ST. MARTIN (August 29, 2002) — The 12th anniversary of the Unity Flag of St. Martin will be the star feature this Saturday on Conscious Lyrics, the weekly cultural magazine of Radio St. Martin (FM 101.5), at 5 p.m.
It will be twelve years to the day on August 31, since the flag was launched in 1990, at the “Preliminary Conference on National Symbols” held at the Philipsburg Jubilee Library, says Shujah Reiph, the host of the popular island-wide talkmusic show. “On Saturday our guest will be author and publisher Lasana M. Sekou, who coordinated the launch of the Unity Flag and explained the meaning of its colors and symbols in the National Symbols of St. Martin book. We’ll get him to read some of his poetry, which could be shocking or even an inspiration to think and act. So we’re inviting all the people of St. Martin to tune in on Saturday at 5 p.m.”
Reiph says that this year at least two sports team traveling to Antigua and St. Kitts took the flag along as a concrete symbol of the whole St. Martin people from both sides of the island. “And we still see St. Martiners hoisting the flag on the highest rafters when building their houses. Church groups also request the flag to fly on certain occasions.”
The flag was launched as the “National Flag” of St. Martin, but quickly became known as the cultural flag, the people’s flag and the unity flag. “The Unity Flag is the name that most people use. I think the flag just came at the right time and still answers that deep feeling about a true St. Martin identity. It also has that clear St. Martin character that embraces new immigrants that are choosing to be part of our nation instead of forcing St. Martin to be divided as French or Dutch, or splitting us up in many ethnic splinters,” says Shujah.
A cultural activist himself, Shujah is “very curious” to see how Sekou will answer questions about why people prefer to say “Unity Flag” instead of National Flag. “It’s not as simple as it sounds. I know Sekou identifies the banner as the National Flag. He’s an independentista and he’s my friend, but I got to ask him some tough questions on this point. Maybe it is about a mindset of the people—where we are today, whether we’re looking for a constitutional status change in Great Bay or a fiscal status change in Marigot. How else, without a big advertisement budget or political machine would a symbol like the Unity Flag still be flying in the consciousness of the St. Martin people.”
Talking about flying the flag, Shujah admits that raising money to make large cloth unity flags is slow, but still going on. Conscious Lyrics Foundation is also looking for a business sponsor with “that special kind of courage and patriotism for the St. Martin land, people and culture to invest in the large cloth flags.” According to him, a number of students abroad did raise some money among themselves this year for bumper stickers bearing a design of the unity flag and a map of St. Martin. “That was a great example of commitment and love for a united St. Martin from the younger generation, and we should have those bumper stickers before the end of the year.”