The Globe is golden

Dem nuh nice like we
Dem nuh sweet like we
Nice arready
Mi seh wi nice arready
Trash an Ready, Super Cat

There’s a scene in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers when the battle for Helms Deep is on and Legolas the Elf gets on a shield and surfs down some stairs to go and save his pardner Gimli the dwarf. I was in a cinema in London watching this with a Trini friend. And our immediate gut response was to bawl out ‘Ooooh goooooud.’
The viewers in the audience didn’t share our enthusiasm and turned around in the dim light to give us withering looks of English disapproval. You see, the Pit in us came out. But I mean to say, why else would Peter Jackson put a scene like that in the film, if not to get viewers to tankalanks at the screen?
Later, after the film was finished, we wistfully imagined what it would have been like to watch it in Trinidad. In a cinema like Globe. So when I got the news that Globe is up for sale, part of me mourned for the part of my heart that will always be a Globe fan. It’s funny how cinema culture although we’ve had such a long history of interaction with this, that it’s only recently that our own film-makers have begun to dare to put us inside the big screen.
But I wonder if that is because the way we watch films puts us in the action. We react as if we ourselves are in the scene. Active observers. It is the call-and-response nature of who we are.
The characters speak to us. And if they don’t we register our disgust. Curse them with the same emotion as we would curse our own neighbours and children and lovers. The film, instead of just being some lifeless imported thing that comes to us for our passive enjoyment, becomes a larger-than-life representation of our own fantasies, disappointments, longings.
Part of the willing suspension of disbelief for us is that we have to be ourselves in the moment. It’s a chance for some us, too, to un-star the star. For the block joker to have a moment of popularity shouting ridiculous things at the screen for the entertainment of the entire theatre. For the badjohn to declare he could shoot gun better than that. The village Ram to give a professional analysis of the star boy’s sexual prowess.
Give me Globe any day over that other place where the mangrove used to be. Look, it’s part of who I am. I can’t stand a quiet cinema. I want to hear people commenting on the film. I want to get a sense of involvement in the moment. I want to buss a loud steups. I want to shout out ‘tata’ or other profane protestations at the end of the film. Even if the people in Hollywood can’t hear me, I want to register my joy or disgust. Some films are extra enjoyable if you go and see them in Globe.
So they want to sell the place. I don’t have two cents to rub together or else I would have bought it myself. To have Amitabh Bachchan nights and Bruce Lee nights. In my anti-capitalist naivete, I can stand on the sidelines and say it’s a crying shame without having any clue whatsoever about the costs involved in keeping such a building and business going.
It’s another piece of our history that may disappear from our landscape because we lack the interest in preserving things of value. If a cinema is a thing of value. And the name Gokool Meah will slip into the great void of memory that is called Trinidad’s past. I guess it’s easy to get caught up in the whole bring-back-the-old-time-days argument. But it’s more than that.
What if, for another generation of Trinibagonians, the Globe could be a place where young film-makers can see their work come to life on the big screen? And the film reviews would come from Pit. True and visceral and immediate. The film-maker calls and we respond. And the film-maker knows if to keep singing or change her tune.
Back in the days of westerns, steelbands named themselves after their on-screen heroes. Imagine if future steelbands or steelband apps or whatever were named for characters in films made in T&T. Where the willing suspension of disbelief would cease to say that we were not deserving of being inside the big screen. We could be inside and outside too. Shouting our own selves on. Believing in our own magic.
A saga boy starboy, a soucouyant romance trilogy, a tale of forbidden love where star-crossed lovers run and giggle through the verdant Caroni plains. I would pay good money to go and see that and make plenty noise for heroes and sheroes who look, sound, act and feel like me.

First published in Trinidad Guardian March 23, 2013

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Tillah Willah’s new Kemetic Yoga adventures

Went to my first Kemetic Yoga class on Saturday. It reminded me of why I love yoga: for the stories and the context as much as for the physical engagement.

We are so separated from intention in our daily lives. We seem to be existing in an unconscious way, going through motions without a lot of thought of how our actions impact on others but especially on ourselves.

Even with things like yoga we’ve separated it from its original purpose and made it part of this obscene and frivolous desire to get fit, lose weight. It’s part of the performance of modern life, I guess.

Anyway, I came away feeling energized and excited about learning more. Particularly because I’m a writer and I spend so much time in my head, it’s good to do things like yoga that allow me the opportunity to align my thoughts while challenging my body.

Looking forward to further explorations.

The Economics of Fear

I’m crying everyone’s tears;
And there inside our private war;
I died the night before;
And all of these remnants of joy; and disaster.
What am I supposed to do?
I want to cook you a soup that warms your soul;
But nothing would change, nothing would change at all;
It’s just a day that brings it all about;
Just another day and nothing’s any good.

—King of Sorrow, Sade

The only people in Trinidad who seem to be getting more clever and using their smarts to get ahead is the bandits. While parliamentarians quibble about who should get guns, and how far down the slippery slope to police statehood we are going to descend in the next few months, the thieves are having a time. They are stealing not just dollars. They are stealing our sense of who we are, our sense of perspective on what is right, our compassion, our faith in humanity.

