Nobel Laureate, Derek Walcott; Trinidad? – Llewellyn Mac Intosh   Recently updated!


By Llewellyn Mac Intosh

In the year 1977, a calypsonian from Trinidad & Tobago named the Mighty Unknown caused patrons to the calypso tent to be falling off their seats when he performed a calypso called, “Ah Vex”. Unknown, in his cleverly constructed offering, threw four stanzas of piccong at the St Lucian poet whom the calypsonian alleged had had the temerity to be critical of the place which had been good enough to extend to him, its generosity;

Derek you must be fou bé dangé or mad

Sit down on river stone and talk river bad

You wouldn’t talk about we pitch lake, oil and sugar

That you have enjoyed, through we ancestor;

What about we multi-racial society

Who are so friendly and full of courtesy,

Carnival is we festival and commerce

And sex is ah must; through the universe

You see why ah vex, ah more than vex

Derek Walcott say Trinidad is Carnival and Sex

Ah vex! Ah s-s-s-stammering vex

Derek suffering from one big, big, big complex

Derek go back to St Lucia and you would see

All kinda vice and sexology

Man marrieding man and is tee-la-lee-lah

And Derek wouldn’t say ah thing about St Lucia.”

Unknown was selected for the National Calypso Semi-Finals that year and his composition, beyond its triggering of the nerve of sensibility in a population fiercely protective of its new-found nationalism in that post black power era, would have made the average Trini, sadly, just barely aware of the genius that literally walked and worked amongst them.

Walcott had lived and wed and wrote and worked in Trinidad & Tobago. The Mighty Unknown must have been on hand to over-hear one of the programmes, like “Cultural Miscellany,” that were state sponsored and frequently aired on one of the two radio stations that operated then. Walcott would, at the time have been a regular contributor, in the same way that he had regularly contributed to one of the daily newspapers with his regular features. There was therefore an awareness of his presence here; an awareness that prompted Unknown’s indignation at the poet’s need to bite the hands that were feeding him;

Derek you must be fou bé dangé or mad

Sit down on river stone and talk river bad…”

Perhaps the 1977 episode though, was an aberration in the defining of the relationship betwixt the Nobel Laureate and the Trinidadian, for everything that this writer grew to learn and to know about the man Derek Walcott during the next forty-odd years signaled attitudes and emotions that were extremely contrary to those provoked by Julian Pierre’s singing in the mid-nineteen seventies.

There was respect, admiration, love and hero-worship, in some cases notwithstanding the brusqueness of attitude that Walcott displayed periodically, when he felt that his colleagues fell short of his expectations. But, much of this came later.

Our first official “meeting” came when as a first year, part-time student of West Indian Literature at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine, the vacation assignment was – over Christmas – writing a book report of the Walcott anthology, “In A Green Night” (1962).

The crispness in his presentation of successive lines of soul-touching poetry was fascinating. The subsequent satisfactory grade for the Yuletide exercise further encouraged and heightened the interest in the man and in his work and by the culmination of the semester, there was another student admirer of the craftiness of the magnificence of the poet’s use of the idiom.

In my teenage years, I had met VS Naipaul and had enjoyed the images presented in the mirror. Titus Hoyt, Man Man, Hat and Laura—characters from a collection set in wartime Trinidad–were real. I knew them. They lived in the yard in which I grew up in Boissierre Village No. 1. I had not, however, analyzed and joked at their frailties until the writings of Vidiadhar  Surajprasad  had skinned and presented them for further examination… the pathologist would do to a patient etherized upon a table.  Within a few years I was also to meet Ganesh Ramsay Muir and Mohun Biswas—the principal characters in two novels by VS Naipaul. Their narratives were engaging and even enjoyable in the comic sense, and the tragedy was spiced with dashes of comedy.

Walcott, when I met him, triggered no laughter. The seizure was different. The language of the poetry was compelling. One marveled at the range and the depth of the imagery. And, the messages resonated right off the galvanize fence in my backyard. They were localized and they teased and awakened my curiosity. I did not need encouragement, therefore, nor prompting, nor another Home Work exercise to find the SPCK Bookshop on Abercromby Street, Port of Spain and begin to peruse my next two anthologies; first “The Castaway” (1965) and then, “The Gulf” (2004).

The growth of a quiet admiration was sustained, even as I read some more. Walcott seemed to understand – and if he did not understand, appeared to be giving voice to a common struggle.

My other colleagues – almost all of them – in that primary year at St Augustine had given up. Walcott was too abstract, they said….inaccessible! I found their disenchantment and rejection of the poetry painfully disappointing, but could not blame them entirely when they opted for Second Year Sociology or Second Year Government. I begged to differ and lost a few friends, for regular paths became separated by the dictates of the time tables. Their rejection of Literature then, was absolute….as absolute as my resolve to continue.  Sure, not everything was grasped at the first or even the second reading sometimes; but, in the lines and in the language there was so much joy – not laughter, nor ridicule; but joy in the pure aesthetics of what the lines contained. I have had no regrets…

An old lady writes me in a spidery style

Each character trembling, and I see a veined hand

Pellucid as paper, travelling on a skein

Of such frail thoughts its thread is often broken;

Or else the filament from which a phrase is hung

Dims to my sense, but caught, it shines like steel,

As touch a line and the whole web will feel.”

(A Letter from Brooklyn, 1962)

Additionally, works like; “A Far Cry from Africa”, “The Hurricane”, “Hic Jacet”, “Codicil”, “The Castaway”, “Almond Trees” and “The Gulf” addressed troubling, personal and universal issues – seemingly within a microcosmic universe that, for a young student of the language, was Trinidadian. Walcott appeared to be grounded within the country and to have a predilection for the things that concerned us here.

