DURING a memorial service at the graveside of noted poet and author Samuel Selvon, Prof Kenneth Ramchand chastised "those mocking pretenders," who he said, choose to close their eyes to the fact that there is racial tension in this country.
Among a congregation of peers and other literary practitioners, Ramchand said during the ceremony on Monday at UWI, St Augustine, that Selvon’s classic A Brighter Sun, written some six decades ago, was about race relations and the emergence of a better society.
“So many people pretend that there is no racial tension in the country.
"If you talk about it, they say you are trying to dig it up. You have to shut up and do things sideways, and hope you change the consciousness, and the change in consciousness could make people arrive themselves at a notion of the need for a brighter sun and what would make that brighter sun,” Ramchand said.
He was not the only one to speak at the service.
Using the title as a metaphor, Presbyterian minister and former senator the Rev Daniel Teelucksingh, in his brief sermon to mark Selvon’s birth centenary, emphasised “how much in TT we need a brighter sun.
“We need a brighter sun to dispel the haunting, fearsome, lingering darkness that moves across this land with its unabated gloom and horror of gruesome crimes and senseless violence.
“How we hope and pray that we would continue to work towards a new day when the golden rays of Sam’s brighter sun will bring to our troubled society healing, deliverance, peace, love, kindness and an abiding respect for all of human lives.”
Expressing a fascination with epitaphs, Teelucksingh recalled the message on the head stone of the late actor Charles Bronson, which reads in part, “I am not here. I don’t sleep here. I did not die.”
“If Charles Bronson lives in the movies he made today, then Sam Selvon also lives in his writings and in his body of work.”
To commemorate the occasion, Iere Theatre Productions and its artistic director Victor Edwards, has partnered with UWI, Ramchand and Friends of Mr Biswas, the Ministry of Tourism, the San Fernando Greater Chamber and the Naparima Bowl to host a series of events, including a gala award ceremony on May 13, and a re-staging of the play A Brighter Sun at the Naparima Bowl.
Dr Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw, dean of the Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics, Faculty of Humanities and Education, told the gathering of the importance of ensuring literary giants are remembered.
Walcott-Hackshaw, daughter of Nobel laureate Derek Walcott, spoke of Selvon’s revolutionary novel The Lonely Londoners, which details the life of poor, working-class blacks in post-World War II London.
She said the novel, “brought back home to me, while I was studying abroad. Writers get accolades and awards, but what is so important is how they touch readers personally.”