Let’s take back our comunities from so-called community leaders

Closing Remarks, Dr Kris Rampersad Chair, National Commission for UNESCO,  at
Leading for Literacy Now! National Workshop for Principals and Teachers
Sister Francis Xavier Heritage Hall, Abercromby Street, Port of Spain
August 25 2013

One of the advantages in living in a place like Trinidad and Tobago is that we have easy access and exposure to the good books of the many and varied cultures, ethnicities and religions that make up our society.
One of our good books tells us that the world was created in six days.
Mrs Elizabeth Crouch, Principal of Marina Regina Prep School and head of the education sector committee of the Trinidad and Tobago National Commission for UNESCO lead principals, school supervisors and teachers in the joint UNESCO/Ministry of Education initiative Leading for Literacy Now!
We have come to the sixth day of this our week-long efforts to begin to recreate and transforming our world, the communities and the spaces and the schools we occupy, as Leaders for Literacy, Now!
Do we feel more empowered? Do we feel better prepared and better tooled? We, of the National Commission for UNESCO of Trinidad and Tobago, and our project partners, the Ministry of Education, BMobile and the UK-Based National Training College for School Leadership and the Trinidad and Tobago Regiment hope that we have met and fulfilled some of those expectations that we outlined at the beginning of this week and when this training preparation began with you earlier this year and with us since last year.
We thank you for investing your time and energies and visions with us, and now we have some expectations of our own. We want results and returns on this investment – not just the more than half a million dollars UNESCO and the Ministry of Education with our project partners are investing in this, but also in the energies and ideas we have shared and exchanged.
We well recognise that many of you function under very challenge personal and professional situations. We well recognise that the tasks with which you are charged as principals and teachers are by no means easy. We well recognise that sometimes the diversity of our society demands constant readjustments to varying expectations.
But we want to challenge you now to go forth and reclaim your places as bonafide community leaders. For too long the term, and the role of leaders in our communities have been hijacked by not too savoury elements who are being held up as the role models for our youths and children. For too long we have watched our children being kidnapped by forces and influences that we wanted to think were beyond our control. For too long the schoolmaster and mistress who were once significant and pivotal axes of social life in our villages and districts, have either abdicated their roles or been forced out of them by other social pressures. For too long we have been held to ransom by bandits and criminals in the guise of leaders and social and community leaders.
We ask you now to go back and reclaim those spaces; to see yourself and to present and represent yourselves as the leaders that you are. To put your hands up proudly when there are calls for meetings and discussions and consultations with community leaders and say that you are leaders in your community.
We ask you that you return to your schools to no longer cower before bullying parents and misguided children and take charge!
We ask you to use what you have learnt here to, as I said at the opening, not just influence the directions of our education system and by extension of our society, but to transform it.
You are the community leaders. You are agents of change and transformation.
It is no secret that we live in not just interesting, as Confucius is said to have said, but also in challenging times; times that demand all our energies and intelligence to manage the winds of change that are blowing and that all of us are feeling in our schools and in our districts. We need to manage these changing times so we do not have the negative repercussions as we are witnessing taking place in Egypt and Syria and elsewhere. We need to direct and redirect the changes that are inevitable, drawing from your own wisdom and experiences to positively impact our youth and harness their restless energies for change.
It certainly will require a few qualities that cannot be learnt in a classroom – open-mindedness, flexibility, and patience – but we do hope that this classroom has provided you with some formulas by which you can assess and understand how to acquire and cull those qualities.
As the same good book said, on the seventh, the Creator rested. I don’t think that meant that for you, not for us.
Tomorrow, we go on our drill with the Trinidad and Tobago Regiment which is promising us through the Army Leadership Training Centre, a one-day outdoor team-building and risk training exercise to what you already know and have learnt of leadership.
Like us at the National Commission, the Army Leadership Training personnel recognise that this is particularly important in the dynamic environment in which you find yourself working everyday in our schools. They acknowledge your role as principal and educator as paramount in carving and manipulation this chameleon environment in which you function, in dealing with students and staff and parents from all walks of life and with varying morals, values, and social skills that require some extra special skills to help you cope with situations where the answers may either be nowhere in sight, or just under your nose; where the success of the team will not depend on the strength of any one individual or where achieving overall success may depend on the subordination of personal objectives.
So that’s the task of the seventh day, tomorrow – not to rest, but as the ones created for the task, to continue the good work to go forth and multiply these learnings into your schools and communities. To Lead for Literacy, Now!
Because we all know what the power of literacy is. We are all living examples of that – of how our ability to read and to interpret a line, a page, a book can transform how we see ourselves, how we view others and how to make informed and intelligent choices when confronted with difficult options, or no options at all. That has been my experience as a reader, from districts and schools and homes just like the ones you serve.
And it is our sense of personal responsibility that has inspired my Leaves of Life drive for a revolution in reading, to inspire reading in unorthodox ways; and it is the sense of collective responsibility that inspired Mrs Crouch and our team of the National Commission, and the Ministry of Education in planning and organising this Leading for Literacy, Now! We are building a team and I am sure too an army, for change.
We envision that in the forty schools from which you were drawn, voluntarily, we will begin to see results in learning and literacy – in the ability of our children to read as early as the end of the first term – by December, yes December 2013 – we all know that three months is a very long time in the life of a child and they can learn much in such a short space of time. Are we ready for that! We must claim their minds and imaginations before someone else does.
We also envision that from forty districts in Trinidad and Tobago, we will begin to see an impact on perceptions and beliefs of who are our real community leaders; who are really in charge; and to whom our society should turn when it needs advice and directions and leadership. You! Are we ready for that?
As we promised at the beginning, we will continue to encourage you to not only keep up the dialogue, but translate it into actions within your own spheres and share it with your peers, in other schools and districts as we assess the outcomes of this and get ready to draw in more of our principals and teachers and children as we have been mandated by the Minister of Education.
Yes, we were very serious when we titled this Leading for Literacy, Now! Let as take back our communities; let us take back our children, as leaders, Now!
I thank you.
PHOTO CAPTION: Mrs Elizabeth Crouch, Principal of Marina Regina Prep School and head of the education sector committee of the Trinidad and Tobago National Commission for UNESCO lead principals, school supervisors and teachers in the joint UNESCO/Ministry of Education initiative Leading for Literacy Now! Photo Courtesy Kris Rampersad

Caribbean focus on state of archeology and prehistory from Demokrissy Blog

TRINIDAD-POPULATION-Heritage consultant wants comprehensive archeological survey of Trinidad and Tobago
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Apr 27, CMC – A heritage consultant says the recent finds of skeletal remains and artefacts believed to be early century BC  should serve as an opportunity for a comprehensive archeological survey of Trinidad and Tobago. (See:Them Red House Bones this site http://kris-rampersad.blogspot.com/2013/04/them-red-house-bones.html).
Dr. Kris Rampersad said that the findings under the famed Trinidad and Tobago Parliament building in the capital, should also encourage tertiary institutions to establish “all-encompassing programme in heritage studies that incorporate research, scientific, conservation, restoration, curatorial and forensic study among other fields that would advance the knowledge and understanding of Trinidad and Tobago’s prehistory and multicultural heritage.
 “This also has value to the region and the world.  We have for too long paid only lip service to our multiculturalism. The find under the Red House of bones potentially dating to the beginning of this epoch points to the significant need for a proper survey and actions to secure and protect zones that are of significant historical and prehistoric importance,” said Rampersad, who has been conducting training across the Caribbean in available mechanisms for safeguarding its heritage.
She said one of the most distressing evidence of lack of attention was the state of the Banwari site which is one of, if not the most significant known archeological treasures of not only Trinidad and Tobago but the region and around which very little of significance has been done since it was discovered some forty years ago.
“ Why, forty years later, as one of the richest countries in the region, must we be looking to other universities from which to draw expertise when by now we should have full-fledged – not only archeological, but also conservation, restoration and other related programmes that explore the significance of our heritage beyond the current focus on song and dance mode? “.
 “Activating our heritage sector is not pie in the sky. We are sitting on a gold mine that can add significantly to the world’s knowledge stock, and forge new employment and income earning pathways, while building a more conscious society,” she added.
See Links: 
An Innovative Approach to LiTTerature in LiTTribute to the Mainland http://kris-rampersad.blogspot.com/2013/02/an-innovative-approach-to-literature.html
ReflecTTions on Intrinsic ConnecTTions at LiTTribute to the Mainland: http://kris-rampersad.blogspot.com/2013/02/littribute-11-litturgy-to-mainland-with.html

Archeological survey of T&T | Trinidad Express Newspaper | News

Archeological survey of T&T

Bones beneath Red House, heritage consultant calls for…

IT’S time to stop paying lip service to First Nation people and move to protect this country’s history, heritage consultant Dr Kris Rampersad has said in the wake of the discovery of a set of bones beneath the Red House in Port of Spain.
Two weeks ago, skeletal remains were found beneath the Parliament Building. The remains were accompanied by artefacts, such as pottery pieces, typical of the indigenous peoples.
In her Internet blog, Demokrissy, Rampersad referred to the need for a comprehensive archeological survey of Trinidad and Tobago.
“This also has value to the region and the world,” said Rampersad, who has been conducting training across the Caribbean in available mechanisms for safeguarding its heritage.
“We have for too long paid only lip service to our multiculturalism. 
“The find under the Red House of bones potentially dating to the beginning of this epoch points to the significant need for a proper survey and actions to secure and protect zones that are of significant historical and prehistoric importance.”  
Commenting on another famed–but neglected–historical site, Rampersad noted the neglect of the Banwari site in San Francique, south Trinidad.
The Banwari Site was the home of the Banwari man, a 7,000-year-old inhabitant  and one of the most significant and well-known archeological treasures of  the region.
 Discovered some 40 years ago, little has been done to preserve and promote the site.
At a recent workshop, the potential of T&T’s heritage assets as UNESCO World Heritage sites were discussed, Rampersad said.
However, there was concern among Caribbean colleagues that this country was yet to move to effecting the research, legislation and other actions necessary to pin the sites as being of value.
Rampersad said Trinidad’s entire south-west peninsula was a key entry point in the migration of prehistoric peoples.
“So much of the history of the region is still unknown and so much of the accepted theories are being challenged,” Rampersad said. 
See Links: 
An Innovative Approach to LiTTerature in LiTTribute to the Mainland http://kris-rampersad.blogspot.com/2013/02/an-innovative-approach-to-literature.html
ReflecTTions on Intrinsic ConnecTTions at LiTTribute to the Mainland: http://kris-rampersad.blogspot.com/2013/02/littribute-11-litturgy-to-mainland-with.html

Them Red House Bones

The recent finds of skeletal remains and artefacts believed to be early century AD under the Red House Parliament Building in Port of Spain, Trinidad point to the need for a comprehensive archeological survey of Trinidad and Tobago. Trinidad and Tobago’s prehistoric connections with the American mainland holds enormous potential for opening up a vast field on new research activity. The new university campus in South Trinidad ought to look at establishing an all-encompassing programme in heritage studies that incorporate research, scientific, conservation, restoration and curatorial study among other fields that would advance the knowledge and understanding of Trinidad and Tobago’s prehistory and multicultural heritage.

