Book Review


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?”

“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 www.mypeopletellstories.com


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

MUSIC SCHOLAR’S NEW BOOK HAS A SOUNDTRACK, READS LIKE A NOVEL, AND CLEVERLY TEACHES READERS WHAT THEY NEVER LEARNED IN SCHOOL ABOUT THE LEGACY OF COLONIALISM.

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 http://cheapessaywritings24.com/help-in-writing-essay/ help in writing essay 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 bread givers essay 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: http://www.mypeopletellstories.com/

 


Sir Alister McIntyre, “The Caribbean Man” – Winthrop R. Holder [2 of 3]

2017-01-25

Preparing UWI for the Challenges of the 21st Century: An Interview with Vice Chancellor Sir Alister McIntyre [**Reprint**]

primary homework help literacy Link to part 1

“If we don’t know from where we comin’ / Then we cyah plan where we goin”.

– Black Stalin, Caribbean Unity (1979)

The Caribbean and the Wider World: Commentaries on My Life and Career

Born in St. Georges, Grenada, Sir Meredith Alister McIntyre is considered one of the Caribbean’s eminent thought shapers and academicians. This highly celebrated Caribbean integrationist and internationalist has served the Caribbean in various capacities, representing the region in a wide range of international forums.

The December 12, 2016 launch of Sir McIntyre’s book, The Caribbean And The Wider World: Commentaries on My Life and Career,  has come with great anticipation because of the reservoir of experience he is expected to share. It is also a moment when the region is in dire need of self-reflection. The book chronicles the wide range of Mr. McIntyre’s celebrated career in academia, regionalism and multilateral cooperation. Sir McIntyre assumed the role of Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies (Mona, Jamaica) in 1988 serving in this capacity for 10 years.

As a precursor to a review of this timely book, Big Drum Nation hereby publishes the second segment of the interview between Sir McIntyre and Winthrop Holder of the N.Y. Daily Challenge during Sir McIntyre’s stint as VC of the University of the West Indies. This segment, which is even more relevant today, was published on August 7, 1995. – BDN

buy resume nyc “The Interview: Engaging the Wider World”

All too often, the innovative work done by the university is beyond the view of the public. Sometimes because of the parcelization of knowledge, even graduates are only familiar with their narrow field of interest. This needs to be corrected. In this the second part of the tree-part article, Sir Alister McIntyre, Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, talks candidly with Winthrop R. Holder of the Daily Challenge about the regional impact of the University.

http://swoimirukami.net/?pay-to-write-essay-uk pay to write essay uk Holder: How has the university influenced the Caribbean? It has produced about six Prime Ministers….

http://www.ilplanetario.net/?creative-writing-courses-brisbane creative writing courses brisbane McIntyre: Seven. Our latest count is seven. We just got two more: Edison James (of Dominica) and Denzil Douglas of St. Kits-Nevis. [PS. Today the count stands at 20 present or former prime ministers and presidents who were graduates of UWI].

http://gccwines.com/dissertation-team/ dissertation team Holder: But beyond having educated prime ministers, how would you assess the impact and reach of the university?

http://mystically.fr/mba-essay-writing-service-bangalore/ mba essay writing service bangalore McIntyre: The Cabinets of the Caribbean are full of graduates and, graduates, increasingly are leading the private sector. If you go into the financial sector in Jamaica, for instance, it is littered with graduates at the level of CEO’s, senior vice presidents and so on. We produce 97% of the regions teachers; we produce [most] of the doctors, practically 90% of the engineers, etc. So we are having a very substantial impact by way of producing the leadership of the region in a numbers of sectors. I do not think that any committee, council, or commission—irrespective of what the subject matter is—can be set up in the region today without at least one person from the university.

discount herbal viagra viagra Holder: Have the graduates been very successful in addressing the problems of the region? How would you rate your graduates?

http://www.hypehoodie.com/thesis-help-tutor/ thesis help tutor McIntyre: I do not think there is any doubt about the quality of our graduates, if you judge them by the international accreditation that they receive. UWI is the only medical school outside of Britain whose graduates are fully registrable in the United Kingdom and in Europe—we are the only one. In the United States, our graduates have had no difficulty going into residency. None. I have never heard of any problems of a UWI graduate having difficulty getting into American graduate schools. So I don’t think we have a problem in that respect.

