Alimenta Bishop, mother of former Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and better known to many as “Ma Bish” recently passed away after a long and productive life.
There is a saying that “the Lord never gives anyone more than they can bear” but as a devout Christian the trials and tribulations that she has had to endure during her lifetime can only lead one to conclude that she was the epitome of strength and resilience that one can ever find in a woman.
As a wife, mother and grandmother, she has had to live through the obvious heart wrenching loss of her husband, a son and a grandson all through very tragic circumstances and when one spoke to her, you could not help but be impressed by this stalwart of a woman who still took everything in stride with a smile. She faced adversity time and time again but her pleasant personality and demeanor never revealed the pain and heartbreak that she was facing on a daily basis.
Her real trials began when her son Maurice entered politics and became the leader of the New Jewel Movement (NJM), which became the vanguard party in the struggle against the Gairy dictatorship in the 1970”s.
As Gairy became more autocratic, the resolve of the NJM leadership under Maurice became stronger and stronger. As a mother she was acutely aware of the threats against her son’s well being and his life, when her worst fears became a reality on November 18th 1973 also known as “Bloody Sunday.” On that fateful day, Bishop and six leaders of the NJM travelled to Grenville to meet with businessmen to organize strike action against the Gairy regime. They were assaulted and brutalized by Gairy’s thugs known as the “mongoose gang”. They were thrown into jail and denied medical attention. Among his many injuries, Maurice suffered a broken jaw and had to be evacuated eventually to Barbados to have his jaw repaired. One can only imagine as a mother, what she must have gone through in those trying times.
Her fate would be again be tested in a very short space of time as the struggle against the Gairy tyranny continued.
On January 21th as the NJM organized an island wide protest against Gairy which culminated in front of Otway House on the Carenage, they were again met with repressive measures by Gairy’s forces. Her husband Rupert was shot to death as he used his body to barricade the door to a room which housed women and children who were fleeing the onslaught of Gairy’s forces. She now became a widow to the struggle, something she never catered for.
Maybe her biggest relief came when Gairy was finally over overthrown by a popular Revolution led by her son Maurice. She must have felt a sense of pride and accomplishment in her son who after years of constant struggle on behalf of the masses finally became their maximum leader and Prime Minister. But that joy and euphoria would be short-lived when a bitter power struggle developed within the ranks of the NJM pitting Maurice against his deputy Bernard Coard.
This senseless struggle, which had nothing to do with the welfare of the masses ended with Maurice being placed under house arrest. He would eventually be freed by the people and taken to Fort Rupert, which was named after his father. Where he meet his end in a most violent way when soldiers loyal to Bernard Coard and his gang would line him and others against a wall in the courtyard of the fort and liquidate them by machine gun fire in cold blood. Not only were these events horrific and led to the collapse of the Grenada Revolution, but this vicious group added insult to injury when they refused to hand over the bodies to their families for a proper burial. Nothing is greater than a mother’s loss of her child but the denial of the right of a mother to see and recover the remains of her child to bury them is a burden that only few can endure. Alimenta lived for 30 years more with the hope that the remains of her wonderful son would one day be recovered so that she could give him a proper burial. Unfortunately this was never to be and the blame for this must rest squarely on the shoulders of the Coard gang and their wicked intentions, which sought to dispose of the remains in such a vile manner like burning him instead of handing him over to her for a proper burial.
Hardly had she settled down to the reality of the loss of her husband and son when tragedy struck again. Her grandson Vladimir, the son of Maurice lost his life when he was violently stabbed in Canada where he was living several years ago thus compounding her many trials and tribulations.
Nevertheless, all those who knew her held her in high esteem. Reporters from all over the world visited her and did interviews with her. She was invited to Cuba by the Government and treated with the same protocol as a Head of State. On August 4th 1998, she was honoured with the presence of Fidel Castro President of Cuba who made it his personal duty to visit her at her home in Parade St. Paul’s when he made his first official visit to Grenada.
Alimenta was an exceptional wife, mother and stateswoman and mentor. She carried the burden of a nation on her shoulders for the many years that she lived until her death at a ripe old age. She saw the good, the bad and the ugly yet always carried a smile She will always be remembered for her wit and humor and for her extraordinary strength in the face of adversity. She was indeed the “mother of the nation”. Like her son Maurice, Alimenta is gone but will never be forgotten..........Just Food For Thought.