GRENADA — History

GRENADA

 

Area 345 square kilometres (133 square miles).

Population 110,000

 

A Caribbean country situated at the southern end of the Windward Islands in the West Indies, and includes some of the Grenadine Islands, the largest being Carriacou. A former British colony, Grenada became independent in 1974 and remains with the Commonwealth. The British monarch is head of state, represented by a governor-general. The Capital is St. George’s. The population are Afro-Caribbean 53%, and mixed race 42%. The official language is English. The people are Christian, Roman Catholic 64%, Anglican 21 %. Recently (1990) Protestant evangelists have made significant numbers of converts. Bahá’ís form the largest non-Christian religious minority.

 

The introduction of the Bahá’í Faith was a goal of the Ten Year Crusade (q.v. 1953-63). Hand of the Cause Dorothy Baker (q.v.) had intended to pioneer in Grenada with her husband Frank Albert Baker (1889-1963)—a retired baker—and her mother Dr. Louella Beecher (d.1966) but was killed in a plane crash near the Island of Elba in the Mediterranean Sea on 10 January 1954. In November 1954 Mr. Baker and Mrs. Beecher went to Grenada as planned. Mr. Baker alternated between Grenada and Ohio for almost a decade until his death in Lima shortly after a return from Grenada (BW 14: 321-23).

 

The first to become a Bahá’í was Mr. John Protein a waiter from the Santa Maria Hotel. Shortly afterwards members of a Rosicrucian group became Bahá’ís: Mr. John T. Walker of St. Patrick’s, Mr. Alexis, Mr. Nathaniel Benjamin, Mr. Valentine McQuilkin and Mr. Clifton Joseph. The first local Spiritual Assembly in Grenada was formed in 1959 and covered St. George’s Parish. However, it was found that this did not conform to Bahá’í procedure and in the following year a local assembly was formed for the city of St. George’s itself.

 

Donald Corbin and Doris Mae Corbin (nee Foye), 1904-1969, BW 15:461-62), an American couple, were the next pioneers to Grenada, living there from December 1955 to February 1960; followed in 1960-64 by Mr. Winston Evans (1903-1973, BW 15:540-43): in 1964-65 by Mr. Ben Schreibman; and in 1965-71 by Mr. Edwin and Mrs. Beverlee Miller.

 

In about 1964 a group of people from the “Redemption Army” at Maran, St. John’s became Bahá’ís, including Mr. Jeffrey and Mrs. Linda Lewis and Mr. Hilland Douglas. A  second local assembly was formed in 1964 in Maran, St. John’s Parish. Thus two of the five local spiritual assemblies that formed the basis for the election of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Leeward, Windward and Virgin Islands in 1967 were Grenada. Jeffrey Lewis was a delegate for Grenada at the convention in 1967 and was elected to the newly formed National Spiritual Assembly. He became the first international travel teacher indigenous to Grenada and to the West Indies when he traveled to Anguilla, St. Martin and Dominica.  He also became the first international pioneer from the Grenada Bahá’í Community when he went to the Caribbean island of Anguilla, arriving in August 1969 and staying until February 1970. In 1965 Grenada had 44 Bahá’ís living in seven localities, with two local assemblies.

 

One of the Bahá’ís of Grenada, Mr. Egbert Barrett, became the first Bahá’í on the island of Carriacou when he moved there about 1967. American pioneers Mrs. Betty W. Traylor and her daughter Jonna Wilson pioneered to Grenada in December 1965, and then moved to the island of Carriacou in July 1969. A number of other American pioneers have come to Grenada over the years. Mrs. Shirley Howard (nee Jackson), a Grenadian resident in St. Vincent, became a Bahá’í during a visit to Grenada at Naw-Ruz (q.v.) 1964, returned home the following day and later in the same year enrolled the first Bahá’ís on St. Vincent (q.v.).