There’s no sense in blaming the teachers or the communities they come from. The fact is that we have prestige-school bandits walking around unmasked and unapologetic and thieving us blind, in addition to a complacent majority who remain blissfully unaffected by all of the many problems prove that we’re all in the same boat of not really caring about what happens to Trinidad.

The two most important organisations in the country—the Environment Commission and the Integrity Commission—are essentially useless. This speaks volumes about how we continue to perceive crime. While parliamentarians argue we are losing the right to live in safety. Who stands to benefit from precepted soldiers? Who is going to get a nice little contract from the Government to bring in the latest arms for us to kill each other with? Which multi-national corporation is going to benefit from our burning desire to kill each other?

What else could we do with the money that we’d be spending to train soldiers to intimidate communities? It’s also about the economics, baby. And somebody is making a lot of money off our fear. Meanwhile, we baulk at the revelation by Huffington Post that T&T is number eight in the world’s least friendly places for tourists. Forget tourists, Trinidad is one of the least friendly places on the planet for its own citizens. 

We have black gold and we don’t need white tourists. We have black gold to kill our fish and pollute our waterways and build big buildings and waste money on stupidness. As the bandits become more sophisticated and the Government gets more hysterical and the people who have things to steal get more paranoid and paralysed by fear, there isn’t much thought going on as to how to get the thieves to stop stealing and men to stop raping women and children.

The problem is not that there was maybe one house in St Joseph having a meeting about destabilising the country. The country has never really been stable. The country has been unstable since Hyarima times. The country is always on the brink of boiling over, of exploding with rage at one injustice or another. 

We constantly rhapsodise for a time when life was sweet in Trinidad. But there have always been people here eating the bread the devil knead, on the outskirts, staying alive through sheer will power and bad mind. There have always been people trying their best with the little they have. Finding joy in simplicity, planting their own food, hoping for better for their children. And those of us who have been untouched by the madness have been led to believe that if we continue to ignore it, it doesn’t matter.

But as long as there are people taking advantage of others, the country will continue to be unstable. Right now the war is on for the soul of our country and if we’re not, every last one of us, actively engaged and prepared to battle, then what is the point? What is the point of a Constitution that is only for some of us? What is the point of sitting down and waiting for somebody else to figure it out?

The problem is that all our houses aren’t having meetings to figure out ways to do something about the country and the Government. The problem is that we aren’t having nightly meetings in every house, hatching plots to assassinate the complacent, defeatist mentality of our families and friends and neighbours. 

Published in the Trinidad Guardian March 16, 2013

Not much to Celebrate

Everybody run run run
Everybody scatter scatter
Some people lost some bread
Someone nearly die
Someone just die
Police dey come, army dey come
Confusion everywhere
—Sorrow, Tears and Blood, Fela Kuti

Dear Aunty Kamla,
Not that you asked. But I’ll tell you, I’m not terribly happy about the state of my country right now. It’s not just the failed-state stench that’s hanging over us like La Basse smog on an early morning. It’s not the Flying Squad bacchanal or the out-of-control crime. It’s not even the vacuum of radical, fearless leadership that’s going to be left in the aftermath of Hugo Chavez’s death.

Give jack his jacket, he did things that successive governments have failed to do and will continue to fail to do—like using our oil wealth to lift certain segments of our society out of poverty. It’s my uterus, Aunty Kamla. She’s got a mind of her own and she thinks you need to get some vulvicular fortitude. March, they say is the month of women. Women making strides. Women doing wonderful things. Yippee you say. My uterus and I had a chat and we think there isn’t much to celebrate.

We’re still one of the few countries in the western hemisphere to have a woman in charge. Well, if you call what you’re doing being in charge. My uterus gets the sense that you aren’t, really. My uterus thinks that you are just as clueless as the rest of us as to just what the hell is going on and how to solve the many problems.

My uterus is shouting bloody murder because she thinks that this cluelessness will last another two years until election season comes around again and suddenly you will have all the answers to the many questions we have. Where, oh where is the gender policy? Where, oh where is the child protection legislation? Why is the Children’s Authority still non-functional?

To tell you the truth, I think my uterus is kind of bored of it all, Aunty Kamla. What about you? Are you bored as well? Bored of having to make excuses for your Cabinet? Bored of having to sidestep demands to probe the issue of the day? Are you bored, too, of columnists like me who don’t understand what it’s really like to run a country? The cautious anticipation I felt at the beginning of your time in office has become a dull and ever present headache. I keep waiting for you to come up with a cure.

You don’t seem to have one and that makes me terribly sad. Those who say you are the mother of the nation must have had the sorts of mothers that wail on television when their children behave badly. Those who say you are the mother of the nation must be needy orphans. My mother is a lot of things, including an excellent cook and a little mad. I know if I had a headache she would probably feel it before I had a name for the pain. She would also move mountains to ensure that I no longer had a headache.

My uterus is a little gun shy about producing any future Trinis because she thinks that the foundation that you are laying for a future T&T is no future at all. My uterus wonders why your government ministers are rushing to help one family when so many children are at risk, everyday, every minute, all over this country.

