THE misspelt sign renaming Short Street, San Fernando, in honour of soca creator Ras Shorty I (Garfield Blackman) has been removed and replaced with a corrected version.
San Fernando mayor Junia Regrello said the sign with the wrong spelling – "Ras Shortie I St" – was replaced hours after the unveiling ceremony on Thursday, with a new and correct sign: Ras Shorty I Street.
Abbi Blackman, via WhatsApp message on Friday, said she was pleased the error had been amended.
Regrello said the error had to do with a foreigner employed with the printer the city corporation (SFCC) hired to the do the job.
He said the foreigner thought there was an error in the spelling which was sent, and without consultation, “corrected” it.
Regrello also explained to Newsday on Friday, “The street-naming ceremony was not scheduled to take place on Thursday, but at a later date.”
He said members of the Blackman family contacted him around 4 pm on Wednesday with a request to hold the unveiling ceremony on Thursday morning. He said the family members, who are all musicians and singers, told him they were scheduled to travel on Thursday night for engagements abroad.
Regrello said he sought ways to fast-track the request and spent all night making preparations, but discovered the error when the sign was delivered,
“I contacted the family and told them there was an error and asked them what to do in the circumstance.
“Abbi Blackman said she would not allow that to spoil the day. She said to go ahead with the cremony and fix it later.”
So said, so done. The pole with the incorrect street sign was not planted in the ground but fixed with tie straps to the original Short Street sign which it replaced.
Regrello said he regretted that people were not seeing the bigger picture of the city honouring an icon, but was instead harping on the mistake and making it political.
At the unveiling ceremony, Abbi Blackman laughed at the error, saying she would not cast blame on the mayor or the SFCC, which initiated the street naming in honour of her late father.
“That has to do with technocrats. According to my cousin, that is probably a German spelling,” she said.
She said she was totally overwhelmed by the gesture and would allow nothing to spoil the joy the family felt, because for the past 22 years since Shorty I died, his children and late widow, Claudette, had been knocking on doors of successive ministers of culture to recognise his contribution.
“This is long overdue. We brought proposals after proposal for a museum and school of music and arts in his name. When my brother OC realised nothing was being done, he mortgaged his home and invested in the Blackman Ranch at Piparo to do something on our own.
“His thinking was, if they don’t want to recognise him, we would.”
She said the family hoped when the Southern Academy of the Arts (SAPA) was built, it would have been named after Shorty as the creator of three genres of music and having spent many hours at Library Corner creating music, including the classic Om Shanti Om.
“God bless Sundar Popo, after whom an auditorium is named, but I remember Sundar Popo sitting in my living room when I was seven years old. Shorty I was still experimenting with chutney soca and Sundar Popo said he loved it and he was going to use it. Sundar was not even singing then.
“Shorty I was writing Indrani and he told Sundar he was not finished with it, but Sundar said he was doing it. What Sundar did was Shorty I’s first experimentation with that fusion, yet he got a space in SAPA instead of Shorty I.”
Isaac Blackman said, “My father loved this country and gave it his all. To see him honoured with a street bearing his name is a beautiful sight. As a family, we are grateful and happy this has happened.”
He encouraged people to research Shorty I and learn about his contribution to Trinidad and Tobago and how he has added value to music and culture, saying children know more about Jamaican and American artistes than those of TT.