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Sunday 26 January 2020
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The year in review

A model in a Genesis bikini walks on the red carpet of the Holy Trinity Cathedral, Port of Spain on November 4. - Jeff Mayers
A model in a Genesis bikini walks on the red carpet of the Holy Trinity Cathedral, Port of Spain on November 4. - Jeff Mayers

It opened with the sea, Edwin Erminy’s drowning, and his life’s commanding testament to Venezuelans’ contributions to TT; the grief of his widower, Raymer Diaz, and the homage so many young students, including one in this column, paid to their marriage. By midyear, the violent death of another drama professional, 70-year-old Raymond Choo Kong, brought scorn for tributes over action.

Midyear also paid tribute to the brilliance of Kia Hosein’s populism, even when applied to a toxic nexus of anti-Venezuelan and anti-PNM protest – a clapback to calls threatened PNM slacktivists made to LGBTI leaders to denounce Kia and declare her gender-fluidity inauthentic. It reflected on my unacknowledged Venezuelan heritage; and on how we reckon the flamboyant flawedness of LGBTI TT nationals like Kia, Jason Jones, Jowelle de Souza and Dillian Johnson, who’ve thrust their way into global headlines.

Kia Hosein takes a photo of herself and supporters during a protest at Queen's Park Oval, Port of Spain on June 13. - AYANNA KINSALE

It witnessed repeated helplessness by PNM parliamentarians when an opportunity for homophobic picong or policy arose, from Fitzy on Kia’s pronouns, Camille on Delmon’s fowl tief accuser, Marlene on her gender policy, Faris pretending to be handcuffed under the Privy Council’s skirt, or Terrence’s spitefulness toward people trying to save their lives.

It poked fun at Kamla’s sudden sisterliness toward corruption-accused Marlene, the latter’s high dudgeon over where Womantra was when she was being fat shamed (Ahem, not yet founded); and published Elysse Marcellin’s saucy apology for an artless dubplate about killing gays Denise Belfon relentlessly defended as culture, proposing an equally “cultural” response – the mid-performance toilet-paper salute. With help from Ash Allman it reflected on same-sex wining in Caribbean carnivals; and on gender and opportunism in kaisoca lyrics.

It lampooned Stag’s about-faced "good men" campaign; arguing men aren’t good, we’re flawed and violent and human, and that’s where interventions need to meet us. It repeatedly tried to make sense of masculinity, and men’s accountability to each other.

Teaching and spoken word artiste, Kyle Hernandez. Photo courtesy Kyle Hernandez. -

It celebrated writers and storytelling. Young Amir Hall joined me in eulogising Binyavanga Wainaina, who introduced us; it gave living flowers to Andil Gosine, Kyle Hernandez, Newsday’s Jensen La Vende and Alake Pilgrim, commemorating my 200th column. It mourned record-store owner Cleve Calderon. It paid respect to pioneers of Caribbean standup comedy Rachel Price and Sprangalang; and hailed newcomer Kevin Soyer. It venerated the linguistic value of profanity, the BocasLitFest’s efforts to revive ole mas, and the social value of this and other less well-incorporated forms of “deviance”; suggesting to Terrence Farrell that our elites have failed – and we often fail our selves – because we’re all afraid of what might happen if we gave people freedom.

It obsessively questioned our eternal obsession with authority and the loss of it; framing it with the metaphor of “looking for a strap.” It wondered if abolishing the SEA would also solve our traffic problem, promoted community-owned schools as a transformational model; and celebrated Queen’s Royal College’s ability, despite the institution’s leaders, to produce young men self-affirming in their identity.

It contemplated blackness, taking up historian Harvey Neptune’s critique of Emancipation celebrations as African pride, and our continued inability to decolonise the hair on the heads of our black children – as difficult as it is to disentangle it from gender. It talked about the many bodies in the nation, and a vision for lowering language barriers to joy and safety for deaf people.

It commemorated ten years of CAISO’s work in the Caribbean; and the Caribbean’s mark on 50 years of LGBTI Pride in New York. It showcased the work of feminist and good-governance organisations that helped Parliament rewrite a sexual offender law; and pushed back against over-regulation of nonprofits. It gave paeans to a president who is reinventing her office; and supported her unpopular vision that we are participants, not audiences, when the national anthem is sung.

It puzzled at the incongruence of an electronically transparent Parliament whose staff’s professionalism is exemplary in the public service, with its physical public gallery run under 19th-century rules; and reflected on Lloyd Best’s notion of a callaloo-like civil society “Macco Senate” as a form of participatory governance, and the role of national human rights institutions.

It praised Diego Martin automotive small businesses run by Phillip Greaves, Roderick Patience and Gordon Rauseo as shining models of local customer service.

It tried to talk artfully about my cancer, urging you to take proven steps to prevent yours – colonoscopy, DRE, faecal test, HPV vaccine, mammogram, Pap smear – but ending up being apologetic, blunt and sardonic.

It pondered the senselessness of making sense of faith (which is, after all, about the evidence of things unseen); Easter’s vision of “lowly pomp,” in contrast to Anglican leaders’ concern for buildings, bikinis and looking good to other narrow minded faiths over the value of the lives of institutionalised children; and the riotous illiteracy of Evangelicals’ promotion of the biblical book of Genesis as a source of Christian relationship models.

It didn’t forget its mission to tell small stories—whether about the ritual of the overseas visit, the etiquette of reclining in an economy seat. Or a conversation about love.

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