Nicole Drayton Photo from Guardian Report.I have no copyright claims on this

This also has value to the region and the world.  We have for too long paid only lip service to our multiculturalism. The find under the Red House of bones potentially dating to the beginning of this epoch points to the significant need for a proper survey and actions to secure and protect zones that are of significant historical and prehistoric importance.

One of the most distressing evidence of lack of attention is the state of the Banwari site which is one of, if not the most significant known archeological treasures of not only Trinidad and Tobago but the region and around which very little of significance has been done since it was discovered some forty years ago.
Why, forty years later, as one of the richest countries in the region, must we be looking to other universities from which to draw expertise when by now we should have full-fledged – not only archeological, but also conservation, restoration and other related programmes that explore the significance of our heritage beyond the current focus on song and dance mode? While scholarly collaborations are important, certainly we could be more advanced, and a leader rather than a follower in these fields in which several other less-resourced Caribbean countries are significantly more advanced.
At a recent workshop where Trinidad and Tobago’s heritage assets, including the 7000-year old Banwari site’s potential as a UNESCO World Heritage Site was discussed, Caribbean colleagues expressed grave concern that Trinidad and Tobago had not moved towards effecting the research, legislation and other actions necessary to recognise the value and significance of the site and the surrounding districts as a place of outstanding universal value and a world treasure.
Trinidad’s entire southwest peninsula, as a key entry point to the migration of prehistoric peoples from the mainland though to the islands, would benefit from a comprehensive archeological survey and follow up action, and such sustained infrastructural mechanisms as a study and skills-building programme at university level as well as sensitisation building that begins from pre-school and injected into the primary and secondary curriculum.
So much of the history of the region is still unknown and so much of the accepted theories are being challenged. Work in this area in Trinidad and Tobago can significantly add to our knowledge and understanding of the region and this is partly the intention behind our undertaken a series of actions to enhance awareness about the prehistoric connections between Trinidad and Tobago and the mainland and islands as well as the wider diasporas of North America, Europe, Africa and Asia through LiTTributes – tributes that recognise the literatures and cultures that comprises Trinidad and Tobago’s multicultural milieu. To date, LiTTributes have been staged in T&T, Guyana (LiTTribute to the Mainland); Antigua (LiTTribute to the Antilles) and shortly in the UK, (LiTTribute to LondonTTown). Similarly, she has also been conducting LiTTours in T&T that highlight the connection between literary and built, natural, political, institutional and cultural heritage. The last LiTTour brought to light the state of tombstones dating to the mid eighteenth century belonging to the first French migrants to Trinidad and linked to several prominent families in Trinidad and Tobago’s history including the former archbishop, politicians and businessmen.
It is not pie in the sky. We are sitting on a gold mine that can add significantly to the world’s knowledge stock, and forge new employment and income earning pathways, while building a more conscious society. These are unexplored assets of indelible and indefinite value which can augment the national coffers if that is the only language we understand in relation to not only the now exploding arena of heritage tourism interests but other spinoffs as “academic tourism” and other downstream disciplines and sectors.
See related posts: 
ReflecTTions on Intrinsic ConnecTTions at LiTTribute to the Mainland: http://kris-rampersad.blogspot.com/2013/02/littribute-11-litturgy-to-mainland-with.html
See Also:

Archaeologist on Red House find: Amerindian artefacts date back to AD 0-350

Thursday, April 11, 2013
Pottery artefacts found under the Red House recently are of an Amerindian style dating back to AD 0-350 and can be dated by sight, says archaeologist Peter Harris. And he is almost certain that bone fragments found near the pottery are also Amerindian. Harris spoke yesterday after further scrutiny of the artefacts and bone fragments found under the Red House on March 25. 
Last week, the Urban Development Corporation of T&T (Udecott) said the fragments were found while workers doing restoration work on the Red House were digging inspection pits on the ground floor. The artefacts were also found. Udecott said the fragments were taken by the Office of the Parliament for testing. 
Parliament representative Neil Jaggassar and archaeologist Harris visited later last week to investigate the discoveries. Udecott said the Office of the Parliament last Thursday advised that the bone and artefacts date to the Amerindian era. Harris said yesterday it is almost certain the bone fragments are Amerindian, since they came from the same area as the pottery. 
He said his team had checked the walls of the excavation where everything was found and there was no doubt the bones and pottery all came from the same part of the worksite as they were able to pinpoint exactly where the bones were located. “The pottery is Amerindian in a style that dates back to AD 0 to AD 350. It’s visually dateable because people over the years have excavated in T&T and built up a set of styles we have ample references…We can tell what style is associated with what date,” Harris said.
“What was found so far is a small amount of pottery, but it fits the period of AD 0-AD 350. While we havent’t got the whole story yet, I’m sure that if things were found so closely together in a place they’re likely to be related. “We’re a long way from knowing what village or what was there on that site, but we do know the bones found are almost certainly Amerindian.”
Parliament officials, speaking earlier in the day, said foreign testing might have to be done on the bones and as far as they were aware, there has not been full official confirmation on the origin of the bones. An official said there are three groups that specialise in Amerindian matters in T&T which the various agencies would have to check with. 
They said the news of the discoveries, however, has generated so much interest that it is slightly hindering their work. They said there might be consultations between Udecott and the Parliament on the situation and a statement may be made later. They were unaware whether the police were notified of the discovery of the bones. Police communications officer Joanne Archie said the normal protocol when bones are found anywhere was that police are notified to take a look at them.
What Udecott said
Udecott’s communication officer Roxanne Stapleton-Whyms said the Office of the Parliament is heading the process to have the bones tested by experts.
Stapleton-Whyms said it was noteworthy that the find was made under the existing ground floor slab in the rotunda of the Red House, which had been in place  since the early 20th century. She added that the find has not held up or stopped ongoing work, as the bones and artefacts were discovered in an isolated portion of the project site.
She said the inspection pits would remain in their current condition until the archaeologists and other stakeholders have concluded their testing and investigation of both the excavated material and the soil strata. On whether police were informed of the find, she said when the bones were discovered both Udecott and Parliament staff were present. “Given that the site falls under the purview of the Parliament they took the lead in this regard,” Stapleton-Whyms added.
Historian’s view 
On whether there is any known Amerindian connection to the Red House site, Paria Publishing historian Gerard Besson said late architect John Newel Lewis’s Ajoupa publication chronicled a travel guide to the Caribbean from 1899 by James H Starke which noted legends that a great battle between rival Arawak tribes took place in ancient times where Woodford Square now stands. Because of this, the area was known as “Place des Armes.” 
Besson said there was also a myth that in pre-Columbian times, tribal youths had fought battles of manhood in a large forest of silk cotton trees which stood where the square is today.

Amerindian artefacts found at Red House

Tuesday, April 9, 2013
If the artefacts, including bones, found under the Red House are determined to be authentic Amerindian remains, then the site could be preserved as part of  the refurbishment of the building, chairman of the National Trust Vel Lewis said yesterday. Speaking to the T&T Guardian in San Fernando, where he attended a meeting with mayor Dr Navi Muradali to discuss the destruction of historic buildings in the city, Lewis said the find was being studied to determine precisely what it was and if it was authentic.
He said: “It could be an Amerindian site but we want to conduct tests to be sure before we can make any declaration. Once we have established that, we would then be clearer as to how to treat with it and discuss with the Parliament how the site could be preserved within the refurbishment of the Red House. 
Amerindian chief Ricardo Bharat-Hernandez believes the bones and artefacts are those of Amerindian ancestors and wants to perform a religious ceremony on the site as soon as he gets the all-clear. On Sunday, he, Lewis and archaeologists visited the site where the find was made during restoration work on the Red House being undertaken by Udecott. He said the artefacts, consisting of pottery, a piece of a pipe, which may have been used by a chief, and a bead from a necklace, have all been identified as Amerindian. 
He said some verification was needed to determine the origin of the bones and whether they belonged to children or adults. Another Amerindian descendant, journalist Tracy Assing, who has made a documentary film about Trinidad’s Amerindians, said the find was very important. 
She said: “Unfortunately, there aren’t that many digs where we only ever discover these artefacts when the lands have already been sold and something constructed. Then that becomes an issue with the landowner. “In this case the Red House will continue to be built. The other issue is whether the site can be protected or if a dig can be established or expanded.”

More bones found under Red House

Thursday, April 18, 2013
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Red House project liaison officer Neil Jagessar, right, shows Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal and officials of the Housing Development Corporation the excavation site where more bones where found yesterday. PHOTO: NICOLE DRAYTON
More bone fragments found under the Red House last Saturday and yesterday are being examined by experts, including those from the University of Miami, whose assessment should be completed in a few weeks. A skull, pelvic bone and femur were found  beneath the Red house last  Saturday and two more fragments were found yesterday.
This was confirmed by Udecott and Parliament officials when Housing Minister Roodal Moonilal visited the Red House yesterday to inspect the areas where the first set of bones and artefacts were found on March 25. On that date Udecott workers involved in the Red House restoration made the first discovery in seven-foot deep pits dug to test the Red House foundations. Parliament had called in forensic experts which confirmed they were human remains. 
The Parliament is in the process of having the bones carbon-dated to ascertain the exact age. Archeologist Peter Harris has advised the bones and artefacts may date back to Amerindian times. Yesterday Moonilal was given this information and was shown four of the 16 inspection pits being dug in and around the Red House compound and where the bones and artefacts were found. 
Moonilal was told by Parliament project supervisor, Neil Jagessar, that part of a skull and pelvic bone and what appeared to be a femur (thigh bone), about 12 inches in length, were found in a pit dug near the Knox Street side of the building last Saturday. Those fragments were the latest found since the March 25 discovery, Parliament officials said. Two other fragments were also found yesterday, it was confirmed.
Moonilal, who said he had wanted to take a look at the situation, quipped: “We have confirmed the bones are not that of any dead politician or anyone who’s politically dead but still alive,” Saying the bones might pre-date the Red House, he added: “The majority of the bones have been placed by the Parliament. They have experts, now being assisted by the University of Miami and the archeological unit, looking to date all of the bones. 
“This technical process should take two or three weeks and then they would be in a position to say how old the bones are.” Moonilal said it might be that they pre-date the early 1900s. He said  some of the backfilling under the Red House came from along the Priority Bus Route and it was possible that backfill contained bone fragments. “We don’t know yet,” he added.
Not a crime scene
Moonilal said Homicide detectives visited the Red House and had cleared it as a crime scene, indicating no foul play was involved concerning the bones. He said Udecott was on target with Red House restoration and he was satisfied with progress. 
He said the job, costing over $.5 billion, is projected to be completed in 2015. Government is doing paperwork to relocate the National Security Ministry from Abercromby Street, Port-of-Spain, to clear the way for construction of the planned companion building for the Red House on that site.