http://calpoly.lambdaphiepsilon.com/download-windows-8-for-mac-free/ download windows 8 for mac free INNOVATIVENESS

http://www.tamameng.com/phd-thesis-in-physics/ phd thesis in physics Holder: To what extent has, the university and its graduates developed innovative approaches and programs to address the needs of the region…

http://www.dilmah.pl/?homework-orders homework orders McIntyre: Innovativeness always comes from a small number of individuals, or small groups. But look at what we have done in medical research: we have scored very highly in the whole business of mental development and nutrition. We have [developed] techniques to [address developmentally challenged] children and those are being used overseas. Right now, we are setting up a project in Bangladesh, financed by the Japanese government, to try to see if we can address that issue there. The Japanese are using it in the Korean community that was having this problem. We have scored very highly in sickle cell anemia. We were the first group to establish that it is not a disease peculiar to African people. We found it in the Mediterranean, Greece, Turkey, India, etc., and this has changed the whole perspective about the disease. We find institutions in Europe now having sickle cell anemia on their research agenda. We are now on the relationship between a particular type of virus and leukemia. We also found something, Jamaican neuropathy. It was a form of neuropathy, but couldn’t be explained. And from that work it led us into new areas of research. So in medicine we have done well.

http://www.giezentweewielers.nl/?do-my-lab-report-for-me do my lab report for me Holder:  Other areas….

conclusions and recommendations dissertation McIntyre: We have done very well in the field of comparative literature. Afterall, look at the people we have produced—Derek Walcott being the outstanding example. We have done very well in the field of heritage studies and history. We are regarded as the center of Caribbean history.

We have done a lot of work in the field of engineering. We have produced some very innovative software—I think in practically every field you can think of—in the social sciences, education, whatever, there are people producing and creating new knowledge, or new applications of existing knowledge. I do not think we have any problems to worry about in that field.

Holder: Has the economics department been as successful as other departments? How would you assess the contributions of the New World Group of which you were a member?

McIntyre: Well, I do not think that their policy prescriptions were very useful. Most economists are not fully useful in that respect. I think that one thing we did was to create much greater awareness of the role of the Caribbean in the outside world, which had not been the case before. When I went to Mona (Jamaica) in 1960 to take up a lectureship, I was amazed at the myopia that existed in the [economics] department. People did not see themselves as part of a wider world. And when it became necessary for the Caribbean to negotiate the first Lome Convention—I am not beating my chest—but I was the only in the region at the time who knew what it was all about. I had to spend 17 months working with delegates (from other developing countries) because they had to start from scratch and we had to bring them along.

So, the economics department has done, I would say, reasonable well although I’ve been disconnected from its work for about 20 years. Let me correct something: I was never a part of the New World Group. I do not know where the idea came from. I only wrote one article for its journal.

Holder: Apart from the Lome Convention, what other international issues did you focus on?

McIntyre: In 1977, I was in Geneva thinking about global problems.

Holder: The New International Order dissipated into nothing…

McIntyre: Yes, in the 1970s I spent a lot of my time on the New International Economic Order. It collapsed like a pack of cards.

SOCIAL POLICY

Holder: What has the university done in the area of social sector research?

McIntyre: The social sector policy group is doing very well. We have just completed a series of studies on poverty for the World Bank, which has influenced their thinking about poverty. One of the things that many of the international agencies assumed was that poverty was uniquely correlated with employment and that poverty was concentrated among the unemployed. We have shown that the highest incidence of poverty is among the employed. The highest incidence of poverty is among the female low-income earners who are heads of households and earn particularly low wages, whether they are in domestic service or in apparel, or whatever it is. [A] large proportion of the unemployed receive remittances from people abroad and their disposable income sometimes is higher than the employed. This is a reason, perhaps, why they are not employed because the so-called reserve price of labor is rather high for males but not for females. Therefore, we have done an agenda analysis of the employment problem and have changed the whole attitude of anti-poverty programs. So in the field of social sector policy, we have—I think—had quite an impact.

I led a mission on socio-economic performance in Trinidad a couple of years ago, and we recommended large-scale improvements in the social sector. One of the things I suggested was a community development find, which would fund small-scale projects for neighborhoods improvement. And the World Bank and the InterAmerican Bank contribute (US) $20 million.

Winthrop R. Holder

A New York City educator, Holder has written extensively on Caribbean cultural pedagogy. He is the author of Classroom Calypso: Giving Voice to the Voiceless (Peter Lang International Academic Publishers, 2007)

 

 

Stay tuned for Part 3 of 3 (Saturday, January 28)

Sir Alister McIntyre, “The Caribbean Man” – Winthrop R. Holder [1 of 3]

2017-01-22

Preparing UWI for the Challenges of the 21st Century [**Reprint**]

The Caribbean and the Wider World: Commentaries on My Life and Career

“If we don’t know from where we comin’ / Then we cyah plan where we goin”.

