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Sunday 21 April 2019
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Commentary

Whether words matter

This Carnival season I saw far fewer of you than usual. Well, at least not the type of reader who stares or frowns in hesitation, then comes over and asks: Hello, aren’t you the...? Carnival is the time of year you make me feel more confident that my words here matter in some small way. Because although I’m always taking risks with it — and perhaps precisely because I am — I’m always unsure of this column.

The NGC Bocas Lit Fest is an exciting, sprawling festival of words and ideas coming up in a few weeks that is about all kinds of words mattering. And because I missed you at Carnival, I want you to come meet me there. Serious.

Take a couple hours off work on the morning of Thursday, May 2. Meet us at 10 o’clock at the Old Fire Station, next to the National Library on Hart Street in Port of Spain. Don’t be late; we’ll start on time.

Us. Columnists. Hopefully five of us, across all three daily newspapers. We’ll be having a rich conversation about what we do; and whether it matters. We’re all a little different, and we all write in different ways, about different things. And that’s sort of the point.

The festival has titled our conversation An Equal Place? So we hope to explore how it is that we “find” that. We’re not the only explorers in the Bocas Lit festival, though.

Another form of words that matters to the festival is extempo. So if you stick around till midday that Thursday, you can hear Black Sage and Brian London extemporise on Every Creed and Race. Hopefully there’ll be an open mic too.

And if you can’t break biche, maybe you just join me after dark, when for the third year we steal the queer writers away from the festival, and have them read to a standing room only crowd of drinkers in a noisy bar, who’ll clap and whistle harder than the stoosh crowd at the library. We smash the elite writers up with undiscovered local talent. (You’re the first to know it’s been switched to Thursday from Wednesday.)

Oh, you work nights. Well you can get in the action on the weekend. Register your ole mas small band or individual by April 23 and compete on the Knox Street pavement on May 4. It’s the same theme as the extempo, of course: Every creed and race. And, yes, ole mas is so about words too. Cold feet about competing? Okay. So just come and watch.

An Equal Place? isn’t the only maths problem about nationality that festival organisers pose. The festival will have Caribbean Court of Justice president Vincentian Adrian Saunders, Jamaican publisher Ian Randle, St Lucian diplomat and former Association of Caribbean States secretary general June Soomer, Dominican university administrator Schuyler Esprit, and a recent foreign affairs minister Paula Gopee-Scoon (now in trade and industry), all working together on resolving Eric Williams’s old West Indian equation: One from Ten Leaves?

That’s Saturday morning, May 4, at 10.

That’s a lot of richness. And there is much, much more. Including a tribute to the man I call TT’s calypsonian laureate on Sunday at half past eleven. And then, it all ends Sunday evening at NAPA with 16 competitors in one of the most competitive and diverse-themed National Poetry Slams in years. Besides writing workshops, the slam is the only paid event in the festival; well worth it; and it might sell out.

Keep track of all of this on the festival website: www.bocaslitfest.com/2019/events/

But, seriously, though. Do try hard to come to An Equal Place? on Thursday morning, May 2. I’d so love for you to be part of the conversation. In part it will be about the role that words and newspapers and public intellectuals and reading play in nation-building. In part it will be about how words fail.

In part it will be just a conversation about what equality means. And about what place means.

It will be banker/economist Mariano Browne, cultural activist Attillah Springer, senior counsel and senator Sofia Chote, journalist Wesley Gibbings. Me. And you. For a whoooole 90 minutes.

Come. I want to be sure of you.

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