T&T Red House Suffers Violent Attacks In 1903 and 1990

A new chapter in the 169-year-old history of the Red House is in the making following the discovery of bones and artefacts in the foundations of the Rotunda.
Preliminary reports by archaeologist Peter Harris suggested that “the bones are from members of an Arawak tribe dating back to AD 0 to AD 350, and the pottery is definitely Amerindian in style dating back to the same era”.
Government pathologist Dr Valery Alexandrov of the Forensic Science Centre in Port of Spain confirmed that “the bones are similar to those of human beings”, but in the absence of facilities to determine the exact ethnicity and sex, arrangements are being made to send samples of the bones abroad, either to Michigan University, USA, or Miami University, for further testing and evaluation.
The report of the findings, one way or another, will now place the Red House and its surroundings in a new light, as one of the most controversial State buildings in Trinidad, where, since 1903, it has been at the centre of abuse and assault.
Historian Gerard Besson recalled an article by John Newel Lewis on the status of the site on which the Red House was built. The article, written by James H Starke, noted, “There was a great battle between rival Arawak tribes that took place in ancient times where Woodford Square now stands. Because of this, the area was called Place des Armes.”
Another source indicated that landfill from Laventille was taken to the site during construction of the first Red House.
On February 15, 1844, the foundation stone was laid for the construction of a government building which became the Red House.
The current building is the second structure to be built on the same spot. The first was designed by Richard Bridgens and built by G de la Sauvagere and AA Pierre. It comprised two main blocks connected by a double archway. Though not quite complete, the Red House was opened in 1848 by Governor Lord Harris.
Fifty years later in 1897, it was painted red during the celebrations of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Since then Trinidadians and Tobagonians have given the building the name Red House.
As the seat of government since the mid-19th century, the Red House, which is of Greek revival style, has undergone more assaults than any other government building in Trinidad.
In 1903 it was destroyed by fire, when an enraged mob broke windows, threw missiles and started a fire that gutted the entire building. This incident is known as the Water Riots, which took place on March 23, 1903.
On the day of the fire, members of the Legislative Council were debating a bill on the distribution and increased payment of water rates by burgesses in Port of Spain.
While the debate was in progress, there was also a protest meeting by members of the Ratepayer’s Association in progress at Woodford Square, then called Brunswick Square.
During the protest, the crowd became agitated and noisy and stones were thrown, at the windows of the building, smashing them to pieces.
Members in the council chamber were forced to duck under tables and desks and behind pillars.
One member, Henry Albert Alcazar, had walked out of the building in protest against the government’s water policies, stating, “The public movement is the inauguration of a more serious movement which I hope will end in the people having their own say at this table.”
After the riots, he served as counsel for those accused of rioting, before the Commission of Enquiry, as well as those who had died or were injured in the riots.
In the face of violence and destruction, the Governor Sir AC Maloney had refused to withdraw the bill.
In the aftermath of the fire, 16 people lay dead and 42 injured, and the first Red House building was completely destroyed, leaving only the shell of the building standing among the rubble which was later removed to fill open spaces in Victoria and Harris Squares.
Rebuilding a new home for Parliament began the following year. It was designed and built by DM Hahn, chief draughtsman at the Works Department, at a cost of 7,485 pounds sterling.
The ceiling in the new chamber was one of the most striking pieces of architecture. An Italian craftsman installed the ceiling.
The columns and entablature were made of purple hart wood imported from Guyana, a fountain was installed in the middle of the Rotunda and the passageway between the two buildings was closed to vehicular traffic.
Work was completed in 1906 and the building was opened to the public on February 4, 1907 by Governor Sir HM Jackson.
At the opening, Jackson called on the people of Trinidad to forget the past events at the Red House and concentrate on a fresh history of Trinidad.
In his address, Jackson said, “Today we leave that episode of the past behind us forever, and we turn a fresh page in the history of Trinidad.”
Eighty-three years after the call by Jackson to forget the bitterness of past memories, there was an attempted coup at the Red House by members of the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen, who on the afternoon of July 27, 1990, stormed the Parliament building during a sitting of the House of Representatives. During the siege, seven people were killed in the Red House and several injured.
Long after the assault, bullet holes could be seen on the ceiling, walls and doors of the building.
On July 26, 1991, the traditional chamber was restored, and commemorative plaques relating to the incident installed. These included a portrait of Leo Des Vignes, Member of Parliament for Diego Martin Central, who had died in the siege; a plaque bearing the names of the casualties of the invasion and a marble cenotaph crowned with an eternal flame erected on the eastern end of the lawn of the Red House.
These formed part of the history of the Red House depicting the tumultuous past, the fire, the attempted coup and other incidents that threatened the core of our democracy.
The discovery of bones and artefacts will undoubtedly raise further issues concerning the past, and even the future, of the Red House.

Bones found during excavation work sent for testing

Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Bones which were found beneath the Red House during excavation work recently  were sent to  the Forensic  Science Centre for testing last week and will also be tested  later by UWI’s Research Unit, according to the Ministry of National Diversity and Social Integration. The bones and a number of pottery and other artifacts were found beneath the Red House on March 25 during excavation work by Udecott which is restoring and renovating the Red House.  
 Ministry spokesman Desiree  Connor said the bones are undergoing testing to ascertain officially what era they are from. Archaeologist Peter Harris, who has been advising the Parliament on the findings, has said the findings appear to date back to Amerindian times. Harris said yesterday no further remains or artifacts have been found since the first batch was discovered. He added that indigenous groups in T&T had been receiving calls of interest from overseas on the findings.
 Police communications officer  Joanne Archie said yesterday police had gone to the Red House to inspect the bones when they were first discovered as per normal protocol. She said due to the circumstances of the situation—being found at a certain depth  beneath the Red House and the historical nature of the situation—the bones were not kept by police.
 The usual protocol when bones are discovered is that they are sent to  Forensic  for testing  against records of missing  persons which the police have. The Red House case  of the bone fragments found is different, police sources said. 
Moonilal: Bones may pre-date Red House

By SEAN DOUGLAS Thursday, April 18 2013
HOUSING Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal yesterday said he was pleased with the pace of restoration at the Red House as he visited to see the site where ancient bones had been found.
Udecott staff (for whom he is line Minister) showed him four holes ranging in depth from four feet to 15 feet dug into the ground beneath the Red House to test the building’s foundation.

“I’ve been informed by the Udecott officials over the last few days of certain ‘finds’ here — bone fragments and artefacts — so I wanted to come and take a look myself and see what was happening,” said Moonilal.

“Construction here on the restoration of the Red House is well underway, and they are doing some scientific testing now of the soil and foundation walls and so on, and apparently in digging at these inspection sites they found artefacts and bones and so on.” He joked that the bones do not belong to any dead politician.

“Apparently they are aged, that may pre-date the Red House. The majority of the bones have been placed by the Parliament, and they have the experts now, assisted by the University of Miami,” said Moonilal. “They have archaeological units and so on that are now looking to see if they can ‘date’ the bones. That is a scientific process that will take two or three weeks, I understand, and we’ll be in a position to say how old the bones are.”

He said the bones might pre-date the early 1900s. “It could well be that some of the fillings for here came from an area along the Priority Bus Route. So it could be backfill from there that has bone fragments in it.”

Moonilal said the Homicide Bureau of the TT Police Service has said the bones indicate it was not a crime site, but an archaeological site. “So there’s no foul play here.”

“So we continue to monitor it. I think it has great significance and great historical interest for Trinidad and the City of Port-of-Spain. I imagine the archaeologists and historians would be interested in this development, so we’ll monitor it, but the work continues on the restoration of the Red House, it’s just that this is a very unusual dimension to that work.”

He was satisfied with the pace of restoration, despite the time used in engaging foreign experts. “But we are on target and we expect by 2015 or thereabouts we will be finished with this,” he added. He said the project also involved construction of a parliamentary Companion Building at the current site of the Ministry of National Security at Knox Street, Port-of-Spain.

Moonilal said the Companion Building is a modern glass and concrete building, which they expect no trouble with. He said remedial work was happening at the Red House.

“Sometimes from the outside it looks as if nothing is happening, because we are not breaking down the building, but when you go inside certainly you are seeing all the rooms and what is happening there and the type of scientific work that is involved. So we are very pleased with Udecott’s handling of this project. The deadline for completion I believe is early 2015 and we are on target.”

On the restoration of other historical buildings such as the Magnificent Seven, he said responsibility variously lies with Udecott and/or Nipdec. “We are moving now to ensure that the restoration of President’s House will also be taken over by Udecott, and that they’ll assess that project quickly and see how best we can move.” Foreign experts are helping, he said. Moonilal said the funding for restoration projects is a key issue, noting the Red House projects costs $500 million.

Special LiTTour to Celebrate Port of Spain

Special LiTTour to Celebrate Port of Spain

 A special tour of Port of Spain through the eyes of award winning fictional writers and famous characters fiction will be offered to citizens and visitor to Trinidad and Tobago on Saturday April 27, 2013.  Booking Form LiTTour April 27 2013. Deadline April 25: 2013

The LiTTour is an offspring  of the critically acclaimed LiTTscapes – Landscapes of Fiction from Trinidad and Tobago by Dr Kris Rampersad.
It will celebrate Port of Spain as a creative city like no other. It takes place on Saturday April 27, 2013 from 8 am by prebookings only, leaving from the South Quay compounds of the Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC).
 This LiTTour is a special collaboration with PTSC’s Know Your Country Tours to expose the capital city as seen through the eyes of authors in its raw, real and pulsating states as one of the most creative cities in the world, of Trinidad and Tobago.
We hope to renew and heighten appreciation of our capital and understanding of the literary and creative imaginations that have been representing and reflecting us, and our city: our landscapes and our lifestyles; our institutions, our cultural life, our politics, our architecture. We hope such appreciation can defray violent and negative practices that misrepresent who we are as a people and encourage young people into creative activity and away from lives in crime.
The LiTTour will be free to persons who between now and April 25, 2013, purchase, a copy of LiTTscapes – Landscapes of Fiction from Trinidad and Tobago. For details contact 1-868-377-0326; email lolleaves@gmail.com and visit:www.kris-rampersad.blogspot.com.

LiTTscapes describes through descriptions and photographs how some 60 writers in more than 100 works have portrayed Trinidad and Tobago in literature from as early as 1595 to present day. It is designed by Sonja Wong. Head of the Guyana Prize for Literature, Professor Al Creighton described LiTTscapes as a work of art; a documentary, a travelogue, a critical work with visual and literary power. It takes us on a tour of the country, giving some exposure to almost every aspect of life, at the same time exploring the literature to indicate how the writers treat the subjects, what they or their fictional characters say, and how they are used in the plots. Photographs are accompanied by the descriptions and literary excerpts of the capital city, other towns, streets, urban communities, villages, historic buildings and places, vegetation, animals, institutions, culture and landscape. There is considerable visual beauty, what Derek Walcott calls “visual surprise”.