Black consciousness in the era immediately after 1970, negritude, colonialism, patriotism, the crisis of identity – his and ours, the brain-drain, the impact and the effects of/on the natural environment,  the sea, the exodus to North America, theism, death, the weather……even my fear of flying! – All his themes seemed to reflect my own concerns. Walcott became personal. I did not – could not perhaps, go as far; but many, many times we journeyed along the road together. Line after line of his images were “home-grown”-

Lavantille: “To go downhill from here was to ascend.”

“How can I turn from Africa and live?”(“A Far Cry from Africa”

“At Cedros, thudding the dead sand

in spasms…” (Tarpan”)

“Bethel and Canaan’s heart

Lies open like a psalm…” (“Crusoe’s Island)

“Above the beached, rotting pirouges,

They were venomous beaked clouds at Charlotteville.” (“Codicil”)

“Dusk. The Flight, Passing Blanchisseuse.

Gulls wheel like from a gun again,” (“The Flight”)

And, how could I not but personalize his (or is it my) “Laventille”?

Lavantille: “To go downhill from here was to ascend.”

It huddled there

steel tinkling its blue painted metal air,

tempered in violence, like Rio’s favelas,

with snaking, perilous streets whose edges fell as

its Episcopal turkey-buzzards fall

from its miraculous hilltop


down the impossible drop

to Belmont, Woodbrook, Maraval, St Clair

that shine

like peddlers’’ tin trinkets in the sun.”

Derek Walcott

The description is impeccable. The imagery is unique. The style is mind-boggling in its accuracy. Even the presentation of the lines on the page is reflective of the ‘unharmonius’ nature of the terrain.

Walcott continues;

“…where the inheritors of the middle passage stewed,

five to a room, still clamped below their hatch,

breeding like felonies,

whose lives revolve round prison, graveyard, church.

Below bent breadfruit trees

In the flat, coloured city, class

Escalated into structures still,

Merchant, middleman, magistrate, knight. To go downhill

From here was to ascend.

The middle passage never guessed its end.”

He writes this for VS Naipaul, Trinidadian novelist. And for the university professor, another Trinidadian, Kenneth Ramchand, Walcott writes, The Saddhu of Couva

“And to that gong

sometimes bald clouds in saffron robes assemble

sacred to the evening,

sacred even to Ramlochan

singing Indian hits from his jute hammock

while evening strokes the flanks

and silver horns of his maroon taxi,

as the mosquitoes whine their evening mantras,

my friend Anopheles, on the sitar,

and the fireflies making every dusk Divali.”

The imagery is precise; and like the painter with a skillful hand and accurate eye, the language captures and presents the detail of the scene with amazing flawlessness.

The next magical piece that is selected to make the point, evokes that Trinidadian calypsonian who above all others fascinated listeners with amazing tales from his boundless imagination. The singer and his genre are both Trinidadian and as if to complete his trilogy of references and assist in emphasizing this writer’s argument; Walcott selects for its dedication, Earl Lovelace – the Trinidadian novelist…

I have a room where I keep a crown,

And Satan send me to checkout this town.

…I beg him two weeks’ leave and he send me

back up, not as no bedbug or no flea,

but in this limeskin hat and floccy suit,

To sing what I did always sing: the truth.

Tell Desperadoes when you reach the hill,

I decompose, but I composing still:”

The style is rhythmic. The language is ‘calypsonic’ and almost pedantic. The message is savagely brutal, ay, akin to political rhetoric…..”lyrics to make a politician cringe (“Calypso Music”, David Michael Rudder—1987).

“The time could come, it can’t be very long

when they will jail calypso for piccong,

for first comes television, then the press,

all in the name of Civic Righteousness;

it has been done before…”

“…rumour can twist

Into a style the local journalist –

As bland as a green coconut, his manner

Routinely tart, his sources the Savannah

And all pretensions to a native art

Reduced to giggles at a coconut cart,

Where heads with reputations, in one slice,

Are brought to earth, when they ain’t eating nice;

and as for local Art, so it does go

The audience have more talent than the show.”

“Is Carnival, straight Carnival that’s all

the beat is base, the melody bohbohl,

all Port of Spain is a twelve-thirty show,

some playing Kojak, some Fidel Castro,

some Rastamen, but, with or without locks,

to Spoiler is the same old khaki socks,

all Frederick street stinking like a closed drain,

Hell is a city much like Port of Spain…

and Lord, the sunlit streets break Spoiler’s heart,

to have natural gas and not to give a fart,

to see them lineup, pitch-oil tin in hand:

each independent, oil-forsaken island,

…but from Jamaica to poor Dominica

we make them know they begging, every loan

we send them is like blood squeezed out of stone,…

and, more we give, more we congratulate

we-self on our own self-sufficient state.

In all them project, all them Five-year Plan,

what happen to the Brotherhood of Man?”

(The Spoiler’s Return”, 1981)

The poetry was not all.

I met and read the plays and in a sense; the poetry again. There were lines of drama that were poetic in their expressions!

Well I was coming through the forest now

And I passed by the white spring, and I saw

Some poor souls going to work for the white planter.