– Black Stalin, Caribbean Unity (1979)

Born in St. Georges, Grenada, Sir Meredith Alister McIntyre is considered one of the Caribbean’s eminent thought shapers and academicians. This highly celebrated Caribbean integrationist and internationalist has served the Caribbean in various capacities, representing the region in a wide range of international forums.

The December 12, 2016 launch of Sir McIntyre’s book, The Caribbean And The Wider World: Commentaries on My Life and Career, has come with great anticipation because of the reservoir of experience he is expected to share. It is also a moment when the region is in dire need of self-reflection. The book chronicles the wide range of Mr. McIntyre’s celebrated career in academia, regionalism and multilateral cooperation. Sir McIntyre assumed the role of Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies (Mona, Jamaica) in 1988 serving in this capacity for 10 years.

As a precursor to a review of this timely book, Big Drum Nation hereby publishes the first segment of a three part interview between Sir McIntyre and Winthrop Holder of the N.Y. Daily Challenge during Sir McIntyre’s stint as VC of the University of the West Indies. This segment, which is even more relevant today,  was published on July 31, 1995. – BDN

The Interview: Building a Nexus of Partnerships

Holder: What is the state of the Caribbean [economy] and how does this affect the university?

Sir Alister McIntyre: We are in a state of contraction because we are trying to prepare ourselves for the momentous period ahead–momentous both for the Caribbean and, of course, in a wider global setting. The Caribbean countries are going through some very profound changes both in their economies and in the international setting in which they have–because of international trading sectors, agriculture, sugar, banana; even petroleum and bauxite–very limited growth potential. They are not dead, but they do not promise a great deal for the future.  So, that the tasks facing the Caribbean countries now are to find new lines of activity and, to a certain degree, to modernize the activities that are already in existence.

Both tasks require a greater acquisition of knowledge in the production process than has been the case up to now.

Holder:  How does the university intend to facilitate this process?

McIntyre: Yes, the university has a role to play. We have to play it in two ways: First, we have to increase our output of graduates in the relevant fields and, secondly, we have to enlarge the knowledge base for economic development. That essentially involves a much greater level of activity in the field of research and development. At the moment, research and development are miniscule proportions.

In the last estimate for Jamaica, only 1/8 of 1% of the gross domestic products is devoted to research and development. When countries are spending less than 3% on research and development, they are doing very badly—the Asian tigers are up to 5%. Therefore, we have not simply to achieve a statistic, but to really develop a much greater stock of knowledge [about] economic development. In agriculture for instance, this involves much greater appreciation of biotechnology than we have done so far.

In tourism, we have to modernize the tourist sector, increase the range of attraction and make it more environmentally sustainable. All of these things require knowledge. Therefore, that is one part of it.

Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, in conversation with Sir Alister McIntyre, author of “The Caribbean and the Wider World”.

Holder: The question then becomes one of funding: Given the contraction of Caribbean economies where will the increased funding come from?

McIntyre: We did a simulation of what would be the likely proportion of funding that would accrue to the university in the period ahead. We made three assumptions: First, the economies would not grow on average by more than3% a year; Second, that we would get the share of education in the budget up to about 15%–it’s now and average of 13%; so we would get increases in the share of the public budget going to education. In addition, finally, we assume we have to double, in real terms, per capita expenditure on primary education. We do not need to get into that. However, the need there is so acute that we thought that a doubling in per capita was necessary. Then we keep the percentage of secondary education constant; and once those assumptions were inserted, it became evident that the share of public budget, in both relative and absolute terms for university education, would go down.

In other words, we are facing a situation where there is mounting demand for higher education and the work that higher education institutions can do, but decelerating possibilities of increasing the amount of public money that can go into education.

Holder: This raises the issue of private funding and relatedly, is not there perhaps a concomitant need for more innovative approaches of managing the existing allocations to the university…

McIntyre: Certainly, the university has to make itself more cost-recoverable in its work: Namely, we have to develop profit centers and self-financing activities. Moreover, we have to be extremely aggressive in mobilizing outside resources for our work. We are doing this in the Caribbean by, of course, focusing principally on the private sector and alumnus.