In conjunction with LiTTscapes and LiTTours, launched last August, we has also introduced LiTTributes – events in tribute to Caribbean cultures and creativity which have to date been staged in Guyana, Antigua and Trinidad and Tobago and soon in the UK and USA. They are meant to promote literacy, creativity and interactive appreciation of the global multicultural milieu Trinidad and Tobago.

Customade LiTTributes and LiTTours based on district, theme or body of literature are available on request.

For details contact 1-868-377-0326; email lolleaves@gmail.com and visit:www.kris-rampersad.blogspot.com; https://www.facebook.com/kris.rampersad1; https://sites.google.com/site/krisrampersadglobal/; http://caribbeanliterarysalon.ning.com.
Booking Form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1m5OdAF9aek29CLOfVp8xgkNc9kJtFAgjXm7I_jMQ-gk/viewform

World Heritage in the Caribbean

World Heritage in the Caribbean: updating the Action Plan 2012-2013 Kingston © UNESCO Kingston / Official opening of the course in St. Mary’s, Antigua and Barbuda, March 24, 2013 April 8, 2013 / Kingston UNESCO World Heritage Center of UNESCO, in Paris, the UNESCO Offices in Kingston and Havana, in collaboration with the National Commission for UNESCO in Antigua and Barbuda, organized the training course for the Caribbean in the preparation of nomination dossiers for World Heritage , developed in St. Mary’s, Antigua and Barbuda, from 24 to 28 March 2013. This training exercise was designed within the framework of cooperation of Japan’s trust funds for the project “Capacity building to support World Heritage conservation and enhancement of the sustainable development of local communities in small island states (SIDS ) “. The official opening took place on March 24, 2013 at the Jolly Beach Hotel in Antigua, in the presence of Dr. Hon Winston Baldwin Spencer, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Hon Winston Williams, Acting Minister for Education Sports, Youth and Gender Affairs of Antigua and Barbuda; Yoshimasa Tezuka His Excellency, Ambassador of Japan in Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Alissandra Cummins, President of the Executive Board of UNESCO and the UNESCO National Commission in Barbados, so as representatives of the World Heritage Centre of UNESCO and the Organization offices in Kingston and Havana. Course, trace output to developed in June 2012 in Kingston, Jamaica, brought together about 20 participants from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Granada, Guyana, British Virgin Islands, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Martin, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and Bahamas. During the training the participants exchanged their candidature files and information, while receiving advice and guidance of facilitators and Caribbean experts as well as representatives of ICOMOS, IUCN and the World Heritage Centre of UNESCO. ‘s Workshop 5 days concluded with an action plan aimed at strengthening the professional capacities in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) for preparing dossiers to increase the number and quality of nominations of cultural heritage sites and natural, focusing on the Sites of Memory in the Caribbean. Participants also committed to continue its efforts to implement the World Heritage Convention, including through the completion of the application pack and awareness and public education on World Heritage issues and UNESCO Conventions in the field of Culture. Kingston Action Plan (updated) (available only in English) More information Note: Spanish translation provided by UNESCO Havana

LiTTscapes for LiTTribute to Antilles

Trinidad and Tobago’s Dr Kris Rampersad, author of LiTTscapes – Landscapes of Fiction from Trinidad and Tobago will team up with icons of Antigua and Barbuda to stage a literary tribute to the Antilles on Saturday (March 23, 2013) at the museum in St John’s, Antigua.
Dr Rampersad, whose book, LiTTscapes, was launched as part of the golden jubilee celebrations of Trinidad and Tobago last August, has undertaken a series of tributes called LiTTributes to highlight the contributions and value of the creative sectors of the Caribbean.
LiTTscapes has been described as a groundbreaking encyclopaedic yet coffee-table style compendium of the lifestyles, landscapes, architecture, cultures, festivals and institutions of the Caribbean and quintessential to the Caribbean diversification agenda as a means of promoting sustainable development through the creative sector in its presentation of  history, politics, cultures and lifestyles, by reviewers as head of the Guyana Prize for Literature and deputy vice chancellor of the University of Guyana, Professor Al Creighton; Poet Laureate of Port of Spain, Pearl Eintou Springer; former principal and pro vice-chancellor of the University of the West Indies, Dr Bhoe Tewarie and former First Lady of Trinidad and Tobago Dr Jean Ramjohn Richards, among others.
Said Creighton: “Easy to read, LiTTscapes is a work of art, a documentary, a travelogue, a critical work with visual and literary power. It is a quite thorough artistic concept, a portrait and biography of the nation of Trinidad and is attractively, neatly and effectively designed. It reflects a considerable volume of reading, ranging from the dawn of Caribbean literature (as early writings of Walter Raleigh, through to present including Nobel laureates Derek Walcott and Sir Vidia Naipaul). Whatever one says no one book can do, this one almost does.” 
Rampersad explained:  “The literary tributes, called LiTTributes, celebrate the creative synergies between fiction, the built and natural landscapes and the creative energies of writers, musicians, dramatists, artists, architects and other creators.” She noted that the launch of LiTTscapes was followed by the LiTTribute to the Republic in Trinidad and Tobago in September 2012 and LiTTribute II – LiTTurgy to the Mainland in Guyana in February 2013.
“The Antiguan event is being called LiTTribute to the Antilles and will include presentations by Rampersad and Antiguan writers and performers, including writers as Joy Lawrence, Joanne Hillhouse and Floree Williams with support from the Historical and Archaeological Society of Antigua and Barbuda which operates the museum, and Best of Books, Antigua. It will feature readings and performances inspired by LiTTscapes, which represents some 100 works of some 60 writers, including the Caribbean Nobel laureates for literature, Derek Walcott and Sir Vidia Naipaul.”
She said: “LiTTributes are meant to make both the creators and our communities aware and heighten appreciation of how we may work in tandem for the benefit of our countries and our region. I am indeed humbled and buoyed at the enthusiasm being showed throughout the region and indeed the diaspora for these as already I also have interests expressed for similar LiTTributes in North American and Europe from where a considerable number of our fiction writers have functioned.
 “LiTTscapes is a celebration of ourselves – small islands whose creative energies have generated enormous waves across the globe, as this LiTTribute to the Antilles will endorse. Antigua has given us writers like Jamaica Kincaid and Joanne Hillhouse.  Derek Walcott titled his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize, The Antilles – Fragments of Epic Memory. This event is a celebration of that epic Antilles, not as fragments, but for the wholeness of our aesthetics,” said Rampersad.    
Rampersad said along similar lines of the LiTTscapes celebrations, the Antigua/Barbuda event will feature the Caribbean architectural alongside literary, visual and performance heritage. Its staging at the museum building will recognise Antigua’s oldest heritage building which is the former site of an indigeneous marketplace. Previous events were staged at the historic Moray House in Guyana, Knowsley Building in Port of Spain and White Hall, one of Port of Spain’s Magnificent Seven edifices.
For details and information, reviews, interviews email lolleaves@gmail.comor visit kris-rampersad.blogspot.com.
In Brief:
LiTTscapes: Key Features
Ø  Full colour, easy reading, coffee table-style
Ø  More than 500 photographs of Trinidad and Tobago
Ø  Represents some 100 works by more than 60 writers
Ø  Captures intimate real life and fictional details of island life
Ø  Details exciting literary moments, literary heritage walks & tours
Ø  Essential companion on T&T for tourists, students, policy makers, academics, lay readers
Ø  Totally local effort to stimulate local creative industries
Ø  Encourage literacy and creative activity
See: LiTTscapes album on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kris.rampersad1
    About the Author – Kris Rampersad
For more than two decades Dr Kris Rampersad has been actively involved in analysing, assessing, critiquing and defining the development agenda for Caribbean societies.
She is a journalist and educator in Caribbean literature, culture and heritage.
See: https://sites.google.com/site/krisrampersadglobal; http://kris-rampersad.blogspot.com

LiTTscapes pays tribute to Antilles in Antigua

The creativity of the islands of the Antilles will come into focus with LiTTribute to the AnTTiles to be staged at the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda on March 23, 2013.
This is the third in a series of tributes to the creative heritage of the Caribbean to be staged by author of LiTTscapes – Landscapes of Fiction from Trinidad and Tobago Kris Rampersad.
Rampersad will team up with Antiguan writers and performers, the Historical and Archaeological Society of Antigua and Barbuda which operates the museum, and Best of Books, Antigua for the event which will feature readings and performances inspired by LiTTscapes with input from artists in the oral and literary heritage of Antigua.
It follows the recent successful staging of LiTTribute II – LiTTurgy to the Mainland hosted by the Guyana Prize for Literature and Moray House Trust in Georgetown, Guyana and the LiTTribute to the Republic on Trinidad and Tobago’s 36th anniversary as a Republic. LiTTscapes was launched as part of Trinidad and Tobago’s golden jubilee of Independence festivities in August 2012 along with LiTTours and LiTTevents.
“LiTTscapes is a celebration of ourselves – small islands whose creative energies have generated enormous waves across the globe, as this LiTTribute to the Antilles will endorse. Antigua has given us writers like Jamaica Kincaid and Joanne Hillhouse.  Derek Walcott titled his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize, The Antilles – Fragments of Epic Memory. This event is a celebration of that epic Antilles, not as fragments, but for the wholeness of our aesthetics,” said Rampersad.    
Acclaimed as a groundbreaking encyclopaedic yet coffee-table style compendium of the lifestyles, landscapes, architecture, cultures, festivals and institutions of the Caribbean as represented in more than 100 fictional works by some 60 writers, LiTTscapes, she explained, is geared to stimulate interest in reading, literacy and connect the Caribbean through synergies with the creative industries and sectors of the Caribbean.
Rampersad said along similar lines of the LiTTscapes celebrations, the Antigua/Barbuda event will feature the Caribbean architectural alongside literary, visual and performance heritage. Its staging at the museum building will recognise Antigua’s oldest heritage building which is the former site of an indigeneous marketplace. Previous events were staged at the historic Moray House in Guyana, Knowsley Building in Port of Spain and White Hall, one of Port of Spain’s Magnificent Seven edifices.
For details and information email lolleaves@gmail.com 
In Brief:
LiTTscapes: Key Features
Ø  Full colour, easy reading, coffee table-style
Ø  More than 500 photographs of Trinidad and Tobago
Ø  Represents some 100 works by more than 60 writers
Ø  Captures intimate real life and fictional details of island life
Ø  Details exciting literary moments, literary heritage walks & tours
Ø  Essential companion on T&T for tourists, students, policy makers, academics, lay readers
Ø  Totally local effort to stimulate local creative industries
Ø  Encourage literacy and creative activity
See: LiTTscapes album on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kris.rampersad1


Dear Lizzie,

Pound d alarm. Much rage over Nikki Minaj’s nothing place but u can show d girls who own dem not on d trail of American Idol but palace files near begnnings of dis Roman empire’s Raj on shelves lettered H or R or W or P including S near T…details forthcoming in LettersToLizzie Pre-Order Now see https://sites.google.com/site/krisrampersadglobal
PS: Waffle to baffle: No just d late arrival, but using waffles to baffle and taking the long, scenic colourful route to pronouncig judgement on American Idol – it’s a Trini thing…

‘We came from nothing!’ Nicki Minaj bonds with Liberian refugee… as American Idol’s final ten women are revealed

Trinidadian-born rapper Nicki Minaj wasn’t born with much, and she fought tooth and nail to gain her stardom.
That could be why the Pink Friday singer got so emotional on American Idol this week, when a Liberian refugee, Zoanette Johnson, brought the house down with Circle of Life.
Always one of the most riotous contestants Zoannette, 20, has been in the US since she was two – after escaping from her war torn motherland.


