Antigua’s highest mountain officially became “Mount Obama” on Tuesday as the small Caribbean nation celebrated the American president on his birthday and saluted him as a symbol of black achievement.
Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer presided over the re-christening ceremony at the base of the mountain, unveiling a stone sculpture and plaque honoring the president as an inspiration in the twin-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda and throughout the Caribbean.
“This great political achievement by Barack Obama resonated with me in a way that I felt compelled to do something symbolic and inspiring,” Spencer told the crowd of about 300, including several U.S. officials, at the base of the mountain near the island’s southern coast.
“As an emancipated people linked to our common ancestral heritage and a history of dehumanizing enslavement, we need to at all times celebrate our heroes and leaders who through their actions inspire us to do great and noble things,” Spencer said.
The plaque on the rock sculpture at the base of the mountain reads: “Mount Obama, named in honor of the historical election on Nov. 4, 2008, of Barack Hussein Obama, the first black president of the United States of America, as a symbol of excellence, triumph, hope and dignity for all people.”
Spencer announced his intention to rename the mountain, previously known as Boggy Peak, shortly after the election. The gesture reflected the U.S. leader’s widespread popularity in the country, where it is common to see Obama bumper stickers and T-shirts.
The prime minister has also announced plans for Mount Obama to become a national park with a museum and other amenities. The tree-covered mountain has pineapple and mango farms at its base and rises about 1,300 feet (396 meters) along the island’s southern coast. Its peak, topped with a radio antenna, offers views of the Caribbean Sea and the island of Montserrat and its active volcano in the distance.
Antigua’s reigning calypso monarch, Trevor “Zacari” King, played a rendition of “For You Barack” for a crowd that included American actress Angela Bassett, who wept during the performance, and U.S. Congresswoman Yvette Clark, a Brooklyn native of Jamaican heritage.
“It wasn’t only about Barack Obama. It was about the history of black people around the world and the struggle and sacrifices that have been done so that he could rise to the position that he is in today,” Bassett said.