Soapbox Speakers

West Indian Soapboxes influence the world.

St. Vincent is a small Caribbean (Antilles) island in the West Indies. Public speaking is a rite of passage among the youth of the Island. Public meetings are held with prize money and prestige offered to those who excel in the art of Sweet-talking and Broad-Talking.
Sweet-talking means public speaking such as formal ceremonies, marriage, fetes, thanksgiving, baptisms and send-offs. 
 Broad-talking is a spoken word performance confined to public debates and political oration. It is like soapboxing, where the speaker is subject to heckles from the audience.
Both Sweet-talking and Broad-talking are performance skills popular during carnival masquerade times like the Mardi Gras. The teachers of both arts are called Men of Words. They teach set speeches, and some speeches are copies of anti-slavery speeches from the 19th century.

It is difficult to measure the enormous influence the Caribbean people had upon the United States. There was a large Caribbean migration to Harlem, New York. Many of them participated in ‘The Harlem Renaissance’ of the 1920s.

Professor Hubert H. Harrison of St Croix, The Virgin Islands migrated in 1883 to New York at age 17. He held street lectures in Harlem and on Wall Street, and introduced Marcus Garvey (a Jamaican well educated in British Jamaica) to the United States. Marcus was a descendent of free people who were never enslaved. His oratory was legendary.

Marcus died in 1942 in London in exile. Apparently he loved speaking in Hyde Park and survived the London Blitz. 
 Carlos Cooks was born in The Dominican Republic and was an authority on the Voodoo religion (Vodun). He also became a famous Harlem soapbox speaker, and was a follower of Garvey. 
 These two men influenced Malcolm X, who was possibly the greatest US orator.

Broad-talking is still practiced during the New Orleans Mardi Gras., and it seems to be the forerunner of Rap, Jive-Talk, and Hip-hop, all of which have had a huge effect on the English speaking world. 
 Afro-Caribbeans injected cultural confidence at a critical time in US history. Without it Afro-Americans nationalism may well have not developed.

Steve Maxwell.

REF; Web search: St Vincent West Indies “sweet talking and broad talking”.
The Training of the Man of Words in Talking Sweet; Carlos Cooks; ‘The Harlem Renaissance’; ‘Marcus Garvey’.

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