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Born a free man in Africa in the 18th Century, the hero Barbadians fondly refer to as Bussa was captured and brought to island as a slave. While documented in historical references as Bussa / Busso / Bussoe - his actual birth name remains a mystery as does the majority of his life. Who were his parents? Did he marry? Did he have children who would carry his name proudly through generations? What is known is…… that Bussa had character, strength and a passion to enforce change. It is this courage and sheer determination that is documented in the books of history. It is a fact that Bussa played an integral role in changing the social and political climate of the island.
On Sunday, 14th April, 1816 Bussa, a head Ranger at Bayley's Plantation, lead has been recorded as the Bussa Rebellion - a tremendous revolt against the racist, white Sugar Cane Planters which resulted in a battle between slaves, the planters and the First West India Regiment.
The rejection of the Imperial Registry Bill in November, 1815 seemingly ignited strategic planning amongst elite/senior slaves to combat the oppression and racism of which they were subjected to. Lead by Bussa and aided by Washington Franklin, Nanny Grigg and a number of other black revolutionaries, the Bussa Rebellion was not only the first serious uprising since 1692 (124 years) but also the longest. The war which broke out between the two races had a tremendous impact on the historical development of Barbados.
Carefully executed by approximately four hundred slaves at plantations scattered around Barbados, the Bussa Rebellion was geared towards overthrowing the racist white planter class in an aggressive attempt to regain freedom, restructure the politics of the island and create a better life for black and colored people.
Bussa was killed in battle and the revolt, forced into submission by the Regiment who had an armory of superior weapons at their disposal. This slave rebellion, is, however, documented as the most significant revolt in the history of Barbados.
In 1985 (169 years after the revolt) a tremendous bronze statue, symbolizing the strength of emancipation was erected on a roundabout situated on the ABC Highway. Barbadians gave this statue the name of Bussa to honor the courageous freedom fighter.… who is now a household name.
Bussa, a strong symbol of the right to live life freely, is a reminder of the dangers of victimization, the ignorance of racism and crosses countless taboo boundaries. This powerful historic figure can be viewed as an inter-racial, cultural and ethno-centric hero offering strength to those who choose to 'see' the significance of representation, are willing to cast judgment aside and look beyond surface perception.
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National Heroes’ Day: April 28
National Heroes’ Day is a public holiday in Barbados.
According the Barbados’ Order of National Heroes Act, those people that have “given outstanding service to Barbados”, “contributed to the improvement of the economic and social conditions of Barbados”, and demonstrated “visionary and pioneering leadership, extraordinary achievement and the attainment of the highest excellence” will be honored every year on April 28, a day set aside as National Heroes’ Day.
History of National Heroes’ Day in Barbados
The country of Barbados has been shaped by the vision and achievement of numerous people, and in 1998, the parliament wanted to recognize those people. In April of that year, Prime Minister Owen Arthur announced that April 28 would be celebrated as Barbados’ National Heroes’ Day. The day would serve as a means of both taking pride in post-independence nationhood and also recognizing the contributions that Barbadians have made. Arthur also announced that Trafalgar Square in Bridgetown would be renamed to National Heroes Square.
The April 28 date was chosen in honor of the birth of Sir Grantley Herbert Adams, one of the ten national heroes remembered every year. The current list of heroes remembered each year is:
Sarah Ann Gill (1795-1866)
Samuel Jackman Prescod (1806-1871)
Dr. Charles Duncan O’Neal (1879-1936)
Clement Osbourne Payne (1904-1941)
Sir Grantley Herbert Adams (1898-1987)
Rt. Hon. Errol Walton Barrow (1920-1987)
Sir Hugh Worrell Springer (1913-1994)
Sir Frank Leslie Walcott (1916-1999)
Sir Garfield St. Aubyn Sobers (1936- )
Each of the ten received the title “Right Excellent” as part of the act. The act was amended in 2009 to confer extra privileges to living heroes. For more information about each of these heroes, visit Barbados’ Government Information Service .
Barbados’ National Heroes’ Day Traditions, Customs and Activities
Schools are particularly involved every year with spreading awareness of Barbados’ national heroes to the youth. Special historical presentations, re-enactments, and games are typical fare for Barbados’ youth.
Additionally, sports are typical on the island on this day. Games like hockey, soccer, and even chess are to be found. In April and May of 2009, Barbados had its first Heroes Day Cup, a chess tournament celebrating the people and history of the game, with festivities tied directly into the National Heroes’ Day festivities.
In the heart of Bridgetown, many celebrations take place at Heroes Square. Food, music, and fireworks are to be found, with many stalls giving others the opportunity to discover more about Barbados’ culture and the people that have shaped it over the years.