He’ll work you like the devil, but that’s what you want,

You and your impatience and arm cast in iron,

So turn to the right, go through the bamboo forest,

Over the black rocks then the forest will open,

And you will see the sky, below that a valley,

And smoke, and a white house that is empty,

The old fellow is hiring harvesters today” (Ti Jean and his Brothers, 1985)


And all of this…all of my encounter with Walcott, so far, has been within the twin island republic of Trinidad & Tobago. Walcott stood, for me at least, like a Colossus;

“I’ll be what I am, so to hell with you. I’ll be what I am. I drink, and I drink and I feel nothing. Oh, I lack heart to enjoy the brevity of the world [The FIREFLY passes dancing] Get out of my way you burning backside. I’m the prince of obscurity and I won’t brook interruption! Trying to mislead me because been drinking. Behave, behave. That youngster is having a terrible effect on me. Since he came to the estate, I’ve felt like a fool. First time in me life too. Look just a while ago I nearly got angry at an insect that’s just a half-arsed imitation of a star. It’s wonderful! An insect brushes my dragonish hand, and my scales tighten with fear” (Ti Jean and his Brothers, 1985)

I was fortunate, as a young man to see “Dream on Monkey Mountain”, “Ti Jean and His Brothers”, “Beef No Chicken” and, of course, “The Joker of Seville”.

The latter drew me to Woodbrook; three or maybe four times, in 1974 when Walcott’s poetry and his prose; emerging from its Spanish antecedents and harmonizing itself with the music of Galt Mac Dermott was to fill the cramped interior of The Little Carib Theatre night, after night, after night as the patrons’ insatiable desire for the jousts of bodies and language awakened in Trinidad & Tobago an universal desire for the theatre.

The front sign of the Trinidad Theatre Workshop. May 7th, 2015.

Notwithstanding an understanding of the many components that must interface to have the drama going, one must acknowledge the genius of Walcott – conductor on the bandstand – in his ability to draw citizens from all parts of the country for the  exciting and exhilarating performances. It was undoubtedly the single occasion when Walcott’s poetry, unlike the commentary I had heard so many times before, was accessible to all.

The drumming of Andrew Beddeau, the crooning of Syd Skipper, the harmonies of Mac Dermott, the sobriety of Hamilton Parris and the chicanery of Nigel Scott; within their various roles have etched for all time notes of pleasure that regularly surface on the landscape of memory.

Whilst it is true that Galt Mac Dermott and Syd Skipper and Helen Camps and Wilbert Holder might not have been the Trinidadians in the team, Walcott’s direction then,  like with other presentations before and after the Joker, brought to the fore some of the best that the country has had to offer in the realm of theatre performance.

The magnificence of the troupe that one saw was a reflection, not only the writing; but the vision, the direction and the passion of the father of the Trinidad Theatre Workshop….and perhaps, in a real way – the Father of Trinidad & Tobago Theatre!

The front sign of the Trinidad Theatre Workshop. May 7th, 2015.

Walcott’s labour of love had culminated, in the Joker of Seville into an amazing gestation and the offsprings were; Hamilton Parris and Nigel Scott and Norline Metivier and Pat Flores and Errol Jones and June Nathaniel and Andrew Beddeau; and like the others before and after, they had morphed their craft and their talent – where it did exist – into perhaps the finest dramatic scenes that the country has known.

Walcott’s raison d’etre, is perhaps best explained in “Hic Jacet”;

They’ll keep on asking why did you remain?

Not for the applauding rain

of hoarse and hungry thousands at whose centre

the politician opens like a poisonous flower

not for the homecoming lecturer

gripping his lectern like a witness, ready to explain

the root’s fixation with earth

nor for that new race of dung beetles, frock-coated, iridescent

crawling over people.

Before the people became popular

he loved them” (“The Gulf and Other Poems”, 1969)

Derek Walcott founded the Trinidad Theatre Workshop and remained here, maybe because he loved us…or maybe, he felt that he was one of us.


Llewellyn Mac Intosh, a free-lance radio broadcaster and a calypsonian (Short Pants) who practices his craft in Trinidad & Tobago, is a retired secondary school principal who currently spends his time supporting the provision of educational opportunities for socially disadvantaged  young men in the twin island republic.


Altering the Soundscape of New York City

Altering the Soundscape of New York City


Author Danielle Brown reflects on Radio Station WLIB which provided the Soundtrack of her youth and more…. This extract was taken from her latest work, East of Flatbush, North of Love: An Ethnography of Home which will be featured in a Community Discussion in celebration of Caribbean American Heritage Month on Tuesday June 13, 6.00 pm @ Medgar Evers College with Roger Toussaint, former president of the Transport Workers Union Local 100, Dr. Lawrence Waldron, City College, CUNY and, the author, Dr. Danielle Brown.

Dr. Brown reflects on Radio Station WLIB which provided the Soundtrack of her youth and more. This extract was taken from her latest work, East of Flatbush, North of Love: An Ethnography of Home.


“This is D. Brown rocking the mic for you. Caller, can I take your request? Hello?”


“Hello. Yes. Caller, you’re on the air. Can I take your request?”

“Yes. Dis is Marcia. I want yuh tuh play ‘Ah Home’ by Iwer George, and I wanna send ah shout out to Mammy, Stacy, and Brian back home in Tunapuna. Big up TnT massive!”

“Ok. Thank you, Marcia, for calling in. Yes. Big up to all of Trinidad and Tobago and to the entire West Indian massive! Marcia, here is your request, and you know anywhere soca playin’, ‘Ah home!’”

* * *

Danielle Brown at May 14 book signing

A lot of the music that David and I listened to at home came from the radio, and Caribbean music was no different. Popular stations, like 98.7 Kiss FM, that mostly aired R&B and hip-hop dedicated some air time each week to playing Caribbean music. But perhaps the strongest radio presence for Caribbean music during my youth was WLIB 1190 AM, which specifically catered to the West Indian community. It was through this radio station that one could hear the voices of the West Indian diaspora in New York City.

