Guest Post: The Past is NOT Our Future

by Prof Matthew Smith, Director of The Past is Not Our Future and Chair of the Department of History & Archaeology, UWI Mona Campus

Prof Matthew Smith, Director of The Past is Not Our Future and Chair of the Department of History & Archaeology, UWI Mona

The Past is Not Our Future documents the early life and intellectual development at the UWI of one of the Caribbean’s most iconic voices, Walter Rodney. Equally, the film is a tribute to the Caribbean during the pivotal early years of the 1960s when it was breaking free from colonialism and grappling with the meaning of independence.

The film takes an unconventional approach to its subject. More than a biography, it is a distillation of the making of a revolutionary figure during a key moment of revolutionary awakening in the Americas. To do this, the film draws on texts written by Rodney as a student at the UWI, many of which have only been recovered during research for the project. Rodney’s words form a narrative thread throughout the film and are read in voiceover by a young Guyanese student of the UWI, Mr. Johann Waldron.

By any measure Walter Rodney was an exceptional person even in his youth. Between the years 1960-1963 when he studied History in Jamaica, he bore witness to rapid changes in the region. He was a firm supporter of the Federation of the West Indian islands, a stellar debater, witnessed Jamaican independence from England in 1962, and participated actively in student life. In addition, he was unusually well-traveled for a young Caribbean, visiting Cuba, Russia, the United States, England, and several Caribbean islands all during his student years. These experiences powerfully shaped his intellectual course and committed him to the revolutionary path he would eventually pursue.

To visually tell this story, the film uses archival footage from several sources joining them with evocative new footage of the UWI campus. In addition, the film includes a host of rare photographs from various archives of young Walter Rodney as a student, many of which have never before been seen.

Former colleagues of Rodney’s at High school in Guyana and at Mona were interviewed for the film and help provide a deeper context to his life as a student. Walter Rodney’s wife, Dr. Patricia Rodney, offered further support and insight on these early years of his life.

Taken together the many elements used enhance the film’s power and make it an arresting testament to Rodney’s impact, the influence of the UWI in shaping a global figure, and the force of Caribbean history.

This film focuses on Walter Rodney’s student days. Events in Jamaica in October 1968, following the exclusion from Jamaica of Walter Rodney, by then a lecturer at the UWI, form part of the focus of a conference and exhibition titled: Confrontations: UWI Student Protests and the Rodney Disturbance of 1968; scheduled for October 18-20, 2018, part of our UWI and the 1960s series. For more details email <rodneyconference2018@uwimona.edu.jm>

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.