Craving Civility in Diversity
By Joye Ritchie-Greene
Nov 9, 2008 - 3:54:48 PM
Watching the Presidential Election results come in last Tuesday, I, like so many others around the world, watched with abated breath. Then, at minutes to midnight, I was overcome with emotion when Mr. Barack Obama greeted the throng of people in Chicago’s Grant Park as the newly elected President of the United States of America.
The editor of a local daily wrote a beautiful piece last week, sharing his thoughts on the outcome of this election and the significance it will have in terms of opening up honest and necessary dialogue on racism in both the USA and The Bahamas. And, while racism and the creation of a “new black man” were also on my mind, I was more strongly drawn to the lyrics of Bob Marley’s song “War.”
Bob Marley used the words of an address that Haile Selassie made at the United Nations in October 1963 as inspiration for this song. The lyrics of this song speak to me on so many levels, but it also now holds great significance with this new wave of change flowing throughout the world.
Therefore, instead of editorializing or analyzing the lyrics of this prophetic song, I decided to allow you to read the words that moved Bob Marley to immortalize Emperor Selassie’s message in a song. You may or may not make the connections I made when I listened to Mr. Obama’s acceptance speech, but I thought it was something worth sharing as we look to a new world – a diverse world looking for stability while craving civility.
Last May, in Addis Ababa, I convened a meeting of Heads of African States and Governments. In three days, the thirty-two nations represented at that Conference demonstrated to the world that when the will and the determination exist, nations and peoples of diverse backgrounds can and will work together in unity, to the achievement of common goals and the assurance of that equality and brotherhood which we desire.
On the question of racial discrimination, the Addis Ababa Conference taught, to those who will learn, this further lesson: That until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned: That until there are no longer first-class and second class citizens of any nation; That until the color of a man's skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes; That until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race; That until that day, the dream of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained; And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes that hold our brothers in Angola, in Mozambique and in South Africa in subhuman bondage have been toppled and destroyed; Until bigotry and prejudice and malicious and inhuman self-interest have been replaced by understanding and tolerance and good-will; Until all Africans stand and speak as free beings, equal in the eyes of all men, as they are in the eyes of Heaven; Until that day, the African continent will not know peace. We Africans will fight, if necessary, and we know that we shall win, as we are confident in the victory of good over evil. (
These words of Haile Selassie are not so different from the words Barack Obama uttered in the early hours of November 5th. President-Elect Obama called on America to “resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House – a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress.”
President-Elect Obama went to say that “it’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America”
Change indeed has come to the world and we will be the better for it, whether we want to admit it or not.
About the author: Joye Ritchie-Greene is an Educational Consultant, Writer and Martial Arts Instructor. She is the owner/operator of The Bahamas Martial Arts Academy; president of Time-Out Productions; and is also a columnist for the Freeport News. She has a B.A. in English and an M.S. in Human Resources, resides in Freeport, Grand Bahama with her husband and enjoys playing tennis. Joye can be reached at
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