Through WLIB we listened to much more than just music. In the early 2000s, I started studying the station and noting various aspects of its programming. The station aired talk shows and commercials for products and events catering to the needs of West Indians living in the city. WLIB advertised health-conscious events, such as walks for prostate cancer, as well as programs for budding entrepreneurs, like those offered by the Small Business and Development Center at Baruch College. There were frequent promotions for popular Caribbean nightclubs, like the Elite Ark, and advertisements for Travelspan, a travel agency specializing in trips to and from the West Indies. Major corporations such as Burger King, JC Penney, and First Republic Mortgage Bank sought to broaden their clientele base by advertising to a West Indian audience via the station and using (with the exception of JC Penney) persons with unequivocally West Indian accents as the speakers in their commercials.

In many ways, WLIB was crucial in crystallizing the West Indian community in New York. DJs would implicitly define the community by the music they played and the islands they would “big up” (or shout out) on the air. Musical programming played a vital role in creating bonds (or breaking them) within the West Indian community. There were times when, as a young girl, I felt that WLIB did not play enough calypso and soca, and that my heritage was being marginalized in favor of reggae and dance-hall, a sentiment that was echoed by others.

My friend Tiffany, whose father is Trinidadian and mother Honduran, once told me she used to feel slighted by WLIB’s programming:

When WLIB used to play more…specifically Jamaican music, you know…I used to be like sitting there just waiting to hear some…music from my country and it would be…one in between four reggae songs.

However, I should note that WLIB’s programming became more inclusive over the years and consisted of music not only from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Barbados, but also St. Vincent, Grenada, and Haiti as well. WLIB even began including a program—“Indo-Caribbean Today” with Amit Parasnath—dedicated to the East Indian community, which aired every Sunday morning from eight to ten. In many ways, the station grew to reflect the changing dynamics of the West Indian community in New York City.

While the music disseminated via WLIB helped to create bonds between different members of the West Indian community in New York, there were other aspects of the station’s programming that helped to foster a sense of community. WLIB provided broadcasts to and from several West Indian countries, allowing listeners to hear live radio from their respective homelands and communicate with loved ones back “home.” Listeners who called in to the radio program were able to send greetings and messages to family members living in their country of origin. Being able to communicate with loved ones was extremely important for many listeners, as talking to loved ones via the radio offset the cost of calling home directly, which in those days had the potential to be extremely expensive.

Equally important to listeners was the ability to receive up-to-date news information from their respective home countries, as well as general news information from the West Indies. Tiffany said she liked WLIB in part because “as the day progresses, you actually get to hear international news, or news with a specifically West Indian perspective, which makes me feel a little closer to home. You know what I mean? It gives me a feeling of nostalgia.”

Together, the musical and non-musical aspects of WLIB, as well as those of several pirated stations that emerged over the years catering to the West Indian community, served to create a space where West Indians in New York could feel connected to their native lands from the privacy of their own homes. The music and information flowing from these stations contributed to altering the soundscape of New York City, bringing immigrants and first-generation Americans closer to “home.” These radio stations created an environment that allowed many West Indian immigrants to simultaneously inhabit multiple spaces. For example, West Indians who live “ah foreign” could metaphorically occupy the space of their homelands through music, despite the reality that many would never be able to return home again.

Fortunately for me, my parents had their “papers,” which meant they could leave the country freely without fear of being barred from re-entering. My father would only return to Trinidad once during my childhood, and I was almost thirty years old before we touched Trinidad soil at the same time. However, my mom made several trips to Trinidad during my youth, taking my brother and me on several of them. It was important that we learned about the land of her birth.

East of Flatbush, North of Love, is available for purchase at

Maurice Bishop’s 1983 Hunter College Speech, an Historical Turning Point   Recently updated!

BDN Intro

Great speeches have marked pivotal historical turning points in the life of movements. A sampling of these great speeches are Sojourner Truth’s “Aint I a Woman” (1851), Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” (Washington D.C., 1963), Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Selassie 1963 speech delivered to the United Nations (popularized in the Bob Marley song “War”), Dr. Eric Eustace Williams’ 1960 “March in the Rain” speech (demanding the return of Chagaramas), Fidel Castro’s “History Will Absolve Me” (1961), and Ida B. Wells’ “This Awful Slaughter” (1909).

Grenada’s revolutionary leader Maurice Bishop’s June 5, 1983, speech to an overflowing and highly enthusiastic crowd at Hunter College in NYC belongs in league with such significant speeches. Grenada had only recently celebrated the 4th anniversary of the March 13th, 1979 revolution and while still extraordinarily popular among the Grenadian people and among supporters worldwide, fissures were beginning to become evident within the revolutionary leadership. In the speech, Bishop outlined the extraordinary gains of the process but also highlighted the unrelenting pressures of U.S imperialism on the aspiring but vulnerable microstate.

This special Big Drum Nation issue will feature three aspects of this reflection: I) an analysis of the man and the moment (revolutionary leader Maurice Bishop and the conjuction of history), II) a personal reflection (multimedia) by the then Ambassador to the United Nation, Caldwell Taylor, on some of the behind the scenes factors that foretold the subsequent implosion of October 1983 and finally III, reflections from some  attendees of the historic June 5th event. – BigDrumNation

We hereby present the first of these three installments:

The Anatomy of a Man: Maurice Bishop & 5th June, 1983 – Al Rougier

by Atiba Rougier

I don’t use the words “political figure” to describe Maurice Bishop for many reasons but the most pressing of them is this: I see humanity in his leadership through his words, his speeches and the manner in which he lived his life, even to the very end as he stood against the cemented wall at Fort Rupert on 19th October, 1983. Within the colonial walls where he died, he once stood being honoured as Comrade and prime minister of the People’s Revolution. After speaking with Caldwell Taylor, former Prime Minister Tillman Thomas, Liam James, Annie Bain and Sylvia Belmar amongst many others, the man [Maurice], is more prevalent and interesting to me than the “political figure” the world sees and assumes to know.

