UWI bids farewell to George Lamming

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

UWI vice-chancellor professor Sir Hilary Beckles. –

UWI vice-chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles said the news of Caribbean and global literary luminary Prof George Lamming’s passing on June 4 punctured the peace of mind of the academic community at the UWI, where he was professor in residence at the Cave Hill Campus.

In a release, Beckles said the two met recently at his office at the George Lamming Pedagogical Centre to “occupy ourselves for a few hours with one of Miles Davis’ last statements: that time is never enough to exhaust the ever giving, producing, creative imagination of the dedicated intellect.

“As a craftsman of literary forms, his citizenship within the UWI community was celebrated as an expression of Caribbean civilisation at its finest. He was a brother within the hood, and a comrade in the intellectual struggle to win our freedom with dignity and self-determination. A fierce but gentle and subtle debater and conversationalist, our hero was all too human in his love of humour and the culture of laughter. Always with a twinkle in his eyes, he communicated a deep compassion for sincere friendship and solidarity with those in the struggle.”

Beckles described Lamming as a phenomenal philosopher who erupted in the literary world at the age of 23 with the publication in 1953 of In the Castle of My Skin, a classic novel of anti-colonial consciousness.

“From Bridgetown, he crossed the intellectual universe and provided it with a method of teaching liberation that underpinned Pan-Africanism, socialism, and a 20th-century humanism that included feminism, dialectical materialism, and the Caribbean cultural revolution. His embrace of Cuban socialism became a template for his support of Maurice Bishop and Walter Rodney in their quests to detach the neo-colonial region from the scaffold of rejected imperialism.”

George Lamming –

Beckles said Lamming’s special love of UWI for its mandate and role as a regional freedom vehicle drove him to offer constant critical insights into its contradictory omens and at times its torn and tortured realities and identities.

“He was in this sense the quintessential Caribbean progressive intellectual who transcended theory and grounded his existential engagements within the masses at the grassroots. He was a soldier of the Caribbean soul, forever building solidarities wherever liberation circumstances were erupting.

“Within this context, our crusading citizen would expect of us to soldier on in his physical absence without fear or doubt about the future. For decades he illuminated the progressive paths with his papers and speeches. We know he will be there at the rendezvous of the Caribbean victory. Until then, I simply say, ‘Bye George,’ from all of us at your UWI.”