NINE-TIME Calypso Monarch Dr Hollis Liverpool, better known as Chalkdust, is expected to kick off a series of monthly lectures in Tobago in January, aimed at nurturing a literary arts culture and promoting a heightened consciousness among Tobagonians about issues affecting them.
The year-long project is being led by the Tobago Writers Guild and Tobago Library Services in collaboration with retired head of the public service Reginald Dumas and former independent senator and educator Dr Eastlyn Mc Kenzie.
Rodney Piggott, president of the Writers Guild, told Newsday Tobago the project would target specifically the island's adult population.
Its mandate is to inform and enlighten Tobagonians, encourage critical thinking and enhance their level of self-awareness.
The project also seeks to highlight pertinent issues that are likely to impact the well-being of Tobagonians.
"We intend to bring out persons who have something to give back to Tobago so we are looking at persons that are stars or have star appeal, that are able to lecture on given subjects in a way that can help Tobagonians become accustomed to this form of interaction," Piggott said.
"It was said that Tobagonians don't like to talk and listen to lectures, but we have to try and this is something that we are putting in place to help us as a people move ahead as a society."
A Bethel native who migrated to the US at the age of 11, Piggott said he engaged in years of cultural activism overseas, his work targeting mainly vulnerable African communities.
On his return to Tobago in 2016, Piggott, who has authored four books, said he wanted to continue this work and found an avenue through the Writers Guild.
He also launched an open mic series at the Apex Bar and Grill in Bon Accord to encourage self-expression among Tobagonians.
"It is a place where the youths can come out and share poetry, songs, instrumentals on the microphone. That goes towards fostering that environment of us coming out and sharing with each-other and helping to raise each-other's consciousness."
Piggott said well-known cultural activist, lecturer and columnist Prof Selwyn Cudjoe had encouraged the Writers Guild to host the lecture series during a visit to Tobago, last year.
Cudjoe, he said, had suggested the group begin a series "to help inculcate Tobago society with topics of importance and relevance to Tobago – issues that as adults we should be discussing."
He said Dumas and Mc Kenzie later endorsed the project.
"So, all of these individuals had the same kinds of thoughts and ideas and the Tobago Writers Guild pulled this all together to form a committee to then roll out a lecture series."
The committee has since joined forces with community leaders in several villages to get a sense as to the issues that might be of interest to people in those areas.
The interactive series begins with Chalkdust in Moriah. Then its on to L'Anse Fourmi in February, where the focus will be on cancer and lifestyle diseases.
Piggott said lectures will be set up in other communities as the series progresses.
He said one of the lectures, titled How The Cocrico Came To Town, would address the seeming complacency of many Tobagonians.
Piggott observed: "Everyone knows there has been a change in how Tobagonians used to deal with confrontation and oppressions in the past and how we are actually deal with confrontations in the present.
"Simple things like potholes in the road, we can't seem to get them fixed and Tobagionians are not really uprising on issues anymore. Everyone is really quiet and we tend to be rocking back on a lot of things whereas in years gone by we were marching through the streets."
He said Dumas had pointed out there was a shift in the manner in which Tobagonians approached oppression after Hurricane Flora struck the island in 1963.
"Tobago became very dependent on Trinidad for rebuilding. So, we will be labelling that lecture, How The Cocrico Came To Town, because that is when the Cocrico bird started to migrate from country into the Scarborough area."
Piggott added: "That would be our way of approaching that subject matter of the shift in Tobago's collective consciousness – one of a people standing up for itself and really not taking anything and forcing the government to do what it must do for the people, to now just rocking back and allowing things to be done without any kind of uprising amongst the people."
Piggott said the lecture series would also address reparations for people of African descent.
"There is no lectures, no programmes speaking on this subject matter. So, we will be peeling back the layers on the issue of reparations, which is something that we don't talk about and we will be bringing that forward as a lecture."