Last summer I spent hours on the telephone conducting interviews and having conversations with local Grenadians, international journalists and scholars and what I’ve gathered is that Maurice was misunderstood in many ways. Because of this, when I am alone, in moments of sacred silence, I think aloud and I call him Boo Radley—To Kill a Mockingbird. Boo was misjudged but he was one of the silent heroes of Harper Lee’s prolific novel—if not the ultimate hero, next to Atticus Finch. Boo is special because he saved Scout and Gem from the racist prejudicial mob of Maycomb County and reminded us [the readers] of the harm that can be done when we misjudge and prejudge individuals based upon societal biases. He was a good man who people didn’t understand because they didn’t know him—prejudgments clouded their vision and they made misguided assumptions about him, which during his lifetime, Maurice empathised with. Even now that he is no longer with us in this tangible world of sights, sounds, tastes and smells, Maurice is still misunderstood and discussed in the lens of a political figure rather than a son, father, brother, husband or a friend.


Many of the individuals closest to Maurice and who knew him well died alongside their friend and comrade—the others either died from natural causes or remain tight-lipped, traumatized from the events of October 1983, on that small isle of spice. Compiling a biographical composition of an individual thirty-three years later under these conditions poses a challenge. The loved ones who are left are either extremely distressed and don’t wish to talk and others weren’t close enough to Maurice to give substantial details on his character or who he was. However, in 2007, ten years ago, I stumbled upon a news article marking the 24th Anniversary of Maurice’s assassination. In it, his friend describes the final two days of Maurice’s life, from visiting him on the 18th during his house arrest to being jolted by the sound of machine guns on the 19th coming from Fort Rupert:


To historically understand revolution and armed overthrow as a discourse, one must examine the men at centre stage. The ones who started it, the ones who fought for it, and the ones who later died for it. By studying these men one can understand the systematic successes and failures of political rebellion, in this case Maurice Bishop, the NJM, and the Grenada Revolution. Constructing an image of a man through an archaeological narrative is demanding. It is even more uninviting when this man did not leave a journal or diary behind [or they were destroyed]. His printed speeches are the relics of a distant past that I’ve combed through searching for flesh, blood, and emotions to separate the political figure from the man. I have ravaged through his written words searching for clues of his sensibility and consciousness to understand what he thought, what he felt, and what he desired—those entities of personality are absent from the pages in hand. It is hard reading his speeches in today’s climate because retrospectively, the artistic manipulation and effective use of words and discourses are poignantly clear and ever present.


The histories we’ve inherited—what does it mean to inherit history and what is the responsibility of the inheritor? It is with this historical umbilical cord I’ve attempted to answer these questions—who was Maurice Bishop? What did the revolutionary fighters know about Maurice? What did counter-revolutionary populace know about Maurice? What did ‘children of the revo’ know about Bishop? What do the ‘babies of the revolution’ know about Maurice? Not much! Therefore, it is safe to assume that Maurice Bishop is the Boo Radley of the Grenadian Revolution. I am fascinated by the idea of the relationship between Maurice and his father, Rupert, and how early events shaped his political trajectory?



The political figure of Maurice is as polarizing as Rome’s Mark Antony and Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto. All these political icons are considered charismatic, eloquent, charming, courageous but their most prominent trait seems to be their political ascension through the politics of death, revolutionary fervour, absolute courage and determination, incomparable ambition, democratic hypocrisies and their untimely and almost fatalistic, violent deaths. Given that Maurice died abruptly and suddenly, there is no autobiographical or biographical text related to his life and legacy, or who he was as a man (son, father, brother and friend) but only the man in his shirt-jack standing next to other Latin American or Caribbean radical/Marxist/Communist leaders during the Reagan Administration of the 1970s and 80s. And it is in this image, standing next to Fidel and Manley and Ortega that he has been unfairly embalmed within the pages of World History, though, he was unlike the others because he was uniquely Maurice, as demonstrated in this photo:


I happily struggle to compose a photo of Bish or Bishy or Maurice or M.B. or Dad or friend, as he was loving called by loved ones and those who addressed letters to him “Dear Maurice” and who closed with signatures like: “Take care of yourself. Warm regards….”  As previously stated, in many ways Maurice reminds me of Boo Radley because I believe that Maurice was a man misunderstood. A man who embodied goodness but was grotesquely misrepresented because of the hijacking of his leadership by power hungry sycophants. Like Boo, he protected children and fought against injustice and imperialist bullies. I am drawn to the ending scene of To Kill a Mockingbird the more I read about Maurice. I am reminded of the final dialogue between Atticus and Scout and Scout’s question to him, “Well, it’d be sort of like shootin’ a mockingbird, wouldn’t it?” Like the mockingbird, it was a sin to kill Maurice because all he did was sing to us, like mockingbirds do. It is easy to cast blame and call him names because of his associates and political alliances. To continue using Harper Lee’s classic as a marker for understanding the massacre on 19th October, 1983, Scout’s final words echoes true: “Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.” I often wondered about Maurice and attempted to separate the man from the myths and legends about him; however, I have come to the conclusion that just reading and listening to stories about him, is enough—no need to walk in his shoes, I would not be able to stand upright and steady from the weight of what he had to carry.

Letter from Gail

letter from gail - 2

Today, 5th June, 2017—marks thirty-four years after his eloquent delivery at Hunter College, NYC! This letter (pictured above) speaks to what was delivered…there’s advice as to what he should do or say and the reasons why. Fascinating to put the pieces together for a holistic image of the man versus the political figure.

This project stemmed from multiple conversations with Caldwell Taylor and an e-mail exchange with Martin Felix—they will be presenting an oral piece on their experience on June 5th, they were both present. Caldwell on stage seated behind Maurice as part of his entourage and Martin, in the audience. Here is a photo taken from the YouTube video that captured the illustrious and ominous evening:



Sunsets & Sailboats,


Photos: some are mine, some were sent to me by Caldwell Taylor and others were taken from Google Images.

