Comrade Asot Michael M.P. Parliamentary Representative of St. Peter’s Constituency Speaks at the Funeral of JAMES EMANUEL BENJAMIN Born: 25 th May 1934 – 85 YEARS December 30, 2019 Good afternoon Church. 1. I wish to express the sympathies of my family, and of the entire Constituency of St. Peters, to the family of James Emanuel Benjamin, as we prepare to say farewell to him today. I have been asked by Prime Minister Browne to convey the sympathies of the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, and the condolences of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party. Comrade James Benjamin made himself available to fulfill many tasks that made the political party a success, and the Prime Minister wishes that I remind the congregation of his life-long loyalty to this transformative institution. 2 2. Eighty-five years ago, on May 25 th 1934, when my friend and Comrade was born, there was not yet an Antigua Trades and Labour Union. The AT&LU was born on January 16, 1939, five years after Branford drew his first breath. Comrade James therefore entered into life in Antigua at a time when a velvet revolution would begin to alter circumstances in our beautiful nation, providing new opportunities for generations to come. 3. In 1934, and up until 1972, Antigua was a patchwork of sugar plantations that made us all poor and destitute. Those who could would plan their escape to the USA or to England, in search of a better tomorrow. In fact, our Comrade journeyed to Florida where he provided the labour required to help make that state a sugar producer. Florida is better known today for its citrus fruits, including Florida Orange Juice, Florida tourism, banking and vicious hurricanes. 3 4. Nothing in Florida would hold my friend there any longer than was necessary, and so Comrade James returned to Antigua, young and fertile, determined to play his part in starting a family, the development of his community, and the growth of his nation. He chose Eula Richards as his wife and from his loins two girls were birthed: Celia Benjamin Galloway and Ilet Benjamin. Seven other children were a part of his household, and he loved all nine equally. 5. In the days when sugar plantations dominated, families had access to small plots of marginal land for a small house and a garden plot. This was true of Branford and his parents. The year 1967 shall be forever remembered in Antigua and Barbuda’s history for changing that circumstance. In that year, the 33,000 acres of land owned by the Syndicates Estates and the Antigua Sugar Factory were purchased by the people of Antigua and Barbuda for less than EC$6 million dollars. My friend Branford, following the end of sugar in 1972, could indeed become a significant farmer, capable of growing squash, pumpkins, peppers, sorrel, sieve and thyme, cucumbers and tomatoes. 4 Access to acres of land for farming became the norm upon the death of sugar. My Comrade remained loyal to the AT&LU and the Antigua Labour Party because they allowed him to transform his own life, to change the circumstances of his family, and to participate in the development of Antigua and Barbuda as a sovereign and independent country. 6. When my candidacy for St. Peter’s was announced in 2003, Comrade Benjamin welcomed it; he came to the conclusion that the Constituency was in good hands and that the work of the stalwarts of the AT&LU and the ALP would not have been in vain. His pain at seeing his ALP lose the 2004 general elections was palpable. The loss of the 2009 elections was like a dagger in his heart. But this was a brave Comrade, a good Comrade, a strong Comrade, a fearless Comrade. He was as sturdy and as strong as the heavy-duty Fergus-Massey tractors. He never ever missed an ALP Public Meeting once a bus from Parham was running. 5 7. Comrade Benjamin would have been only 47 years old when independence was won in November 1981; he would still have 38 more years ahead of him. He determined that those years could be spent productively and to demonstrate his love for family, community, country and God. In the Anglican Hymnal No. 383, Second Verse: The songwriter wrote: Praise Him for his grace and favour, to our fathers in distress, Praise him still the same as ever, slow to chide and swift to bless Alleluia! Alleluia! Glorious in his faithfulness. “A GENERATION PASSES” 8. Speaking to a friend of mine who is from Parham, he said walking through Parham sometimes make him feel that the old Parham is dying. He mentioned a whole host of names: Mrs. Seaton, Aunt Claris, Georgeanna and Denzil Browne, Edna Browne, Edna James, Ms Amy, Daryll, Edmund and Es Weston, Laddin, Boy Joe, Cowboy, Mrs Pike, Windie, Nedd, Mrs 6 Jeremy, Joseph Myers, Dada Vera, Fats Bob Gardner, Beres and Mr and Mrs Roger Benjamin. He went on to tell me those are only a few names from Tennessee, suppose he go up the street and round the hill: Stuart Gordon, Ethil Piggott, Mrs Braithwaite, Mrs Edwards, Percy Price, Ren Charles, and he just couldn’t stop. He said all the good people, the bedrock of Parham community, those who built the modern Parham, those who shaped its character, a generation that built modern Antigua, they have all passed. Gone to the great beyond. 9. Branford Benjamin is one of the few who remained from that generation, now he too is gone; a quintessential Parham man, a rock of the community; a master farmer, a cane man, a cotton man, a cricketer, an animal herder, a family man, gone to meet his lovely wife Eula; a high spirited lady. Like a true Parham man she couldn’t get away, he married her and together they built life and a wonderful family. 7 10. I regret that my Comrade did not enjoy Christmas 2019 and will not see the year 2020. We are all aware that one day each of us will leave this earth to await the final judgment. While we await that moment, God wants us to have access to good healthcare, to be able to purchase healthy foods, to live peaceably with our neighbours, and to love our neighbours as God loves us. Comrade Benjamin missed Christmas and he will not be present for the New Year, but we are persuaded that he did God’s will while here on earth, and that his reward lies in heaven. 11. May the God who provided our ancestors with the ability to endure hardship and forced labour for two hundred years; and the God who enabled our forebears to undergo 100 years of continued oppression and exploitation; and the God who rescued us after recognizing the distress from which he had come; may that God welcome Comrade JAMES EMANUEL BENJAMIN into his kingdom of everlasting joy, now and forever. AMEN.