Trinis have a funny funny way of forgetting…Brother Valentino’s song echoes in my head as I watch the March/April bound copies of the Trinidad Express from 1970. I open the hardcover and the first image I see is one of my father. I wonder if what I see is my own self-consciousness. I imagine that what I see is someone, who like me, is hoping against hope that what he is doing, what he is saying, what he is feeling are the right things.
It’s forty years today. 21st April marks forty years since Eric Williams declared a state of emergency after months of protests against the institutionalised racism, against the Independence promises unfulfilled, against the colonials being replaced with the neo-colonials, against the jaycees perpetually white carnival queens…. It was also the day that the soldiers mutinied, preferring to stand in solidarity with the people than shoot them down.
Yesterday I went to the library, seeking answers to questions that I can’t ask the parental units. I put on the gloves and turned the pages slowly, hoping that I would see something that would make the whole thing make sense.
There is nothing that can explain it. What makes regular normal people wake up one day and think they can change the world. But I suppose these people are neither regular nor normal. They are not. They are bizarre. They are probably crazy.
There were many of my days in Babylon-don when my father talked about those times. Days like that I kind of felt like a confessor as he talked about jail, about the marches. About behind the Bridge. About his mother going to berate Karl Hudson Philips’ father.
He gets angry a lot. Like my mother. Who still can’t speak in complete sentences. She cries a lot still for people who died. For things I dare not say here. For her lost youth. For her mother’s distress.
There are so many disjointed stories. So many incomplete memories. I don’t know where to start to ask questions, or even if I should.
I am looking through pages in these newspapers. Looking for the other side of the story. For what the people who were against them had to say. For the letters to the editor and the commentaries, from the business owners and the downpressors.
There is an image of the meeting in Shanty Town, which was subsequently moved and called Beetham Gardens. There is an image of town burning. There is an image of a black cloth on St. Peter in the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception. There is an image of Archbishop Pantin calling for sanity.
I know these stories. I know these images as if I was there and alive. But like the holes in the papers caused by decay and disintegration, there are things missing.
Even though they are both writers, I think I have inherited this trait from them. This inability to tell the fullness of the story. To leave out bits. That may be too personal or painful. There are many things that I still don’t know. That they will probably never let me know. At least I imagine it is so. I can only imagine the things they did.
I feel like something is missing. I don’t know how to fill it. The hole is bigger and hollower still because it is election season. Because of mountain of shit that is going on in Trinidad right now.
It’s also a year since the Drummit to the Summit. It’ also a year since Adrian Richards’ murder.
It is the transition to rainy season. And the time when I mark the dawns with both terror and hope.
Who are the true members? Who are the real warriors? How do I find them? When is the time to write poetry and when is the time to pelt Molotovs?
My father still has the same afro, grey now, but the sides still pat down and the front pointing forward. My mother is still a warrior queen who would stop at nothing to defend her loved ones, the neighbour down the road, random children, some girl she see that look ahow…. They have no intention of taking off their boots. I fear that I will get locked into their love for the struggle, when what I want to do is win so that I can engage in random tree-hugging, be a dj and practice my headstands with my nephews.
Perhaps most disturbing is that I have inherited my parents’ inability to sleep between 2 am and 6 am. From San Juan to Brixton, we wake to watch the night together, alone, in silence or with some haunting piece of jazz as a soundtrack to waking nightmares, shattered dreams of a more hopeful dawn for a promising nation. There is so much to see and hear. In this darkness. In this silence. As for me, I have no idea what I am looking and/or listening for.
I hope they do.