 

In 1972 a team from Barbados and the United States carried out mass teaching in several area resulting in the formation of four local Spiritual Assemblies: St. David’s, St. John’s, St. Mark’s and St. Patrick’s. Thus by 1973 there were 231 Bahá’ís and six local Spiritual Assemblies. There was little growth over the next few years and by 1979 there were 225 Bahá’ís living in 7 localities but only 3 local assemblies.

 

In 1967, the marriage of Clifton Joseph and Selma Joseph was the second Bahá’í wedding on Grenada. Mr. Joseph was elected to the National Spiritual Assembly of Barbados and the Windward Islands in 1977 and was appointed a member of the Auxiliary Board in 1986. The first woman to serve as an Auxiliary Board member, from 1977-82, was Mrs. Barbara Nurse-Winner, a native of Grenada who had gone to the United Kingdom to train as a nurse, became a Bahá’í there, and returned as a pioneer, with her husband Arthur, to Grenada.

 

A distinguished Bahá’í who was a native of Grenada was Mrs. Hermione Vera Edwards nee Keene-Douglas 1908-1981, (BW 18: 778-79). She was born in Grenville in the Parish of St. Andrew’s, on Grenada, and returned to Grenada on 28 February 1980 with her husband, Julius Edwards, after twenty years of notable service in Liberia and throughout West Africa (1958-79). He was named a Knight of Baha’u’llah for opening the Northern Territories Protectorate in September 1953

 

Responsibility for the Bahá’í administration of Grenada was given to a succession of National Spiritual Assemblies: South America in 1953; the Greater Antilles in 1957; Brazil in 1962; the United States in 1964’ the Leeward, Windward and Virgin Islands in 1967; Barbados and the Windward Islands in 1972; and St. Vincent and Grenada in 1983. During  the disruption caused by political turmoil and the American invasion in 1983, the Bahá’í community rose to prominence and the formation of a nine-member interim governing council for the for the islands was a direct result of the recommendation of a Bahá’í (who?). Despite the unrest, the National Spiritual Assembly of Grenada was formed in at Ridvan in April 1984.

 

On 2 November 19979 three local spiritual assemblies were incorporated under “People’s Law No. 82”, which also allowed for the automatic incorporation of any further assemblies as they formed. This law later proved to be an obstacle to the incorporation of the National Spiritual Assembly (why?). A building situated directly across from the official residence of the Governor-General and commanding a beautiful view of the Caribbean Sea was purchased early in 1984 for the National Haziratu’l-Quds (q.v.). A national endowment was acquired in Grenville in 1981.

 

Many Bahá’í delegations have been received by government officials in Grenada including the Governor-General, Dame Hilda Bynoe in 1970, and Sir Paul Scoon in 1980 and 1983, and the press has interviewed many Bahá’í dignitaries. Bahá’í radio programs were aired, first as paid programming and, later, as free air-time. On 11 October 1988, Ben Joseph Jones, External Affairs Minister for Grenada, made a plea for the Bahá’ís being persecuted in  Iran, at the United Nations General Assembly.

 

During the 1980s the teaching of the Bahá’í Faith increased and large numbers were enrolled. In 1986 there were 618 Bahá’ís living in 37 localities with 13 local Spiritual Assemblies.

 

Patricia Paccassi

 

Bibliography.  

 

Arise! (Bahá’í News).

Bahá’í News of the Windward Islands.

BW 16:175-77. BINS 15 November 1988, 187:1.

Bahá’í International Goals Committee Archives, Wilmette, USA.

Clifton Joseph, “Report of History of Grenada”, 4 July 1986, from Joel Caverly personal archives.

“Memories of Shirley Jackson-Howard’, St. Vincent taped by Patricia Paccassi, 1984. National Bahá’í Archives, St. Vincent.

U.S.A. National Bahá’í Archives, Wilmette.

National Bahá’í Committee Reports from Grenada.

Report by Doris and Don Corbin, 20 April 1964.

Paccassi Family archives.

 

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