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Sunday 19 May 2019
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Another week in Paradise

The ole mas costume? It was a duster coat, a distinctly grandmotherly cut and print a Covigne youth would be unafraid to don J'Ouvert morning. Cherisse’s PeaceS played Forged From…, an assortment of characters including Venezuelan dame lorraine Spanish Thyme and Midday Rubber, whose white hat had a reservoir-tip.

Mine was Petrotrin Clothes Down. Granny’s work-helmet with its red-and-black logo stayed in place, but her duster-neck would eventually reach by her waist, smearing words in body paint —Nepotism, Corrip…n— that the on-stage décolletage was supposed to reveal, so they lost effect. (The action revealed something else, which my friend Cagey invited me to come run around the Savannah with him to lose.)

The band placed honourably third, of three. Trophy and thing, eh.

My schoolfriend Gregory messaged Sunday, his almost weekly review of the column offered the chant from Rudder’s Another Day in Paradise, with which I ought to have closed last week:

“Believe in yourself and the chant going to make sense.”

Making sense of things, creating spaces of optimism, reminding each other of our worth — these are how we counter the violence produced by the economic and structural inequalities all around us, on which my BocasLitFest panel had focused. (Thanks to Shereen Ali for a two-part feature on it this week.) It’s how we instil daily dignity in our children, despite an educational system and state institutions forged from a love of hierarchy.

The beauty of living in a small place is our shared exchanges that help us make paradise out of the madness around us.

Besides the gem of a Saturday-afternoon ole mas competition on a Port of Spain pavement, the literary festival held other treats. The thrill last Thursday getting foreign winners of the Man-Booker and Forward prizes (top international literary awards) up in a cramped queer club reading work alongside the mother of Caribbean speculative fiction, and a range of local writers. Andre Bagoo introducing one of them to puncheon.

The honour of returning a favour Anton Nimblett did (flying in to moderate my book’s launch three years ago) as he launched a second, clever book of short fiction, Now/After, alongside first-time author Breanne McIvor Sunday afternoon.

World-class quality and range in Sunday night’s spoken-word finalists; plus the joy of seeing Alexandra Stewart’s unconventional voice finally rewarded. Celebrating the maturity of a historic youth organisation, the 2 Cents Movement, organiser of the annual slam, which received so much deserved journalistic coverage this year, including one front page, what I would say is mostly repetition. Sunday’s opening performance, though, was another reminder of the organisers’ responsibility to engage more deeply the impact of the traumas its young performers turn into four-minute, first-person narratives we applaud then go home.

It wasn’t just the festival. I spent Tuesday with other tutors grading finals for Gabrielle Hosein’s Men & Masculinities in the Caribbean course. It’s penance I’ve long heard every academic colleague bemoan; and I myself complained all course how students don’t read and can’t write. Instead, it was a treat reading several thoughtful scripts of young people going into the world with gender analysis I hope serves the country well.

Thursday midday reminded me of the unaccountability of banking — one transaction took over an hour at FCB; and, yes, they offered me US$100 in $1 bills. But Wednesday, I celebrated the Diego Martin area’s businesses. A short, pleasant wait for my car’s first inspection at Phillip Greaves’s main-road facility, where they answer the phone. Then on to correct my one defect at a delightful, customer-oriented car-service franchise a garrulous Gordon Rauseo, retired from a major auto dealer, has opened on Morne Coco Road. Three workers changed my blown reverse-light lamp without a wait, for free. I got to my bank by 10.30, and all the US I wanted.

But Thursday turned brighter. I talked on Zoom about the troublesome Non-Profit Act with the UN special rapporteur for freedom of association, visiting Jamaica for the Inter-American Human Rights Commission’s meeting. Then off to the Consortium of Disability Organisations’ launch of it second-round parent advocacy training programme, which the PoS Mayor and a San Fernando councillor attended. (CODO’s still awaiting Government’s overdue accounting on compliance with the UN disability rights convention, which the AG promised a year ago).

This Thursday night proved even better. The local explosion of another word-form, stand-up comedy, includes Lisa Allen-Agostini and Louris Lee-Sing’s feminist monthly mic, which Melissa Doughty reviewed last month. FemCom graciously made way for BackChat at Euphoria last week, ending up at the Trinidad Theatre Workshop. Kevin Soyer guested, as promised. And what a talent!

Even without his incredible personal story (Sharlene Rampersad told last year) of overcoming almost-complete paralysis by transverse myelitis to walk with crutches and make really funny disability jokes, his natural wit and timing are breathtaking. I’m an instant fan. See Rachael Espinet’s Friday feature on Caricomedy today; and catch him there. The chant going to make sense.

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