The Conference on West Indian Affairs will be resumed in 1966. The purpose of the 1966 Conference will be to discover in ourselves, in our societies, the roots of West Indian freedom. From being the historical agent of other interests and peoples, the West Indian has for over three centuries been seeking to make his own history. To know what that history has meant to our forebears and what it means to us today, what have been its defeats, triumphs, and manifestations – that is the responsibility of the present time.
It is today a cliché of Independence ideology to be told that the emergent peoples will have to “rewrite” their history. Whatever that means, the business of the Conference will certainly not be to attempt to substitute for the old despotism of European historiography some new “discovery” of the West Indian past. Things happen to people, and they might resist or they might not, but they move on. What concerns us today – and the only justification of our work – is to give meaning, where before there was none, to the whole life or our people, as they have lived it at home and abroad, as they have sought to make it.
We believe that this matter has for too long remained the concern of private individuals, working on their own, and far removed from the notice of the people themselves. Today the West Indian peoples are moving to the fore in search of a new freedom, and they desperately want to know where they are moving from – not just five, ten, twenty years ago, but the whole stretch or the way.
The Conference will seek to include in its programme papers on the political, economic, and social history, as well as on those things which the West Indian peoples have lived by and created out of their own genius – the dance, cricket. the literature, the music, the art, the language. Together they give not just a picture of the personality of our people, but a vision of their development and their uniqueness, a unique personality and a unique vision. Together they remove the greatest denial of all, the denial of knowing. Together they can give the greatest freedom of all, the freedom to reach out for ourselves, for the resources that lay within us, the freedom to build for ourselves.