Pound The Alerm Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYK4ffyETqc

Living in Liberia:  http://www.guardian.co.tt/editorial/2013-03-03/living-liberia

Sunday, March 3, 2013A small social media-fuelled storm erupted soon after entertainer Nicki Minaj commiserated with American Idol competitor Zoanette Johnson about the challenges of their childhoods. “I’m proud that this place right here gives people like you and me that came from absolutely nothing, from a country that we probably didn’t think we would make it out alive, it gives us a shot.” 
 Ms Minaj, once known as Onika Maraj during her first five years of life at Bournes Road, St James, has had an undeniably challenging life, often leveraged to promotional advantage. Nationalists quickly began pointing out the differences between this country and Liberia while Ms Minaj’s supporters quickly pointed out just how specifically difficult her life experiences were in Trinidad and Tobago before her migration to the United States. 
The fame that Nicki Minaj has been enjoying has been a tempting lure for the Government. In October 2010, the performer gave a concert at the Hasely Crawford Stadium that was partly underwritten by the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs. The youth outreach effort came under criticism from Diego Martin Central MP Dr Amery Browne, who accused the Sports Minister of spending $900,000 on the money-losing event, half of the allocation for youth development projects. 
Her stated interest in the country of her birth, and perhaps her experience at that concert, led her to produce a Carnival-flavoured video for her song Pound the Alarm, celebrated as a national PR coup. Last week’s commentary, which paralleled her childhood experiences in T&T with a Liberia still recovering from bloody civil wars, are the flip side of depending on celebrities to promote a national image. 
In November 2012 the singer announced that a fifth of this country’s population had died from HIV/Aids, a figure that’s closer to 25,000. Somebody needs to brief this young woman about the country of her birth, and quickly. Far too much of our image building has been done on the backs of individuals who by virtue of their hard work and sometimes even their personal mistakes, have come to global attention. 
It’s a lazy and potentially lethal shortcut and no replacement for a properly formulated and designed plan to create a consistent and attractive tourism product and to promote it using all the myriad media tools available for modern communication with the world. Nicki Minaj was never a magic bullet for tourism promotion for this country, nor has the appointment of high-profile tourism ambassadors done much for us generally. 
The Ministry of Tourism and its agencies of execution continue to make dangerously naive assumptions about the value of our tourism product in a world full of nations aggressively working to package their assets, charms and uniqueness as lures for the curious visitor. As the tourism sector in Tobago gently collapses through lack of visitor interest, Ms Minaj’s comments come as a welcome wake-up call, a pounding of the alarm, as it were, that we’re playing the fool with our tourism assets and it’s time to stop.

T&T no different from Liberia says Minaj

Friday, March 1, 2013
Yvonne Baboolal     http://www.guardian.co.tt/news/2013-02-28/tt-no-different-liberia-says-minaj
Trinidad-born rapper Nicki Minaj compared T&T to Liberia on television on Wednesday, saying she didn’t think she would get out alive. Liberia is known for having endured bloody civil war during the past two decades, in which more than 200,000 people died and a million sought refuge in neighbouring countries. 
Tourism Minister Stephen Cadiz said yesterday he could not comment on Minaj’s latest comment on the “nothing” place she came from, since he was not sure exactly what location she was referring to. Minaj, on the American Idol show last Wednesday, likened her own underprivileged background to that of contestant Zoanette Johnson, a Liberian refugee living in the US, the UK Daily Mail reported yesterday.
Minaj said, “I’m so proud that this place gives people like you and people like me, who came from absolutely nothing, a place that we didn’t think we’d make it out alive from, it gives us the chance. Thank you.” The story in the Mail said: “Trinidadian-born rapper Nicki Minaj wasn’t born with much, and she fought tooth and nail to gain her stardom. “That could be why the Pink Friday singer got so emotional on American Idol this week, when a Liberian refugee, Zoanette Johnson, brought the house down with Circle of Life.”
Zoannette, 20, has been in the US since she was two, after escaping from her war-torn motherland, the newspaper reported. “Listen, Zoanette, you make me so emotional, you came from Liberia, all those siblings, they are going to get a chance to see you on this show. I am so proud of you. So proud of you,” Minaj said.
Minaj, born Tanya Onika Maraj, is from Bournes Road, St James. She lived there with her grandmother until the age of five, when she migrated to Brooklyn, New York, to be with her parents.Cadiz said he could not comment because he was not sure whether Minaj was referring to a hard life she lived in Brooklyn or in St James. “I have no idea what her family life was like,” he said.
Cadiz said he would not like to think of St James as a “nothing” place and noted that Minaj would have had some kind of good opportunity in order to reach the US. “I am not casting aspersions on Brooklyn but I don’t know if she had a hard life in the States…She would have to explain what she meant,” he said. The minister recalled that not long ago Minaj spoke about the high number of Aids cases in T&T and quoted totally erroneous figures.
In November, she was quoted in the UK Guardian as saying 250,000 people in T&T were living with the disease. The actual figure is reported as being a tenth of that. 

Nicki Minaj video sells ‘sweet T&T’


lBy Wayne Bowman wayne.bowman@trinidadexpress.com

The video for Nicki Minaj’s “Pound The Alarm” filmed in Trinidad and Tobago several weeks ago pays a great tribute to the land of her birth.

The video was released Tuesday and people who have viewed it thus far all give it two thumbs up. The video opens with the camera panning over the coastline as seen from the Lady Young Lookout, while an e-pan plays a riff from the song. As the pan plays scenes of a coconut vendor outside Queen’s Royal College, Scarlet Ibises in flight, a waterfall, Maracas Beach, boys jumping into the sea from a pirogue, the Caroni Swamp, Pigeon Point, the St James Arch and a sign declaring Trinidad and Tobago as the home of Carnival flash by.

Then as an alarm sounds the screen fills with the Trinidad and Tobago Flag fluttering with Minaj appearing on the Lady Young Lookout singing the song’s intro. From there a virtual tour of the island continues as the video moves along.
There are scenes of Minaj and women in Carnival costumes dancing in Belmont and with her and and triple crown Carnival 2012 winner Machel Montano on a music truck. In another scene Minaj is alongside soca artiste Bunji Garlin and there are also scenes showcasing traditional Carnival characters, including moko jumbies, blue devils and fancy Indians.
Director Benny Boom’s editing sends the message to the world that Trinidad and Tobago has it all, natural island beauty, gorgeous women, great architecture, technology and is also the place where you can party in the streets with the biggest of stars.

The world in a fishbowl – Feature Address at the graduation ceremony St Stephen’s College, Princes Town October 5, 2011

The world in a fishbowl
Kris Rampersad
Feature Address at the graduation ceremony
St Stephen’s College, Princes Town
October 5, 2011