We have begun to make some progress, certainly in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. And, of course, we are mobilizing resources from outside the region. That means official donors–The International Development Bank and bilateral donors like the USA, Canada and Japan. These countries are cutting their budgets, so those prospects are not very good. There are also the Caribbean communities in the United Sates, alumni and foundations and corporations interested in the Caribbean.

Holder: Is this a new thrust? If not, how successful has any previous effort been?

McIntyre: In the past, we focused largely on official sources. When we developed our development plans in 1990, we ‘guesstimated’ that we needed U.S. $300 million over the nine-year period. So we decided to try to raise US $100m every three years. We raised $101m, of which $37m was in the form of grants, which we got from a number of sources like foundations and similar types of organizations and bilateral donors. In addition, we raised $65m in the form of loans: $56m from the Inter-American Development Bank—all loans at very good terms. A very significant blanket, but still it is debt, and one has to be careful that an institution as ours does not build up a very substantial overhang of indebtedness. So this time, with the second hundred million we are going for will be official assistance to the extent that we can get. We are relying much more on private support for the remainder.

Holder: So at present, the university is developing a strong footing, both economically and structurally in moving into the 21st century…

McIntyre: We have to. We have no choice. Moreover, we have to focus on our critical problems facing the region that additionally will have a greater impact. And related to that, we have to build up a whole nexus of partnerships and networks with outside institutions and outside companies and so on—both as a way of projecting our activities into the wider world, and also as a way of earning some financial support for the university—whether through consultancy income or whatever it is.  So, I think this is really the challenge we face in the world. This is much more difficult than negotiating with a multilateral institution. However, cumbersome it might be, it is an easier job to do, because we know that job. This one we are just learning.

Winthrop R. Holder

A New York City educator, Holder has written extensively on Caribbean cultural pedagogy. He is the author of Classroom Calypso: Giving Voice to the Voiceless (Peter Lang International Academic Publishers, 2007)

Stay tuned for Part 2 of 3 (Wednesday, January 25)

A TRIBUTE TO E.R., AND ALSO TO THE GREAT TEACHERS OF THE WORLD

Sidney, Mr Fox, and the Paid Servant, was the title of E.R. Braithwaite’s novel published in 1962.
In his The Measure of A Man , a spiritual autobiography, Sidney
[Poitier] writes:
“When I was a boy there was a schoolhouse, and it was one room. Sometimes we went and sometimes we didn’t, because we were in the fields most of the time .
“I got to Nassau at ten and a half, and I quit school at twelve, so what I picked up between Cat [Cat island] and Nassau was just  just enough to read the basics.

 

“The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography”, Sidney Pointer

“But I had a great teacher in Nassau. His name was Mr. Fox. William Fox. We call him Bill. Mr Bill Fox,  and he was magical. I learned more from him than virtually anyone I knew.  I drew heavily on him as a model for my character in To Sir with Love” .


We Move Tonight: The Making of the Grenada Revolution

We Move Tonight:
The Making of the Grenada Revolution

A Review

Fadhilika Atiba-Weza
Brunswick, New York

We Move Tonight: The Making of the Grenada Revolution
by Joseph Ewart Layne
St. George’s, Grenada: Grenada Revolution Memorial Foundation, 2014, 203 pages.

capturesnipDuring the colonial period, the British placed tremendous significance on Grenada and made it the administrative headquarters of the group of Caribbean islands which are collectively called the Windward Islands. Independence brought its benefits and challenges, and the Spice Isle, as Grenada is fondly called had its share — foremost among its challenges was the rule of Gairy, which was a blight on the island, and an embarrassment to Caribbean people.

Book cover of We Move Tonight by Joseph Ewart Layne

Book cover of We Move Tonight by Joseph Ewart Layne

The early morning of March 13th, 1979, ushered a new dawn as the Caribbean welcomed a rebirth as the people of Grenada, led by the New Jewel Movement (NJM) removed Gairy from office and began the process of a revolutionary transformation of the country. “We Move Tonight” is the story of the developments which led to the events of March 13th. Joseph Ewart Layne, a member of the Political Bureau of the NJM, and a leader of the People’s Revolutionary Army of Grenada was a participant/observer of the process which removed Gairy and created the “Revo” as the process of social transformation was popularly called.

Layne, who was one of the Grenada 17, spent 26 years in prison following the 1983, United States-led invasion of Grenada. During that period of time, he “reflected” on the events which led to the revolution, and those which resulted in its demise. He took the opportunity to earn an LLB and an LLM, and engaged in the kind of introspection which led him to renounce the kinds of activities which resulted in some of the rash decisions that were made during the four and one half years of the Revo.

