Walter Rodney was assassinated in Guyana at the age of 38 for preaching what he believed in, his advocacy for the working poor, the unfair treatment of Blacks in all societies, he believed a more socialist view would be better for society rather than a capitalist one, this all manifested; and he was killed because he had grown a following, his ideology was being acknowledged.
I first found out about this panel discussion by a tweet from Dr. Sonjah Stanley-Niaah (@SonjahStanley,) Head of the Institute of Caribbean Studies at UWI. In an effort to expand my knowledge, and fascinated by the fact that this discussion was about a Black Activist, I went. The Walter Rodney forum was the same evening as the Marcus Garvey Musical so I didn’t get to stay ’til then end but here’s my recount.
After work that afternoon, I hopped on a bus, en route to UWI. After securing some dinner for my tummy, I checked my watch and it was just about 6pm; I ultimately decided to go to the discussion since I had plenty time before the musical would begin but not before doing a quick Google search about Rodney.
The moderator opened, followed by Dr. Stanley-Niaah who welcomed us as well, then Ajamu Nangwaya. Who gave a synopsis of the events for the night, as well as how Black Activism was important and why he encouraged Rodney’s work, and the importance of the uplifting of ‘poor workers.’ The topic of discussion was “The relevance of Walter Rodney to the struggle for Justice and Liberation.”
Dr. Rupert Lewis spoke first, giving us a biography of Rodney’s life. Miguel Lorne was next, he gave some laughs with his great story telling, he told us about some of his run ins with Rodney, the day of the riot following Rodney being banned from reentry into Jamaica, and how Rodney had influenced his thoughts. I enjoyed hearing the vibrancy in his voice as he relived the memories as he spoke, being a youth sitting at 50 Anderson Road, Woodford park, listening to the reasoning Rodney held. Shannon Smith followed him, and spoke on why youth should be involved in Black Empowerment, and how it affects us today. She was followed by Lloyd Aguilar who gave his view of his interactions with Rodney, and expressed how he agreed with his views wholeheartedly; after he spoke I left, and went to the Philip Sherlock Centre.
The energy in the room was light, though you could tell the fire within most were lit with intrigue, if not, concentration. Walter Rodney was a Guyanese Marxist, a Pan-Africanist, a Black Activist. He was declared Persona Non Grata in 1968 by Hugh Shearer, then Prime Minister of Jamaica; which led to the biggest “Rodney Riot” of them all. At the age of 38, he was assassinated by the Guyanese government because of what he believed in and taught.