© June 2017

Book Discussion on a Pioneering Work on a Caribbean-American Enclave of Brooklyn


What happens when a Brooklyn-born and bred music scholar of Trinidadian parentage decides to challenge academia and write a book her way? The result is East of Flatbush, North of Love: An Ethnography of Home, a clever and witty portrait of growing up in East Flatbush— a West Indian American neighborhood situated in the middle of Brooklyn—in the decades before gentrification. On Tuesday June 13, 6 p.m., in celebration of Caribbean American Heritage Month, Medgar Evers College, School of Professional and Community Development in collaboration with the Caribbean Awareness Committee, presents a community discussion on this highly acclaimed memoir with a distinguished panel.

Written like a novel, but ripe with historical and ethnographic information, Dr. Danielle Brown—a NYU-trained ethnomusicologist and former Syracuse University professor— presents a story that is accessible to all. Although East Flatbush plays a starring role, the book pays homage to all the West Indian neighborhoods that have made up Central Brooklyn since the 1960s.

The author uses a wide variety of songs that form part of her cultural upbringing—from calypso to reggae to hip hop—as an educational tool to teach history and to illuminate how the legacy of colonialism and imperialism continues to impact people of color today.

About the book Roger Toussaint, former president of the Transport Workers Union, Local 100 and a member of the Caribbean Awareness Committee, notes, “As those obsessed with ruining America embrace and celebrate dystopia, it’s a pleasure to welcome Dr. Brown’s work as a subversive anthem that implicitly challenges the hallucinatory patter of our time. By recapturing the true spirit of that contested space she hoists aloft the banner of resistance against the galloping ‘social and economic invasion’.”

Additional praise for the book comes from Dr. Lawrence Waldron, City College, CUNY, author of Gypsy in the Moonlight and Handbook of Ceramic Animal Symbols in the Ancient Lesser Antilles: “Written from the viewpoint of a Brooklyn native, this is a contemplative and amusing first-person reflection on community and identity in the West Indian-American enclave of East Flatbush before the devastating gentrifications of the past decade and a half. Neither fiction nor straight biography, the evocatively written East of Flatbush, North of Love comes with tandem subjective and objective views on life in East Flatbush, and the rigorous supporting research that makes it An Ethnography of Home, as the author calls it in her subtitle. As the reader, you are well supplied with hard facts, historical dates, definitions, a running glossary of Trinidadian and other Caribbean idioms, and bibliographic (not to mention discographic) sources, all while you marvel at Brooklyn’s Caribbean cosmopolitanism, hum the tunes to all those transcribed songs, swallow hard through a delicious recipe or a bitter tragedy, thrill to a ghost story, wipe a tear at the loss of community, or laugh at a childhood adventure.”

And Toussaint, who will be moderating the discussion, adds, “Underlying this beguiling and deceptively simple work is a profound repudiation of eurocentrism and its practice of otherizing and objectifying people… Indeed, [this memoir] is a must read for our community and anyone interested in saving neighborhoods and uplifting our youth as it demonstrates how popular culture can be used as the engine for authentic self-education, activism, and change and renewal.”

This sonic trip–with Dr. Brown reading and singing her experience of life growing up as a West Indian-American in Brooklyn–on June 13, 6 p.m. @ Medgar Evers College’s Edison O. Jackson Auditorium, 1638 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, NY, is free and open to the public. For information contact: Caribbean Awareness Committee at 718-532-6347.

East of Flatbush, North of Love can be purchased through the author’s website:


Women Need True Power — Jennifer Gibbs

March 8 is celebrated globally as International Women’s Day (IWD). Originally organized by the Socialist Party of America, the celebrations first took place in February 1909 and were called International Working Women’s Day.  Big Drum Nation is commemorating the occasion by posting women’s reflections on the struggle for equality.
Every year the celebrations embrace a special theme reflecting the urgency of the moment. This year, proceeding from the World Economic Forum’s prediction that the gender gap is unlikely to close entirely until 2186, the theme addresses this unacceptable state of gender inequity as a human rights urgency. Big Drum Nation joins IWD in the campaign to #BeBoldForChange following up on last year’s Pledge for Parity Campaign. It is a quest for women and girls to achieve their ambitions, challenge conscious and unconscious gender bias, push for gender balanced leadership, value women’s equality, encourage inclusive flexible cultures, and for more gender inclusiveness.
We asked Jennifer Gibbs  what International Women’s Day means to her. Here’s her response:

“Thanks for the info and this is my answer: Although some progress has been made, gender equality continues to be a struggle. Unfortunately, unless a great number of women are in places where there is true power, where the decisions and laws that affect them are made, women will not have the same rights as men.”

Jennifer Gibbs is an alum of the Anglican High School (St. Georges, Grenada), and currently the President of the Anglican High School Past Pupil Association in New York.