My uterus wonders if your prime ministership is more gimmicky than the national telephone company that spends endless money talking about how awesome their technology is but the frequency of dropped calls is faster than the speed of mobile internet access. My uterus wants you to know that she’s kind of pissed. And it’s not hormonal imbalances. It’s not misplaced angry black woman outbursts.

My uterus wants you to woman up and do your job instead of constantly reacting to situations. My uterus wonders if you remember your own birth pangs. Who was there to hold your hand? Who prepared you for that day? Why aren’t you holding this nation closer? Why aren’t you preparing us for what is to come?

My uterus is angry and weepy, Aunty Kamla. My uterus wonders if anyone, including you, will care. My uterus wonders if your uterus also churns with distress. My uterus wonders where the mothers are. The mothers who give birth to the abusers. To the killers. To the police. To the politicians. To the thinkers and doers and musicians and the artists. My uterus wonders what is going on in their insides.

She wonders when women will understand that without them change is impossible. Without them demanding it, instigating it, forcing it, pushing it, the change our communities so desperately need will remain an unfulfilled desire. Bleeding out of us and into our flooded drains. Like so many dead children. And so many dead dreams.

First published in the Trinidad Guardian March 9, 2013

Nobody from a Nothing Place

I rather be a shadow in the dark
Than a big fool in spotlight
I’d rather be a dog without a bark
Than a loud bark without a bite

Shadow in the Dark, Ataklan

Maybe it’s all that peroxide that’s eaten through Nicki Minaj’s scalp and started affecting her brain.
Or maybe it’s just the contempt that all Trinbagonians have for their own. You know, the place that gives you so much, that all you can manage to do is bad talk it at every opportunity.
I’m not, as you might have guessed, a fan of Ms. Minaj. There is a lot of really good hip hop out there and she is not it.
In a moment of empathy, Ms. Minaj reached out to an American Idol competitor – a refugee from Liberia – to say that she was so happy that the two of them had made it alive out of their horrible countries and come to the earthly paradise known as the United States of America to have a shot at being human.
In one fell swoop she perpetuates the myth of the savage Third World and also the streets paved with gold that exist outside of these Third World hell holes.
You really have to wonder if Ms. Minaj has some sort of post traumatic stress disorder. But if she does, if she is yet to deal with the traumas of her childhood, she should see a specialist about it, instead of going on American television and describing her country, my country as ‘nothing’.
Also I am curious about the something that she says that she is now. I suppose having millions of dollars is success. It doesn’t matter if you get this money by acting like Oversexed Barbie. It doesn’t matter if you are part of a media machine that sexualises girlhood, that preaches bamsie shaking as the sure fire way to get attention. And if you’re a black woman of any kind of popularity you start to get progressively whiter the more famous you get.
It fits the mainstream world media agenda for us to continue to think that anywhere in the so-called Third World is backward and savage. Trinidad and Liberia are one and the same, although Trinidad has not had decades of civil war. Far from being an expression of solidarity with a fellow person of colour, she is spewing the same ignorance that lumps us all into one amorphous bunch of black savages who can’t help but kill each other.
Oh and by the way? Violence and poverty do not exist in Queens. Racism is a long past dream and we’re all just getting along and having a big old party.
There’s no space in Ms Minaj’s comments to make so-called First World governments and corporations accountable for the continued roles they play in destabilizing our societies, in the name of the free market. For the legacy of colonialism and enslavement. The suspiciously plantation nature of our society. The people who look like us and sign sweetheart deals with multi-nationals. All the money that passes through like a dose of your Granny salts at the end of the August holidays.
We think we have a democratic government but what we have is a bunch of puppets selling us out to the highest bidder. And sometimes they’re not really the highest. They’re just giving the nicest kick-backs.
The drugs passing through Trinidad are mostly going to satisfy the tastes of hipsters in London and New York but we are killing our own.
That feeling that Trinidad is a nothing place from which one must make all attempts to escape with one’s life has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
We’re all looking for a way out. So that we too can have the bling without the accountability to anything or anyone. So we can go home and show off on all the people who never did anything for us.
The sickness that Ms. Minaj is showing signs of, is the same sickness that has police officers driving drunk and killing women and children. The same sickness that has politicians turning up at funerals with their own personal photographer. The same sickness that has us leaving the bodies of old women in cane fields. The same sickness that makes giving the army powers of arrest the worst and most dangerous idea possible.
Trinidad is nothing. Trinidad has no future. And enough of us believe that now to make Ms. Minaj the perfect ambassador for all of us.
We should all aim to escape this murderous nothing of a country and mask ourselves in someone else’s coskel cake. Until we are all like her, shucking, jiving, wining minstrels.
If that is what success looks like, I want no part of it.
I’d rather be a nobody from a nothing place. I’d rather celebrate my grandmother who worked as a domestic to ensure that her children could go to school. I’d rather give thanks for all the Trinbagonians who shine in spite of the dirt. Who see beauty through all the ugliness. Who see a reason to stay. Who love this nothing place like it’s something.

Published in the Trinidad Guardian March 2, 2013