Chairpersons, Bishop, Archdeacon, Principal, Board of Management, My former teachers, Teachers and Staff and my teachers – I see some of my teachers here, some whom I recognise and forgive me if memory fails and I do not recognise others –
Special guests, and people of the moment, you the Graduates
Friends: and two special ones – Vimlah and Judy – who came through the years to this day believe it or not, we only reconnected a few months ago since we left school.
We will decide later if I should thank you for this opportunity to speak to you today later… but I begin an apology – my apologies for turning down several other requests over the years – and to several other schools as well. Apart from never genuinely having the time – as you see, life leaves little space for so much, I also did not feel I was ready to address such an audience.
I have shied away from speaking to this school or any other graduation classes in the past, because I sincerely believe that to be asked to give the feature address at a graduation ceremony means that one has something of significant value, some unique wisdom to impart to graduates and teachers and parents and attendees. In making such a request, it is as if the school is passing over its enormous responsibility to the speaker, saying we have done our bit, we are letting them out of our doors now, and we are asking you, the speaker, to give them one last lesson.
It seems fitting that this, my first address to schools, should be to my alma mater. Yet, over the last few weeks I was in a quandary in trying to decide what to say.
Happy World Teachers Day!
I could have spoken on the theme for today, World Teachers’ Day 2011, Education for Gender Equality, because there is so much to say and do on how we need to rethink education, and how we define success and failure. But it didn’t seem an adequate subject to bring to you, the 2011 graduating class of St Stephen’s College and my alma mater.
When I told one of my nieces of this dilemma, of not knowing what to say, her immediate advice was, “Go to the internet. Look for something someone has said at a graduation.” (I am sure that would have been the suggestion of many of you as well?)
To the now generation, that could actually have resolved my problem of finding something to say today. The internet seems the source of all things for most of you – the answer to all ambitions and dreams and aspirations to becoming rich and famous and fabulous.
But, if I were to turn to the internet it will be not as just the source of the information but as the subject of my talk. For after acknowledging that the internet is indeed a great source of knowledge and a remarkable networking tool, I would have to gently – or harshly – rebuke those who see it as the source of all things; the remedy for all ills; the solution to every dilemma; the sum all knowledge. I could easily take you through an exercise I have had to take many of my students through and point out the high price of lifting material off the internet – the millions in lawsuits that it has cost some.
And then, fitting nicely into the theme I have been given here today – Conceive. Believe. Achieve – I would have explained how all the information on the internet – every single bit of it – was conceived by someone; they believed that it might be of value to someone else and so they put it on the world wide web; and some did this so successfully that they became instant millionaires.
And then I would ask you to think of why do we tend to think of the internet mainly as a source of things we can use, as consumers, rather than as a place where we can present ourselves as creators, and inventors and generators of new ideas and new products and new knowledge?
Why isn’t our first, instinctive, initial response not what we can take, but the things we can conceive of and create and place on the internet to form someone else’s source of information… so instead of thinking in terms of taking something created by someone else and presenting that to the 2011 graduates of St Stephen’s College, why don’t we first think of how we can present something that is an original creation, that you or I or someone else may think is worthy to be placed on the internet because it is new information, or can be an inspiration for someone else – an original piece of work, conceived and designed and articulated just for this occasion?
The internet may be many things to many people, but at the end of the day, it is only a receptacle of the ideas of all of us. If we were to all go there to source ideas we will really be creating nothing new, just recycling and regurgitating the ideas of others and in effect, we would have contributed nothing to the march of progress or the development of our world, not so?
Well, that’s the direction a talk on the internet would have taken if it was to be the subject of my talk today: why don’t we think of ourselves as originators, as creators, as inventors, as conceivers, rather than just users and consumers, takers and extractors?
And that little discussion on the internet, some of you may realize, has provided the introduction to the topic I was asked to speak on today – Conceive. Believe. Achieve – to which I would add to more small words, connect and confidence.
While the internet has become, it seems, so essential to our lives, and a lecture on understanding how we may use it to serve us as a tool, not as a replacement to our minds, may perhaps be timely and beneficial counsel for you – our next generation of leaders and thinkers and activists and educators and economists and businessmen – on a day like today, it still did not seem the subject I’d choose for this my first formal address to my old school.
For after my initial admonition to not adopt ideas wholesale from the internet but use it as supporting props in generating your own; after my coaxing you to instead focus on adding your original thoughts and creations to this global storehouse of knowledge; after my urging you to believe you can create your own virtual portal as a keyhole to the globe and develop your own apps; and after I provide tips and examples by which you may become overnight billionaires, what else would there be to say?
The dilemma remains. What final lesson can I impart to these students who went to the same school as I did, who grew up in the same locale like I did, who in essence may not be much different than I am, save the few, few, few years that separate us?
It was clear to me that the answer must be in that – in the difference – in the few years that separate us, for who wants to hear about the very similar experiences in the school and in the uniform that most of you are this minute just now counting the seconds to shedding at long last!
So what can I draw from the few years that separate us? What bit of wisdom can I relay that you can take away and take out and reflect on that can comfort, or reassure, or inspire in the years ahead?
Shall I invoke an inspirational line from Shakespeare, or Walcott or Naipaul or Selvon or one of my other favourite writers to whom I go time and time again when I am searching to the exact word that will capture some profound meaning? That comforts? That inspires? And that encapsules the enormous promise and potential of life?
Shall I recall a favourite scene from a movie or play that provided inspiration at a particular time and from which you too might receive such inspiration?
Shall I play a strain of music, like from the Walcott musical I worked on a few years ago, that you can replay over and over again in your mind in the years to follow that may fill an empty moment and which may sum up the reason and meaning of our being that gives us the fillip to go on when all else fails?
I dismissed each of those in turn. Much like the suggestion of taking something from the internet, they seemed too much like drawing from second hand knowledge and talent and skill, and that would be cheating, stealing, plagiarism, not so – if I were to attempt to share something that was not my own?
Anyone can do that. Surely that would be an insult to the efforts of those who had been trying to get me here over the years.
So what could I bring here today, to share with you that was my own, of my own making, which I can hold up as an outcome of being a former student of St Stephen’s College, of this district, of this region?
What can I bring from me to you? My dilemma persisted. I’m sure this is beginning to sound to you like the never-ending story. I must confess, temptation stepped in, and ‘taking something from the internet’ seemed a nice easy way out.
And then my eyes fell on this fishbowl that sits in my living room — except, it is not used as a fishbowl. It contains no fish, no water, no substrate, no seaweed nor ornaments, no pump pushing up bubbles in relaxing gurgling murmurs.
In it are just some rocks, pebbles rather, none much more than a few cubic centimetres. And, they are not pretty rocks. They are nothing like the decorative kind you can buy in a store to put in an aquarium. They hold no particular mineral value. They are not oil bearing, nor are they evolving diamonds, nor rubies, nor even that tantalizing purple-blue tanzanite that are fetched from the volcanic depths of Mount Kilimanjaro. Furthermore, these rocks do not reflect my interest in geology, nor science, nor earth history, nor business, or any of the world’s mysteries.
Their shapes suggest no essential eye-pleasing forms or structures of nature that might stimulate architects into constructing lofty edifices of human civilization like that grand architect, Gaudi, and his monumental tributes to the art of nature that dwarfed any conception of achievement one might have as one stands in their presence in Barcelona.
Non-descript greys and browns and whites, the rocks in my fishbowl without fish do not even have aesthetic value. They do not resonate with colour or sparkle like those that built the Taj Mahal that may attract the painter’s eye, or the poet’s imagination. They do not carry hieroglyphics as the markings in caves in Africa, India, or Central America. And they certainly have no commercial value. They were not bought, nor would they be sold in a shop. Any visitor may easily overlook them, and at most, curiously ask, where are the fish, and why doesn’t the bowl contain the usually colourful substrate one finds in fish bowls? An unsupervised person might easily toss them away.
In fact, my fishbowl of rocks is of little value to anyone, other than me. And that value is, it struck me, that they are actual representations of the time between when I sat where you are sitting, and now, as I stand here, speaking to you. They are a collation of experiences in the some 45 countries and almost 100 cities of the world on whose soils I walked. (It reminds me of something someone had scribbled in my school’s yearbook – ‘good girls go to heaven; bad girls go everywhere’. I have been everywhere, it seems, though from a calculation, 45 countries is only a fraction of the some 198 listed countries of the world, so there is still a lot of world to discover).
While your eyes may widen at the thought and your mind question whether it’s possible – 45 countries, about 100 cities, and in such a short time frame – most within the last decade, I still gasp in disbelief with another thought: such a big world to be reduced to such small numbers.
In the process of trying to formulate this address, my eyes fixed on the rock-filled fishbowl, without fish, and then on one of the rocks in particular. Nothing really marks this one out from among the other rocks: no label, or identification, but it was one I recognised from Athens, Greece.
It took me back to the moment at the ruins of the amphitheatre at the foot of the Temple of Delphi at the Acropolis in Athens. I had desperately shuffled my agenda to take in a concert of a Japanese band, singing Grecian folksongs – in English.
(That’s multiculturalism for you. We do not have the monopoly on that as much as we would like to think although we do have some unique elements of it.)
As much as the thrill of that experience of visiting Athens was in fulfilling the original intention – of delving into the heart of western civilisation, thought and literature – it resonated another thrill: of being in a Grecian amphitheatre and with that came an upsurge of memories of a place, not too far away from here, and morning assemblies in its outdoor amphitheatre. The school, our school was built like a Grecian amphitheatre – we found that out (Vimlah, Judy, didn’t we?) when we were researching its history for the first, a special silver jubilee publication of the school’s yearbook. Though its design was borrowed from the ancient Greeks, the towering columns at the front; the graded steps where assembly was/is held, it captured the same aesthetics the ancient Grecians of the second century BC had in their architecture. Adapted to sit against the slope of hills in Craignish, Princes Town, with its fine architectural contours, I am sure you will agree, it remains the best-looking school in the country.
We take our world into the world. It was the memory of events at the St Stephen’s College Auditorium that I was enjoying during that concert at the Acropolis. It was almost like the architects – those of the second century, and the one who built the school in the 1960s had connected over the thousands of years. (Really, it was only I who was making the connection in my mind.)
(I might add here, that then, the architect, was only a name in a page of the school’s history – Colin Laird. He came to life for me in recent years when we worked closely in lobbying to restore another national treasure, the nondescript Biswas house in St James, the ugly sister to the more ornate Lion’s House in Chaguanas of the novel by our home-grown literary laureate VS Naipaul – A House for Mr Biswas.)
With that memory, evoked by an Athenian pebble (that is no different than any other pebble) I was transported across the two milliennia of Grecian civilization that the amphitheatre represented, to the 1960s when Laird built the school, and to my much more recent days at the school to which you are now saying goodbye.
A few years, but there have been a billion experiences since I have spoken to our assembly, at that place down the road which I carry around with me as one of the most astounding pieces of architecture in this country. (And one which we should endeavour to protect and preserve even as you seek to have a new school or expanded school, Principal Sargeant?)
One pebble was now triggering a ripple of memories. I began to test my recollection of the near one hundred cities in some forty five countries, from other pebbles in the fishbowl, each of which, though of no particular size, shape, dimension, sparkle, value or worth, came from one or the other of those cities.
None of the pebbles carry a date or a stamp of place as a reminder because that knowledge I carry around inside me, just like much of what you have learnt at this institution would not bear a label, or a subject title, but would surface time and again, when you are in need of this knowledge.
There, in my fishbowl, I found what I would speak of to you at this gathering. Unfortunately, my time is now up, I believe?
(It was here I was going to show a slide show that connects us to each of those places – but technological complications have stymied that for another time perhaps.)
My fishbowl became the bridge between the time I spent here, and elsewhere, and what I took from here to other places… and that didn’t require wealth, nor power, nor status, nor position to accomplish. (You may ask what did it really took, but that is a subject for another address, perhaps. For the moment, my short answer will be a pen and paper.)
A wave to the Pope at the Vatican; a bow to the Dalai Lama, daily talks in Uganda with Terry Waite – the Archbishop who was taken hostage in Beirut while trying to negotiate the freedom of others;
Touching the temple bell that Tulsidas, the author of the sacred Ramayan touched daily as boats carrying the dead drifted down the Ganges at dusk;
Through Japan, India, Malaysia and Singapore; parts of north, central and South America, backpacking through Europe, island-hopping across the Caribbean; to and from North, South and East Africa, then South Africa again, and India again, and Chile, and London, and Brussels and Paris again.
Making new friends, from places with strange names like Bhutan and Kazakhstan and Lithuania and Palau.
A birthday spent sliding down an overgrown goat path having foolishly attempt to climb the Old Man of Stowe in Scotland without food, water or sensible shoes.