We salute the women of Grenada who work towards progress, development and equality — Jacqueline Mckenzie

March 8 is celebrated globally as International Women’s Day (IWD). Originally organized by the Socialist Party of America, the celebrations first took place in February 1909 and were called International Working Women’s Day.  Big Drum Nation is commemorating the occasion by posting women’s reflections on the struggle for equality.
Every year the celebrations embrace a special theme reflecting the urgency of the moment. This year, proceeding from the World Economic Forum’s prediction that the gender gap is unlikely to close entirely until 2186, the theme addresses this unacceptable state of gender inequity as a human rights urgency. Big Drum Nation joins IWD in the campaign to #BeBoldForChange following up on last year’s Pledge for Parity Campaign. It is a quest for women and girls to achieve their ambitions, challenge conscious and unconscious gender bias, push for gender balanced leadership, value women’s equality, encourage inclusive flexible cultures, and for more gender inclusiveness.
We asked Jacqueline Mckenzie  what International Women’s Day means to her. Here’s her response:
“On this International Women’s Day we salute and celebrate with the women of Grenada who work towards progress, development and equality. We salute the farmers and agricultural workers; the road workers, cleaners, hotel and house workers; the home makers; the teachers and educators; the nurses and doctors; the engineers, architects, builders and innovators; the activists, campaigners and champions of human rights; the artists, musicians, writers, craft workers and preservers of culture and heritage; the environmentalists; the leaders and public officials who safeguard our people and our land; the wealth creators who respect the rights of workers and the brave trade unionists who won’t bow; the survivors of abuse and domestic violence; the mothers who create, nurture and provide despite…; the young women and girls who hold their heads up high despite…; the women of Grenada who today might cry, smile, sigh, kiss their teeth, struggle, explain, console, believe, love, be fearful, be hopeful; the beautiful Grenadian woman, protector of our nation and guarantor of our future.”
Jacqueline McKenzie is a UK based lawyer specializing in migration, asylum and refugee law. She lectures in migration law and is the founder of the Organization of Migration Advice and Research which works pro bono with refugees and women who have been trafficked to the UK. Jacqueline was born in England of Grenadian and Jamaican parentage and lived in Grenada between 1975 and 1981 attending St Joseph’s Convent and the Institute for Further Education. Jacqueline is passionate about Grenada and is also a founding member of the Grenada Development Network.


Women’s Rights are Human Rights — Keisha-Gaye Anderson

March 8 is celebrated globally as International Women’s Day (IWD). Originally organized by the Socialist Party of America, the celebrations first took place in February 1909 and were called International Working Women’s Day.  Big Drum Nation is commemorating the occasion by posting women’s reflections on the struggle for equality.
Every year the celebrations embrace a special theme reflecting the urgency of the moment. This year, proceeding from the World Economic Forum’s prediction that the gender gap is unlikely to close entirely until 2186, the theme addresses this unacceptable state of gender inequity as a human rights urgency. Big Drum Nation joins IWD in the campaign to #BeBoldForChange following up on last year’s Pledge for Parity Campaign. It is a quest for women and girls to achieve their ambitions, challenge conscious and unconscious gender bias, push for gender balanced leadership, value women’s equality, encourage inclusive flexible cultures, and for more gender inclusiveness.
We asked Jamaican-born poet and writer Keisha-Gaye Anderson  what International Women’s Day means to her. Here’s her response:
“It is important that this day is earmarked to call attention to women’s issues worldwide. We are witnessing a very important shift in the movement for women’s equality, with the recent women’s marches all over the globe and organized efforts to push against legislation that would further marginalize women or dictate what they should/should not do with their bodies. Never before have we seen such broad awareness and acceptance of the notion that women’s rights are human rights. And given our interconnectedness via media and the internet, I see this movement only growing. In a sense, I liken this to humanity balancing itself to ensure it has a future on this planet. Under patriarchy, women everywhere have suffered so much, for so long, that injustices are calling out to be redressed. Genius is eager to be unleashed. Different ways of organizing society are ready to come to the fore. Human beings as a species cannot thrive while forcefully suppressing more than half of its population. In facing the necessary challenge of bringing about equality for women, may we all reach a higher, healing level of awareness with which to view our world, and each other.”

Keisha-Gaye Anderson is a Jamaican-born poet and creative writer living in Brooklyn, NY. She is the author of the poetry collection Gathering the Waters (Jamii Publishing, December 2014), which was accepted into the Poets House Library. Her writing has been published in a number of national literary journals, literary magazines and anthologies, including Writing the Caribbean, Renaissance Noire, The Killens Review of Arts and Letters, Mosaic Literary Magazine, African Voices Magazine, Streetnotes: Cross Cultural Poetics, Caribbean in Transit Arts Journal, The Mom Egg Review and othersShe is a past participant of the VONA Voices and Callaloo Creative Writing workshops, and was named a fellow by the North Country Institute for Writers of Color. Keisha has also been short listed for the Small Axe Literary Competition. She is a founding poet with Poets for Ayiti. Proceeds from their 2010 chapbook, For the Crowns of Your Heads, helped to rebuild Bibliotheque du Soleil, a library razed during the earthquake in Haiti. She holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from The City College, CUNY and regularly leads writing workshops on CUNY campuses. Learn more about Keisha at or at Follow her on Twitter @KeishaGaye1 and Instragram @keishagayeanderson.

You can listen to some of her poems on Soundcloud

“Mask” – Keisha-Gaye Anderson

Celebrating all that is Positive about Being a Woman — Ann Farray

March 8 is celebrated globally as International Women’s Day (IWD). Originally organized by the Socialist Party of America, the celebrations first took place in February 1909 and were called International Working Women’s Day.  Big Drum Nation is commemorating the occasion by posting women’s reflections on the struggle for equality.
Every year the celebrations embrace a special theme reflecting the urgency of the moment. This year, proceeding from the World Economic Forum’s prediction that the gender gap is unlikely to close entirely until 2186, the theme addresses this unacceptable state of gender inequity as a human rights urgency. Big Drum Nation joins IWD in the campaign to #BeBoldForChange following up on last year’s Pledge for Parity Campaign. It is a quest for women and girls to achieve their ambitions, challenge conscious and unconscious gender bias, push for gender balanced leadership, value women’s equality, encourage inclusive flexible cultures, and for more gender inclusiveness.
We asked sister Ann Farray of Montreal  what International Women’s Day means to her. Here’s her response:

“International Women’s Day allows for the celebration of all that is positive about being women.  It is also a platform to “agitate” for more that is due us … and should have been ‘naturally’ afforded.  Through my experience, it is mainly those who have felt “left out” or “disenfranchised” who have to seek validation through the means of having a “special” day to commemorate and validate their rightful place in this life.   So I salute us women and girls… on the way to womanhood.  Have a happy celebration…”

Ann Farray is a survivor, community and humanity supporter. She lives in Montreal, Canada.

