Questions for CSA Past Presidents
Responses from Simon Jones-Hendrickson
CSA President 1983-1984
How did you come to specialize in Caribbean Studies?
I got interested in Caribbean Studies from my High School days when I was Head Prefect of my High school. Every Wednesday I had to present some news items on the Caribbean and the world to the entire school. That was my primary start.
How did your interest in and commitment to Caribbean Studies evolve?
My interest and commitment to Caribbean Studies evolved after I went to teach Economics, especially Caribbean Economics, at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica, between 1973-1976. I was recruited from the University of Exeter by the late Professor George Beckford (GBeck). There I met Owen Jefferson, Compton Bourne, Al Francis and others. They were a source of inspiration.
When did you first join CSA and what did it mean to you then?
I was the first Secretary-Treasurer of CSA. In 1973 I received an invitation from one, Roland I. Perusse, who was at a university in Puerto Rico. He invited me to be a member of a new association that he was contemplating. I responded positively to the invitation and eventually attended the first organizational meeting and conference of the CSA at Hotel Borinquen in San Juan Puerto Rico from January 8th to January 11th, 1975. CSA then and now means a great deal to me. I always feel that I was one of those founding fathers who gave scope and scale to a regional organization that has made a tremendous impact on young and not so young Caribbean scholars around the world.
What were your goals for CSA the year of your presidency?
Primarily my goals were to expand the membership of CSA and to get CSA in a solvent position. That I did. I was able to negotiate two years funding from the Ford Foundation, and I was also able to get the Virgin Islands Department of Education to support us for three years. The Ford Foundation grant did not come on time, but the University of the Virgin Islands, put on the money until the Ford grant came on stream.
What did you recognize to be the greatest obstacles facing CSA and Caribbean Studies during your presidency?
The greatest obstacles facing CSA then and now are the issues pertaining to location, permanency and solvency. CSA Secretariat was located in PR, and even though I was able to go to have meetings in PR, at Perusse’s place, later at John Figueroa’s place, there was always a disjuncture between PR and the rest of the membership. Funding was and still continues to be a problem. And finally, the fact that CSA Secretariat was really on a voluntary basis, was a limiting factor in the overall development of CSA.
What did you consider to be the greatest accomplishment of CSA that year?
The conference went off with a bang. We met in St. Kitts and Frank Mills was my program Chair. It was the first time we had gone to the so-called smaller islands of the Caribbean. It is my view that a lot of Caribbean scholars, eyes were opened to the issue of size, and recognized that small size was not a constraint to survival. My wife, Dr. Cora Christian was my key partner in getting the conference off the ground. And to date we are the only husband and wife team to be Presidents of CSA. The University of the Virgin Islands paid for Clarina Gilead, my Secretary in the Division, to go to the Conference. At that time I was chair of the Social Sciences Division of UVI.
Why did you choose the location you did for the CSA annual conference that year?
I chose St. Kitts because the state of St. Kitts and Nevis is my birthplace. Furthermore, I wanted the CSA members to appreciate the beauty, intricacies and majesty of living in a microstate economy.
Where do you hope to see CSA in the next ten years?
In the next ten years I would like to see CSA offering scholarships to undergraduates and graduates to attend CSA on a regular basis. I would like to CSA be more active in policy issues in the Caribbean, and finally I would like to see an official history of CSA.
What is one of your fondest CSA memories?
I have had fond memories at all of my CSA conferences. But I shall always cherish the times when Cora and I were able to take our very young children to CSA in a pram, and to see the collective joy of people wanting to hold our daughter, Nesha. And then when Nesha, our daughter, now an Attorney, presented a paper at the CSA conference in Brazil a few years ago, I knew then that the circle had been completed.
What are you doing now in terms of the Caribbean?
I am writing a series of books on Economics of the Caribbean; they are a collection of my works over the years. I have completed one on the OECS. I am working on two on St. Kitts and Nevis, and preparing one on the Virgin Islands. Meanwhile, I have just completed my fifth novel on my fictitious island, St. Siven. The novel should be out my May, 2009. I continue to advise regional governments, shape young minds on Caribbean economic issues, and encourage young scholars to pursue a greater understanding of the dynamics of the Caribbean.
Where do see the future of Caribbean Studies?
Caribbean Studies could be a stand-alone or be incorporated in our many classes. I teach a course called Social Sciences 100, with a Caribbean focus. We all have to do that to ensure that Caribbean Studies does not get marginalize.
What would you recommend to a young scholar starting in Caribbean Studies?
To a young scholar who is about to embark on a study of the Caribbean, I would say, read, read and research the works of Caribbean scholars. By that I mean read poetry, literature, economics, history…. At this moment I am reading Caryl Phillips, a critique of V. S. Naipaul and Dead Aid by the outstanding Zambian female economist, Dambisa Moyo. The latter has so much for us in the Caribbean that I have to continue to broaden my reading. And to cap off my weekly reading, I am re-reading my novel Andy Browne’s Departure to get some additional ideas for a sequel. Young Caribbean scholars have to in a word, read.