AS TOLD TO BC PIRES
My name is Angelo Hart and I’m the creator of the satirical Late O’Clock News.
It's hard to feel as if I come from or belong anywhere else but where I’ve lived all my life: Arima, a "cultural crossroads." We talk a lot about Trinidad being a melting pot of cultures but it’s most prevalent in East TT.
I have never been keen on either marriage or children.
My parents both come from two very different backgrounds. My mother's Indo-Guyanese. (As) my father is a calypso aficionado, calypso is a major influence on my writing.
Late O'Clock News isn't really new to Trinidad when you look at it that way. Calypsonians were the original satirists. I hope we don’t let that art form die.
I was unfortunate enough to experience our education system.
Even as a child at Arima Boys’ RC, I opposed the sheer repetitiveness. School seemed to be more of a place of obedience than learning. So much effort was put into making sure we said our Hail Marys, sang the anthem, recited the pledge! I didn’t get in trouble frequently, but I witnessed many (punishments) that should have been illegal. I couldn't articulate these thoughts at that age.
I enjoyed learning but I didn't like school at all, as a system. The consequences for slacking were less rigid at Trinity College East than primary school, but the lesson was the same – study hard, be a good Christian and you will have a good job that pays well so you can buy nice things.
I would have been one of the "bright" boys, I suppose, but I didn't feel I had any good reason to put any effort in. Each teacher tried to convince us
their subject can "make money" (which, for me, was) never an incentive.
I am a huge fan of informal learning. Many of my learned skills were either self-taught or shown to me in a non-structured setting.
Our past as a former colony laid the foundation of our modern society and the ills we are experiencing currently. Many institutions we uphold were part of our colonial subjugation and continue to maintain class inequality (today).
I was drawn to figures like Fidel Castro and Maurice Bishop, who resisted such neo-colonial domination.
I passed five CXC subjects (mathematics not being one) and went on to study history at a local Christian university, where I became a Marxist.
What can I say? My life has been plagued with religious educational institutions.
I don't have an issue with authority per se. Once that authority (is willing) to dismantle the capitalist, neo-colonial structure.
Like school, religion didn't make sense to me either. People assume atheists go through something traumatic to question the idea of God. But, with me, it was a combination of the mind-numbing boringness of church and the militant dogmatism (of) belief.
There is no way the most powerful being in all of existence will punish me for all eternity because I didn't put aside one day a week to hear off-key singing and a three-hour sermon about why cartoons are the devil.
I grew up reading comics but, though I’m still attached to some characters, (I now realise) American comics are basically nothing but propaganda.
My reading now is devoted to understanding our class struggle and how we can collectively bu’n down Babylon once and for all.
And maybe a cookbook or two.
At gunpoint, I'd probably go with For Whom the Bell Tolls as my favourite book. I am currently reading On the Art of Cinema by Kim Jong-Il (yes,
Kim Jong-Il) who was a great lover of cinema and opera.
Satire's appeal has always been its tendency to punch upwards rather than down. Late O'Clock is an outlet for me to "rage against" the system.
Writing or creating art by itself won't solve our political issues. To tear down the systems of injustice requires political participation by the masses.
Late O'Clock News wasn't really an original idea as it's basically a local version of The Onion. I was a fan of Rowan Atkinson but I didn’t intend the name as a nod to Not the Nine O’Clock News.
At university, I made friends with Kwame Weekes, the stand-up comic, when we were both spoken-word poets. We collaborated on writing until he went on to do his own thing with Caricomedy.
Late O’Clock has been mostly an informal, on-and-off collaboration with different writers. Readers also submit their own articles and ideas.
Because of the time I devote to political activities, I don't have a lot of time these days to maintain the page as frequently as I once did.
Late O’Clock started in July 2013 with an article about how the government planned to classify vagrants as "native wildlife" to solve homelessness.
The first article that went viral locally was in August 2014, during the People's Partnership's tenure. It explained Kamla’s plan to change the date of Independence from August 31 to May 24, the day she won the general election.
The most popular article that really put LOCN on the map was "Pope Francis declares fornication no longer a sin,” written by Kwame. According to Facebook data, it was shared most in several West African countries. I don't know what that means but it was interesting nonetheless.
(The fact-checking website) Snopes even has an article "debunking" it.
The best thing about Late O'Clock News is that it helped hone my writing skills. Besides that, I really can't say a lot.
Trinis have long been satirists and I don't think I did anything special in that regard. Perhaps it did bring a "new" satire form into the mix as, initially, so many people believed it was real.
It did inspire some local knockoffs, too, but that's okay, since Late O'Clock is itself a knockoff.
I have never played mas but I do play J'Ouvert. Which can certainly go down as another expression of satire in TT.
I am a humble man and, if there is one thing I can eat for the rest of my life, it would be bake and saltfish, every morning, with a cup of black coffee. No milk or sugar. As a scarlet ibis flies majestically in the sunrise. Just the way Eric Williams intended.
To me, a Trinidadian is no different from a Grenadian, a Jamaican or even a Palestinian. Emphasising national symbols and borders make us ignorant of what we have in common with other people who suffered from colonialism.
We have more to gain from seeing ourselves as part of a global struggle against injustice, than an isolated, cut-off block fighting over a symbol as the world around us collapses.
Read the full version of this feature on Saturday at www.BCPires.com