Bob Marley 1 : 0 Reggae Boys — Richard Grant


Richard Grant

It is Pan-African, Pan-Caribbean, Pan-World. It is Pan Man. It endears Jamaica to the entire world; the essence of the Rastaman Bob Marley’s music and philosophy. It is One Love. The One Love ideal of social relations works well as a cultural and political construct. It is inclusive; a necessary myth for nation building, for positive international relations and for world peace, but it severely limits the goal average of Jamaica’s football team.

Let’s get to the point. Jamaicans need to make an important decision on February 6th 2017 about Bob Marley. Betta mus come.

The Reggae Boys team internalized this concept as its philosophy. This truth is a problem. One Love is a curse on the development of Jamaica’s football program. It was a serious blow to the aspirations of their fans to ‘repatriate’ to the motherland in 2010 for the Big Dance – the World Cup Competition in South Africa. Jamaica lost the prestige of the VIP designation it gained in 1998.

The successive failures to regain membership have been blamed on the ridiculous notions of poor planning and lack of vision by the Football Federation; terrible team selection, inexperienced coaching, nonexistent team chemistry, choosing international or foreign born players over locals, appalling organization, infrequent quality practice games prior to qualifying competition and even the absence of Usain Bolt from the squad. That is absurd.

“The great Brazilian teams of the past transformed the rhythms of their culture into a mesmerizing strategy that was destructive to their opponents’ resolve.” Frankly, the Samba analogy is trite and patronizing.

On the other hand, One Love is too deeply ingrained in Jamaican musical culture as a peaceful concept for it to acquire the deadly attributes of a weapon of war; a necessary condition for success in the arms race of the modern game of football. How ironic is it that Reggae music was such a tremendous source of inspiration for the South African revolution, yet the Reggae Boys are more deserving of the Noble Peace Prize than was president Obama.

Context: The genesis of the problem

Michael Manley, Bob Marley, Edward Seaga

“Oneness” a part of the collective consciousness since emancipation, is a symbol of confidence, perseverance, survival and primarily, hope. It is promoted as a unifying concept in the lie of our motto, “Out of many we are one.”

It is in our proverbs, “one, one coco full basket”, suggesting a progressively linear, deliberate economic, societal, and individual development. It plays a role in romance. “All mih want is one chance, putus”, a young man will plead with the object of his desire, confident that if allowed just one opportunity to prove himself, their lives will be happy forever; his partner’s, even more blissful than his. Why ask for only one chance though? How limiting? {Smh}.

Nigerian icon Fela Anikulapo Kuti

The psychology of Oneness preceded Bob Marley. However, he is singularly responsible for Jamaica’s One Love image around the world. A Nigerian taxi driver asked me once, “You from Bob Marley country?” I answered, “You from Fela Kuti country?”. We compared cultural notes for over an hour. He did not mind missing fares as a discussion about Bob, Jamaica and Reggae music was too interesting to abandon. He asked sarcastically if the Reggae Boys would ever return to the W.C., smiled, and started humming One Love. With a wink, he wished me good luck, and slowly drove away. How insightful was the connection between the Reggae Boys and One Love !


The Reggae Boyz

Opposing teams come to The Office, as the national stadium located in Kingston, is called, full of confidence that they need to score only one goal to secure a win, or worse, to tie the game. Ironically, the enthusiastic, yet oblivious Jamaican fans will chant, “One Love.” The opposing team hears, “one heart. Let’s get together and feel all right”, as if the setting were a Peace Concert by the sea. What is the message to the defense? Should the forwards be saying “welcome to Jamaica? Be sure to visit the Bob Marley Museum before you leave our beautiful island. Don’t forget the souvenirs. Have you tried the best beer in CONCACAF?”

Football Diplomacy? Reggae Ambassadors?

It gives the impression that hosting a World Cup qualifying game, were a joint promotion by the JFF and the Jamaica Tourist Board. We should not forget the latter’s television commercial of the recent past, “Come back to the way things used to be.” The announcement then was, Make Jamaica great again! This scenario frames a confusing message which conditions the team to mediocrity and failure. It caps a limit on achievement. Who plays intentionally for only a 1:0 victory, unless it’s in the final minutes of a game? Begging putus for only one chance can be excused as age appropriate indiscretion of youth. Demanding One Love of a national football team is treason. Marley’s masterpiece applied in the wrong context; One Love’s unintended consequences.



The day of reckoning is February 6th , 2017. When I analyze this thing, the current state of the Jamaican football program, it makes a lot of sense that redemption will come only through a thorough rejection of One Love. Jamaicans should no longer deny the obvious. Even though unintentional, it stymied the development of Jamaica’s football. The critics of this proposal will shout, “ambush”, “blasphemy”. Their complaint is emotionally driven. “What do they know of football who only One Love know?”

Bob’s One Love, conditioned the team to fail. It is obvious that he would understand the need to denounce it. He was passionate about the game, and would not stand in the way. The supporters of the team, the Football Federation and the Jamaican people must come to terms with this alternative fact, and reconcile themselves to the necessity of a rebellion against their connection, conscious and unconscious, to the mental slavery of One Love in the context of football competition. Only Jamaicans can cure their own minds. Let’s celebrate a new Emancipation Day on Feb. 6th, 2017.

Long live Jamaican football!

Richard Grant is a freelance writer.