade Unionist.
He was first elected to this country’s assembly in 1951. In 1952 he founded the People’s Political Party (PPP), considered a socialist-oriented party, given its stance in favour of political independence and agitation for the improvement of working conditions and wages. From 1957–1967 Joshua was Chief Minister.
It was during this period that Michael began losing touch with his father. He said one of his father’s challenges in Government was working with a weak civil service. Michael thought it was best to advance himself to help his father. He traveled abroad in 1960 with the intention of studying economics, so that he could return to help his father in matters of national governance, “but I got sidetracked and never returned and he never encouraged me to,” confessed the younger Joshua. He said his father would, later in his life, apologies to him for the fracture in their relationship.
Michael said prior to his father’s time in government, it was difficult for Vincentians. It was, according to Michael, a case of governing on behalf of “one-third of the population, while two-thirds of the population was disinherited, and that was a problem that Joshua took up.
“The period that he lived in was one in which the people of St.Vincent had no say in the government, and he, at all turns, tried to put something on the table that those who were governing had to listen to. He pushed the frontier to have a say in how we were governed,” Michael continued.
Michael recognized that people remember his father for enabling better education for all Vincentians, by building schools.
“People have mentioned the question of Schools. Schools are important, he wanted people to be educated, but basically, the Government system is what he was interested in. He wanted to change the system because it was arbitrary. Right now we have a chance, in those days we didn’t have a choice,” Michael elucidated.
He said his father was willing to stick his neck out, despite his family’s efforts to talk him out of it. “He was willing to stand alone in a time when you should protect yourself and your family. He was willing to sacrifice those things,” acknowledged the young Joshua.
Joshua a National Hero?
In 1967, the PPP lost their parliamentary majority and Joshua was succeeded by Milton Cato, leader of the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Labour Party (SVGLP). Joshua remained in parliament, but the PPP began to decline as the New Democratic Party emerged as political competition.
In 1979, the PPP lost all parliamentary representation, and the party was dissolved in 1984.
In 1980, Joshua became a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He died in Kingstown, on 14th March 1991.
The ET Joshua Airport at Arnos Vale is named in his honour, and his name is currently one of those on the list of contenders for national hero status.
On the question of his father being elevated to national hero, Michael said, “ I think the people of SVG should be involved in selecting a national hero. They should select a number of persons and say, these are our candidates, and vote on who they want to enter the hall of heroes. The person with majority votes should be accepted, but now is not the time to say I want Joshua, or I want McIntosh. These guys have gone beyond the call of duty. Joshua was standing on McIntosh’s shoulder; without Mc Intosh there might not have been any Joshua.”