The memories gushed over each other as if they were in a gurgling stream in the fishbowl.
Working with our Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott to produce his latest musical Steel; railing at bureaucratic pigheadedness at a culture meeting with Pat Bishop; forming a human chain in Scotland to demand release of political prisoners in Africa, or spending all night one Christmas eve trying to mobilize international media support for their release so they might be able to spend Christmas with their families;
Boarding a Greenpeace vessel to protest fish trawling, or clamouring for the right, of all of us, to information.
Surely, my folks would want to hear of my clash with the Head of Security of the British Royal Family at the Commonwealth Peoples Forum during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Forum in Uganda in 2007 where I was coordinating the international media for the Commonwealth Foundation, and from which I now have a treatise on how to quelled the ire of the power beneath the power of the British throne when he threatened to cancel the Prince’s visit, charging that I was the reason, but yet, by the next day, had simmered down sufficiently to facilitate front row videoing and photographing of moments of the Prince’s tour….
Or certainly, they would want to hear of lunches in the drawing room once occupied by Prince Edward and Mrs Simpson or dinner with the Duchess of the real Hogsworth Castle who keeps a real garden collection of poisonous herbs. Did I dare to eat, then, knowing this?
And I could recall the cheekiness of joining a group of women testing attitudes to condom use in Africa – this at a pharmacy in Tunisia in North Africa and the varying shades of disapproval we received from the male pharmacist there on our pretended interest in buying condoms.
And the conference rooms (of the UN, Commonwealth, OAS, CIVICUS, various world summits on arts, culture, gender and media). The meeting rooms and activist rooms that merge in a blur as there was little to distinguish them from each other, not unlike our pebbles in the fishbowl.
The inexplicable breathlessness that takes over on entering the haven to art and nature Gaudi created in his tribute to the Sacred Family in Barcelona.
The perfumed gardens and piping birds giving the perfect blend for provocation of the senses in that tribute to love, another creation of artistic perfection, the Taj Mahal.
Looking out the balcony of the Sunway Hotel in Malaysia, and wondering why the name seemed so familiar – yeah, the same Sunway name bandied about in references to the now infamous Calder Hart!
Standing on the Equator line in Jinja, Uganda.
Seeing an acorn for the first time – remember A-for-acorn, it was one of our earliest learning experiences but so alien because how many of us have ever seen an acorn. I did only a few months ago.
Being in the ancient city of the Mayas in Tenochtitlan, Mexico, or climbing its old world pyramids: Those once were only drawings in our history book, like Colin Laird was just the name of a builder in a page in our school’s history.
Discovering how the country Portugal got its name from the fruit (only recently I learnt that) while standing on the shores from which Columbus set sail and opened up passages for Europe to discover our part of the world; a working picnic trying to inject the Caribbean in plans for UNESCO’s directions on global culture for under the Eiffel Tower; passing up on a vineyard visit in Bordeaux France and stumbling upon Corajoud’s remarkable water mirror mirage at the Bordeaux waterfront;
An opera, an art gallery, a theatrical performance, a book launch.
Crossing the many rivers of the world and thinking how water has shaped the history of humankind – Having knelt at the Nile’s pulsating source at Lake Victoria in Uganda; sat at the Seine in Paris, tasted the Thames of London; gazed on the goings-on at the Ganges, shed a tear at the Tiber for Rome’s lost glory.
Traversing the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Indian ocean, the Caribbean sea.
It is a lot of world to contain in a fishbowl!
To the theme for today, Conceive, Believe, Achieve, let’s now add those two small words, connect and confidence.
Looking at this little rounded glass fishbowl, it struck me that here is the bridge between the years, and that particular day, when I sat in this very pew, receiving the final blessings and fare-thee-well wisdom within these hallowed walls. In it is the time between those years, and in it are the experiences and knowledge that separate us. In it are the changes that have visited this church, our school, our locale, our country, our world and our planet.
There is one thought that comes with all of it that I want to share with you. Never once did it occur to me that any of them were a better place than the place we are from; born where we are – on a small island, in the Caribbean, in a place that is a true microcosm of the world. It is because we are from here we can make any other place in the world feel like home.
This place allows you, us, like no other, to draw from the histories and cultures and experiences of all the peoples of the world because their histories are your/our ancestries.
And you’d have to agree too, that there is no better age to live in, than this one, where knowledge is not the luxury of a privileged few but a right of all.
At this time when information is available so readily, it is so easy to allow our minds to wither and imagination to die, but it is also an opportunity to leverage all the knowledge in the world from this little corner, here, because the place where you have been born gives you an insight into the operations of the world from the perspectives of all the cultures that form us (the indigeneous peoples, Europe, Africa, India, China…) – a perspective owned by very few, if not no other peoples. Whereas most operate from their monochromatic homogeneous corner of the world, we have front row seats to all of theirs (not unlike at the concert at the Acropolis in Athens or the St Stephen’s College auditorium), and the hybrids we are creating too, like the music of the steelpans which we just heard.
When I sat in a graduation ceremony similar to this, some, few, well really many, many moons ago; When we (Vimlah, Judy and others) exited the school walls and the gates of this church never to return, till now, I never envisioned the life that lay before me – no, never! So I cannot presume to tell you what lies ahead.
Curious thing, we are told that change is the only thing we can be sure of, but nothing prepares us for that – in fact, all our learning is geared to encourage us to resist change.
Perhaps the most challenging circumstances you’d ever have to face is the kind of browbeating that you will be subjected to by people and institutions caught in a time lag, and demanding that you conform to it as well.
In school we were told science is about facts, and the humanities are about imagination and never the twain shall meet. But we know, from the collation of now accessible knowledge on the internet and everyday unfolding events around us that the most unstable knowledge today is scientific knowledge; its truths are true only until the next find, the next discovery, the cracking of the next code, the expansion of the next formula.
The pace at which change is occurring is demanding greater and greater flexibility and most cannot keep up, not being taught how to keep up, not learning how to keep up.
There are many events, circumstances, opportunities even setbacks that will shape your life, but there is no blueprint, no roadmap, nor GPS waiting for you outside the church door that will point or talk you through the journey you are about to take.
Life opens up to you when you open up to it …. Be flexible, approach all with an open mind and an open heart. We close ourselves out to so much of what life has to offer if we do not.
And the benefits are multiplied when you do so with confidence.
That’s the word I was looking for when I began this talk. Confidence.
To the question: Why is our initial instinctive response about using/taking from the internet, not creating for it, for the use of others? There is a simple answer. It is because we do not conceive and envision ourselves as creators; we do not believe in ourselves, in our talents, in our abilities. We lack confidence. We see ourselves as small island people, from a small district, in limited circumstances and with insufficient resources, battling tremendous odds in a not-too-friendly world. We constantly compare ourselves to others, to the technologies and the institutions available elsewhere and feel inadequate. It is the source of failure. If we lack confidence, how can we believe that what we can achieve, become contributors to the world, rather than borrowers and takers?
Own your world!
We are everyday creating and recreating our world. That is the change that is constant. The world is of our making, and we already have all the ingredients to remake it into the kind of world we want – in our minds, in our hearts and in the raw materials that are in our communities. The making of it is in the quality of minds that would leave this hall.
I have said all this to say that you already have all the tools you need. You do not have to step one foot out of your district or village or town to achieve once you have confidence that with the power of you. There are raw materials all around you to achieve, just as Einstein and Galileo and Gandhi and so many others discovered, through working with materials in their immediate locale. Go out and find them!
You have the added advantage of access, from your home corner, to the enormous intellectual wealth of the world through the internet. Research and knowledge is no longer the privilege of the view but a right of the many – use it!
You have it in you, in your heritage, the substance of the heritage from every other corner of the world – in our human ancestry, as well as in our geological and natural history – think about it! I can’t think of any other society around the world, and indeed, have not encountered any other that is so endowed – not with the range and the diversity and proximity – in our everyday practices, our everyday reality. Draw on it as an unending source of knowledge.
We have been given all that we need to be the best person that we can be.
And growing up doesn’t mean giving up your dreams. How often we have been told that – grow up, get real! It is about continuing to believe in dreams and finding a new one every day to follow and to fulfill, and looking for a few more to fulfill the next day.
I challenge you, as you leave here, have one dream – at least one – and work immediately to realizing it. It might not augment your income or your knowledge or your network of friends, but it fulfils you. And then, find some more dreams and make them come true.
This day, as you now see, is not about me; it is about you so let me now add my, congratulations.
You might ask why am I congratulating you? Don’t you believe it? Certainly there is so much for you to celebrate today – congratulations. Being here is an achievement in itself, maybe you do not realize the enormity of this achievement:
Think about it – why should we celebrate you today? What have you done to deserve this – still in bobby socks and ribbons – some of you.
We are celebrating you, because well, just because you have been born. And we know that it is not “just because” – you have actually already achieved much more than the hundreds of thousands of infants who never survive birth. So look around and congratulate the person sitting on either side of you, and in front of and behind you and applaud that: for having been born, it is enough to celebrate you!
If you think that in itself isn’t enough, there is more: Congratulations. You have made it pass the hundreds of thousands who never have the opportunity to attend primary school. You got past primary school. Please shake each other’s hands for that, and maybe some applause?
Yes, we must now be feeling some sense of accomplishment?
Not only did you make it through primary school, you also made it into this school. And that means you have rocketed past a few more hundreds of thousands who never reach secondary school.
You are not among the school drop outs. You are not among the many youths who are on the street fending for themselves, holding guns in gangs and who have fallen to lives of crime.
As you congratulate yourself for making it this far, know that these things already make you all potential candidates for the title of young men and women of the decade.
As you congratulate yourself and each other, pause a minute, and acknowledge, too, that for those who have not been able to go to primary school or not having the opportunity of a secondary school or not having finished secondary school are in themselves not a signal of failure; and that your achievement does not make you superior. It is just that you have been a little more fortunate. While we bask in the glory, treat it as not an opportunity to gloat; but one to be grateful and give thanks and praise, as David Rudder will say, for such good fortune. You have been given, most of all, the capacity to dream and the tools to make them true.
And having done that, think now as you step out from this hall, from the school walls, from the gaze of your teachers, how can you return some of what you have been given? You have indeed already been given so much. The world owes you nothing; it is you who are in debt for all that you have received and are about to receive, because always there will be someone with less, much, much less than you.
Think of the knowledge and experience of your elders and how you can draw from that – and remember to give credit where credit is due (remember, my earlier admonition about plagiarism?) Think of how you can share what you have learnt with the less fortunate and how together you can benefit from your knowledge and their experiences – benefit not just materially, but mentally and spiritually too. How can the knowledge and experience of those of us who are in here, and those who are not, support, compliment and build each other? That is how we build community. In the world of which we are a part, it is now called networking – and I am careful not to say that in the world you are entering, because you are not about to become Columbus to discover a world that is already there – it is already there and you are a part, and a vital part of it …
We have been given all that we need to be the best person that we can be. Though it seems such a large place, the world is really a small place, a very small place. It can be contained in a fishbowl.
In each experience we are merely connecting the pebbles to form a bridge between our world, and the rest of the world. And if we fill up the spaces in between with confidence it bellows out into a very large place that is your own, and in which you have a significant part to play.
Conceive. Believe. Achieve, and connect them with confidence.
What will be in your fishbowl? You may be sharing it with an audience like this a few years hence. I thank you for listening, and for this immensely pleasurable and honored opportunity to speak to you.
Kris Rampersad
October 5, 2011.
Procession of Graduands.………………………………….……………..…………………..Musical Interlude
National Anthem…………………………..……………..………….…………………………………..……..Pan Duet
Opening Prayer…………….……..………..……….……The Venerable Archdeacon Edwin Primus
Welcome and Introductions…………………….…..………………….……………….…Ms. Aneshia Beach, Ms Shara Khan
Greetings:…….………….….………..………………………..………..…Mrs. Joan Brown (Chairman PTA)
The Venerable Archdeacon Edwin Primus Chairman of the Board of Management, The Right Reverend Bishop Calvin Bess, Ms. Clare Telemaque, School Supervisor III
Principal’s Report……………………..……………………………….…………….………Ms. Allison Sarjeant
Musical Interlude “In Living Years”……….……………………..………….………….………Pan Ensemble
Introduction of Guest Speaker…………………………………………..………….…… .. Ms Shara Khan
Feature Address…………………………………………………………….………………..Dr. Kris Rampersad
Vote of Thanks………………………….……………………….……………….…………Mrs. Margaret Dailey, Ag. Vice Principal
Distribution of Tokens to Graduates; Presentation of Awards & Prizes: C.S.E.C. and C.A.P.E. Levels
Song: “You never walk alone”………………………………….………………..……….…..….Emilie Alpheus
Valedictory Speech………………………………………..………………………………..…..………Nalini Dookie
Special Presentations
Chairman’s Closing Remarks……..…………………………………………………….…….Ms. Aneshia Beach
College Hymn & Prayer……………………………………..….……………………………………….Congregation
Blessing…………………………………….….…………..……….. The Right Reverend Bishop Calvin Bess