According to the author, the primary purpose of this book is to present the story of the making of the revolution so that readers can gain an insider’s perspective on the activities which led to the creation of the People’s Revolutionary Government.

Maurice Bishop on Revolution Morning

Maurice Bishop on Revolution Morning

The book is organized in three sections. The first is a political autobiographical journey which begins with the author’s introduction to, and initiation into the National Liberation Army (NLA), and concludes with its triumph over Gairy’s police and paramilitary forces. Along the way we learn of the decisions which were made by the leadership of the NJM, the processes by which the decisions were made, the challenges and dangers which they faced. By identifying key players, the reader is treated to a narrative which contextualizes the decisions and activities of the NJM as the critical day arrives. We are provided with examples of the brilliance of the chief strategists of the revolution, along with some of the amateurish mistakes that could have been fatal.

It explodes the myth that the revolution was an act of desperation. We are provided with evidence of a deliberative and methodological planning process which at times frustrated the youthful and enthusiastic Layne and his peers.
The second section is a brief review of the political history of Grenada. After having read the first section, it appears that is section would have been better placed as a preceding section. Nevertheless, Layne places in a historical and political context the birth of the NJM and its predecessor organizations, the factors which influence some of the developments in the country, and the political climate in which the revolution triumphed.

The third section is most disappointing. The author briefly mentions that there was a problem in the party, but did not elaborate, nor did he address the issues which led to the problem. Given the detail with which he addresses the first section (activities leading to the attack on March 13th, 1979) one expected a similar treatment of the issues which led to the fatal day of October 19th 1983, but this a glaring omission. Given the delicate nature of this matter, and the emotions which it evokes, tremendous tact and diplomacy are required. One has to assume that there are political and legal reasons for the author’s decision to exclude this painful chapter in the history of Grenada.

grenadacollage
In addressing the issues of October 1983, Layne states that, “When faced with a challenge to his absolute leadership of the party, PM Bishop did not go to the people with the genuine issue. Instead he issued a rumour that a plan to kill him was uncovered. The other side reacted by putting PM Bishop under house arrest. From there things catapulted out of hand.”

The above raises more questions than it has answered. What happened to the Bishop Coard Whiteman team that Layne proudly mentions in earlier part of the book? When did Bishop assume absolute leadership? How did it occur? What exactly, is absolute leadership? What kind of challenge was issued? How could the “genius of Coard” not have foreseen the consequences of such a reckless act of placing the popular PM under house arrest? There are many other issues that can be raised in light of the weakness of this section, but overall this publication is a welcome contribution to the literature on a very important development in the history of the Caribbean.

Previously published in In Motion Magazine August 26, 2014.


Within Rum and Coca Cola “Gypsy in the Moonlight” book review

Within Rum and Coca Cola

By Duff Mitchell

J.L.F. WaldronL. F.  Waldron’s Gypsy in the Moonlight, with its appeal to thoughts and feelings, is a fine piece of literary work. The author presents a sequence of events in a gently gripping tide of narrative that makes the reader anxious to find out what’s next. The story unfolds around the conflict between a mother and daughter as well as between American sailors and the community exemplified in an ex-policeman.

Gypsy accounts for the American occupation of Trinidad and Tobago, beginning in 1942 with sailors stationed in Trinidad during World War II, as part of America’s mission to prevent Germany from establishing a beachhead in Panama. The novel gets its title as it outlines the dramatic disturbance of colonials going through hard times then having to angrily settle for the cancellation of Carnival, while struggling with the debate on adult suffrage along with the upheaval over the right to collective bargaining of oil and sugar workers.

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Tubal Uriah Butler and Dr Eric Williams

The central character is a fearless and well-rounded ex-policeman, Bonham Mars, who served time on Nelson Island for transgressions in the name of Uriah Butler. Mars is “salt fish”: the kind-a-guy whom Trini would recognize as ‘a man about town‘.  He is ‘Trini to the bone’.  He knows Tom, Dick and Harry… not to mention Peter, James and John … as well as Jean, Dinah, Rosita and Clementina. Yet, whenever the need arises he can employ important tactics copied from stick fighters. He lives in East Dry River on the doorsteps of the womb of the embryonic tamboo bamboo and the birth place of the steel pan, as well as, overlooking the St Ann’s River where Park and Picadilly streets meet at the eastern gateway to the centre of the city of Port of Spain. He revels in calypso. He engages in triumphant conflict with and over the best and the worst of what those days of the American presence offered to all walks of life of the people of Trinidad and Tobago. Moreover, Mars provides Waldron with the opportunity to employ his baton of delectable dialogue to conduct a pleasurable treat in a symphony of verbal and physical dramatics while describing Mars’ encounters with four special women in the plot.

