Faith in our wonderful country – 16 nov 2008

“Faith in our wonderful country”

Mr Llewellyn McIntosh was one of my favorite teachers in secondary school.  He taught me history – my favorite subject.  He helped me to critically evaluate social phenomena.  He helped me to understand that those who do not learn the lessons of history are condemned to repeat it.  He also helped me to truly embrace our carnival culture.  Thank you ‘Shortpants’. 

To this day, I remain a history buff.

It is this love of Caribbean history and culture that led me to a public lecture entitled ‘Researching the Carnival Arts from Alaska’.  It was at this lecture that I was fortunate enough to bump into Mr McIntosh again.    

Now, this lecture was delivered by Dr Ray Funk, who, interestingly enough is a criminal trial judge from the state of Alaska.  A judge who is passionate about Trinidad carnival.  Google him and see how much comes up. 

For the last decade or so, he has combined his day job with a passion for all aspects of Trinidad Carnival. He seems particularly interested in aspects of our carnival arts that have been taken overseas to the US and Canada in particular.  Dr Funk sees part of his role as bringing these aspects back ‘home’ to Trinidad.  For me, it was amazing to hear about the calypsonians and pan players who left Trinbago (temporarily or permanently) to live and work in North America. 

Mention was made of Sir Lancelot who left for New York to study medicine but became a calypsonian instead.  He / his band appeared in Hollywood films such as Two Yanks in Trinidad (1942), Happy Go Lucky (1943), I Walked With a Zombie (1943) and the Buccaneer (1958).  There is much to read about the popularity of Lord Caresser in Montreal, Houdini, Atilla the Hun and the Roaring Lion in New York.  Have a look atwww.calypsoworld.org

Seems like public interest in calypso reached a climax in 1956 / 1957 with the release of Harry Belafonte’s album – ‘Calypso’.  So popular was calypso, that some speculated that calypso would lead to the demise of another new music – rock and roll. FBAR Reporting Singapore

And of course there is beauty that is pan music. Wow.

We have so much to be proud of as Trinbagonians.  Our culture has had and continues to have an impact on the world stage.  Kudos to the Academy at the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) for Arts, Culture and Public Affairs, which together with the National Museum and Art Gallery staged this lecture.  I am pleased that the UTT has made Ray Funk an Honorary Distinguished Fellow – well done! 

Vision 2020 speaks about our artisans, sportsmen, musicians, writers, artists, academics and professionals all adding to the richness of our culture.  It even speaks about talent-scouts coming to our shores rather than us having to seek them out.    

We may be on the right path but we still have much to do of course.  Vision 2020 talks about us – “…nurturing a strong sense of patriotism with respect for our heritage and history.”

It sees Trinidad and Tobago – “…being supported by a culture that is strong on volunteerism, community orientation and courtesy.”

Seems like a tall order but as President-elect Obama would say – yes, we can! 

For anyone interested, his victory speech is available at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/11/04/obama-victory-speech_n_141194.html

Here’s an excerpt –

“It’s the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day…

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other.”

Yes, some may be cynical and fearful about Trinidad and Tobago.  But each week I try to acknowledge those (people and institutions) that have faith in our collective ability to shape a brighter tomorrow.

Let us keep the faith as we walk towards Vision 2020.

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