Pat Bishop’s last struggle – the killings, the curfew and culture

It may seem a far stretch to connect the current state of emergency that we are now in with the sudden collapse and subsequent death of Pat Bishop on Saturday (August 20) during a meeting meant to borrow value from the culture sector for national development. But is it really?
Pat’s death may in fact signal the kind of cultural state of emergency in which we find ourselves. If, as a society, we cannot link the killings and the curfew and other quick fixes with the state of our arts and culture in the struggles articulated in her life, and so poignantly in her last days, then it speaks volumes about the state of our nation as we look for solutions to crime and other social negatives across the country.
It also seems particularly significant as we prepare to ‘celebrate’ our 49th anniversary of Independence next week, celebrations which will take place under the shroud of the state of emergency. It certainly represents how far away we have moved from the aspirations and hope and optimism that must have hung over that moment in our history 49 years ago when the national flag of Trinidad and Tobago was first hoisted, when the national anthem was first sung, when the people of Trinidad and Tobago asserted themselves as a self-governing independent nation responsible for its own destiny.
In fact, part of the mandate of the meeting at which Bishop collapsed was to define ways of celebrating our next, the 50th anniversary of Independence in 2012.
Pat Bishop threw herself into the discussions with the kind of passion she is said to resonate in all her work as a painter, musician, conductor, orator, historian, lecturer, mentor; and that, despite her skepticism of the outcome of yet another committee, another panel, another meeting, to discuss the way forward for national development, for the culture of T&T, and the culture sector.
When I had expressed similar skepticism, she looked at me with that sympathetically knowing look that comes with the wisdom of years and the frank bluntness many expect of her and said: ‘and you are just a baby, yet. I can’t tell you how many of these I have been in; how many truckloads of reports I have at my home.”
It was a bitter pill for her to swallow that perhaps those were efforts in futility in pursuit of her stated vision “that my countrymen may find their place in the sun,” as she cites as her goal in her resume.
A child of pre-Independence Trinidad and Tobago, Pat Bishop was born at the crux of the nationalist movement of the 1940’s. The vision of people’s empowerment ignited by the trade unions, regionalism, federation and the movement towards self governance; of self assertion and of aspiration to be whatever a fledgling nation wanted to be, were all embedded in her ample personage.
She would have been twenty-two years old when the red, white and black national flag of Trinidad and Tobago was hoisted for the first time; when the national anthem with its assertion of “boundless faith in our destiny” and its final refrain, “every creed and race finds an equal place” was first sung.
But she lived those words. Independence was an iconic word then; icon is now the word that will attach itself to descriptions of her life and works.
I did not know Pat Bishop well before the few days within the last few weeks when I sat at the same table with her, and got glimpses of her encyclopaedia of experiences which she was so generous to share to those willing to receive knowledge. But I did, to some extent, know and was touched by her work as a musician, painter and orator and have interviewed her occasionally over the years.
In fact, one of my earliest inspirations for my work in the culture sector, following on gestation from involvements in our village community, was when I was preparing a special television report to examine the potential of the then upcoming Carifesta V which T&T was preparing to host in 1992. Her vision of a Caribbean united through the vitality of its arts poured out in images of quicksilver that seemed so tangible and so elusive at the same time. It is a vision that has kept its potency through the years and which she has tirelessly asserted through her every activity as vibrant, alive, real, and certainly, achievable.
She embraced in her work the cultural incubators that are in the main in the obscure and often invisible village niches and tried to connect them to the vast field of opportunities available at the national and international levels in her tireless pursuit to have her countrymen benefit from those opportunities as well as her experiences. She kept an enduring faith in the power of the arts to transform, regenerate, to provide sustenance for its users, benefactors and beneficiaries, and to nourish them both physically and spiritually. She was an academic who never lost sight of the significance of informal education influences and processes that included popular culture. She recognised the value of providing avenues for self expression in the language of various forms – music, art, design, words and the connection between such self-confidence and the self image it defined as essential life-skills and companion to critical thinking and a compelling alternative to those expressions that manifested themselves in violence and criminal activity.
She held firmly to the notion that well-visioned, well-structured and well-managed culture systems were the antidote to the negative self image, lack of self confidence and the essential elixir to cultivation of a sense of self and nation self.
Very little angered her as much as any suggestion that elements of the cultural sector were at loggerheads, or that differences among them were related to ethnicity. That was a position she derived from long experience of working with groups of all races and classes at all levels in T&T. It was not a dream to be realised; it was already real.
She embodied the reservoirs of cultural energy that resides in so many of our artists and culture practitioners. Where resources did not exist, (or was not accessible to the arts) she created them. Drawing on the creative power of her artistic genius, she continuously improvised facilities and methods to make up for the deficiencies. She once said that she could have stayed in Britain after her studies and indulge in its rich array of arts; but chose to return to these islands where “if you want to enjoy a concert, you better make it yourself.” And she did make concert after concert after concert, as she did painting after painting after painting. So graphic and lyrical were her expressions that those who remember her speak, also felt that each of those speeches was a song, a painting, a gem to be treasured.
The spring well of her artistic energy fuelled her faith in the potential of T&T to rise above its circumstances as small islands in a vast globe and tremendous countercurrents, and that despite the weariness that seemed to be overcoming her spirit in trying time and again, and again, and yet again, to represent that position in boardrooms, and committees and panels. She fought that those of us around the table would not have to be fighting the same fight and in the same words some half a century hence.
“I would get kicked out, and every time they fired me, they gave me an award,” she would often say dryly.
She had many words to add throughout the meeting, held on a Saturday, her sacred day of engagement with her students which she so reluctantly gave up for the meeting. With an expressed aversion to use of technologies that were negatively moulding and growing mould over minds of men women and children, she upheld a vision of Trinidad and Tobago as a collective of tremendously talented people that is not imagined but real. She vehemently rejected any notion that the culture sector is divided and fragmented and that its various elements are at loggerheads with each other, but saw it as perpetuated myths by those who can best benefit from fuelling such divisions.
After many words reiterating those experiences, her last words to the culture panel last Saturday were:
“I have no words to add to this discourse. I have spoken at meetings like this all my life I have no more words to add. I am very tired. Maybe I am too old now.”
Bishop’s last words resound the weariness of the culture fraternity who have sat around such tables and in forums like those, eternally planning for the culture sector, lobbying for the realisation of the options that she and others like her offered, even in the face of the violence and the crime and the depletion of the youth communities with which she worked, often with very little, if any resources.
An enabling environment that included changes in thinking about development priorities, how those priorities are addressed, how they could be accommodated and activated in a national blueprint for development were what she brought to the table. It was a vision that accommodated all of Trinidad and Tobago, even as it championed our creativity and the arts and culture as the fuel with the best properties to ignite such progress in a way none of the abundance of energy resources ever could.

Through The Political Glass Ceiling – the Race to Prime Ministership by Trinidad & Tobago’s first female, Kamla Persad-Bissessar

Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s Selected Speeches, compiled, with introduction, contexts and analyses by Dr Kris Rampersad, the book explores the seeming tug-of-war between polarisation in the political arena vis-a-vis other more cohesive cultural forces at play in Trinidad and Tobago society. It also examines the roles of gender and geo-politics among other factors in the contest for leadership between Mrs. Persad-Bissessar as the first female leader of a political party, the United National Congress, in Trinidad and Tobago and the country’s longest standing political entity, the People’s National Movement. Ranging from the country’s experiences with political parties under Dr Eric Williams, through the period of the National Alliance for Reconstruction and ANR Robinson to the period of voting deadlock at the turn of the century involving Basdeo Panday and Patrick Manning, the book provides roadmaps of Persad-Bissessar’s journey to the defining moments of the May 2010 snap election.Selected speeches of Mrs. Persad-Bissessar form the backdrop to these explorations. Speeches presented relate to Mrs. Persad-Bissessar’s “Stepping through the glass ceiling – Decisive moments in her political decision-making”; “ Vision of National & Political Unity”; the gender factor – “to be woman and leader”; “engaging partner watchdogs” and in her various other roles as Leader of the Opposition, Member of Parliament, Attorney General, Minister of Legal Affairs and Minister of Education as well as those presented in other forums as election platforms and interactions with civil society organizations and individuals. Dr Rampersad’s introduction, A Clash of Political Cultures – Cultural Diversity & Minority Politics in Trinidad & Tobago, traces the current political environment to the immediate pre- and post independent periods as Trinidad and Tobago struggles for articulation and definition of a truly all-encompassing national identity from its diversity of “mother cultures.”
Rampersad is a journalist, researcher and writer who has been exploring the diversity of Caribbean society and cultures for some 20 years. Her first book, Finding a Place (2002), captures from early journalistic writings the impact on literature of the encounters of peoples of the various mass immigration streams of the 19th Century with special reference to the experiences of Indian descendants in Trinidad and Tobago. She has also written and presented research to international forums with a multicultural third-world, rural perspective on the interplay of culture, politics, economics, gender and literature in the Caribbean, using data from home-grown situations vis-à-vis imported data and theories to make a case for new approaches that more adequately reflect the realities of Caribbean societies. Her policy critiques and recommendations through oral presentations, print and video documentaries on culture, media, agriculture and information and communication technologies, have been accepted by organisations as the Commonwealth Foundation, World Summit on Information Society, EU-ACP Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation, and UNESCO. She is listed among the International Who’s Who in Cultural Policy, Planning and Research. Available at all major bookstores. For further information contact: krislit2@gmail.com or call (1-868) 352-9728 or 390-9367.

Through the Political Glass Ceiling.
ISBN: 978-976-8228-00-0 9 Paperback
Available at all major bookstores. For further information contact: krislit2@gmail.com or call (1-868) 352-9728 or 390-9367