I find it mind blowing that Waldron, a relatively young man, could immerse himself in history in the making–as I witnessed it while growing up in Belmont, Duke Street and in Laventille–and craft his fiction with almost flawless accuracy and consummate intuition. Indeed, Waldron’s panoramic encapsulation of the drama of life experience in a colonial Caribbean territory during the nineteen forties exposes him as the proverbial ‘man in the moon.  

British and American servicemen in Port-of-Spain during World War II.

British and American servicemen in Port-of-Spain during World War II.

Gypsy beams light upon the dark days of the condescending presence of the Americans in particular and brightens the path from  Atilla’s outcry against ”blue eyed babies to mind “ along with Lord Invader’sRum and Coca Cola” lament over the degrading socio-economic power of the Yankee Dollar  and Lord Kitchiner’s “You can’t support me on calypso” leading through Mighty Terror’sBrown skin gurl/ stay home and mind baby” to the exhaling leap, almost two decades later, that ushers The Mighty Sparrow’s front and center pronouncement over the plight of “Jean and Dinah”. In other words, Gypsy in the Moonlight invites our attention to a keenness of the mind’s eye gaining fodder for the calypsonian’s expression of derision even for Hitler’s mustache and disdain for Mussolini’s tyrannically wild aggression. In addition, in an extendedly lighter linguistic sense, this book pregnant as it is with our idioms and lingo, footnotes the Mighty Conqueror’s ditty contending that, “Webster shoulda come to Trinidad to complete he dictionary.”  To state it simply: I have no doubt that Gypsy in the Moonlight ensures calypso its rightful place in world literature.

Waldron succeeds in sustaining our interest as he uncovers a gloomy period of our mid-twentieth century history by tapping into our sensory experiences with his employment of images of things heard, things smelled, things seen, things touched and things tasted.

'March in the rain' to demand the return of Chaguaramas to the people of Trinidad and Tobago [1960].

March in the rain to demand the return of Chaguaramas to the people of Trinidad and Tobago [1960].

Mars undertakes, pro bono, to find out for his deceptively prim and proper church going neighbor, Ms Marcella Fournier, the whereabouts of her brilliant and decent convent-girl granddaughter Bethany. Marcella complains that her daughter Henrietta – a notorious prostitute – ushers Bethany into prostitution as well.

Mars sets out to find Bethany by getting a heads up from both Ms. Milly, boss of the clip joint named The Fig Leaf, and from Sgt. Mac Shain at police Head Quarters. Mars wends his way to seek out the voluptuous prostitute “Tess” at the Scarlet Ibis Club located in Yankee territory down Point Cumana. Incidentally, it is here he gets a surprising glimpse of the Ivy Nevins girl whose fate depicts itself on the cover of this book.

When Mars, now in darkness with an oily smelling bag over his bumpy head catches himself, he is prisoner discerning three distinct voices of the sailors getting the better of him in the roadside melee.  He consequently determines to catch corbeau alive: “I must play dead in order to keep the hooligan sailors in the dark instead”.  With almost unbelievable heroism Mars eventually returns home and gets rather much  more than private attention in the ensuing days from (of all persons) his “Angel of Mercy”(an old firestick) Staff Nurse Dawn. As soon as he’s well enough, “after touching base wid de boys by de rum shop, Mars is secretly back on the extremely significant trail that leads to the mountain side of the north coastal Maracas Valley.map

At every turn of events in the plot, Waldron vividly stages the scene in which the action takes place with careful positioning of the characters in relation to the inanimate objects and often against the background of the prevailing weather conditions. His barking dogs are a symbol of trouble in the making while the tamboo bamboo drums excite the warm intensity of the development of the plot itself. Waldron skillfully takes us through the brew of complications surrounding relationships–real or imagined – whereas the narrative tapers off into the soliloquy of Mars’ voicing the surprising resolution of what appears to be a distillation of the idea that, according to James Breedie in his classical religious fiction titled Tobias and the Angel: “the fancies of a woman are bound by no law”.

unnamedDuff Mitchell is a retired graduate teacher, writer and self-taught literary critic.