The day they came

Ah say we forge from the fire

And together we aspire

Just to take this damn ting higher

In this quest we never fail

Never falter never tire

Never sacrifice yuh freedom

Fire fire in yuh wire

 

We free

We free

No no nobody cah hold we

We Free, 3 Canal

They came for us. To teach us a lesson. That in this land of mimic men we never deviate from the regularly scheduled programme of lies, damn lies and skin teet. They came because they assumed we didn’t know the law. That we wouldn’t know that the UNC government repealed the law banning the playing of drums in public in 2002.

They came because they understand that when people start to agitate culturally, when the drummers and the dancers and the singers and the painters start to get blasted vex, then they have a problem. They came because they are afraid that their mask is falling. Cracking under the pressure of their endless fake smiling. Cracking like their Beetham wall of shame that now has earned them international media attention. They came because they don’t realise that the more you deny people a voice is the more they will find reasons to shout.

They came because they believe the hype that Trinis are docile. Trinis don’t like confrontation. They came for Michael because in this country young black men should be on street corners holding their testicles. They can’t compute a young man passionate about the environment. Because idleness is putting up a poster to ask questions about their Summit wastage and this is a far worse disservice to the society than advertising a short pants party.
They came for Auntie Verna because she looks like she should be a government supporter. Because women her age must stay home and mind their grandchildren. Stay home and pray and cook and watch television.

And then beat their breasts and wonder why the country is the way it is. They came for Wendell and Roger because artists must sing and dance only when instructed to. Because artists are not required to have a social conscience or a connection to the people. They came for Norris because farmers must mind their business and not consider that food security is a national concern. They came for Shivonne because good Indian girls must stay home and keep quiet. Must not have opinions.

There were children there. Children playing drums. Children being children. Children that could be mine. They came for them too. To send a message to the next generation that social activism is not acceptable. That having an emotional investment in your country is not an option. That resistance is futile, although everything about this place screams defiance. Everything about this place shouts loud that somebody was willing to sacrifice and put their life on the line so that we could prosper.

They came because they thought we would be so awed by their guns and their tear gas canisters that we would retreat. They came for you too. To remind you who is boss. To show you that your voice means nothing. Your life even less. They came to warn you not to get any ideas. To kill your fighting spirit just as you need it more than ever. They came to aim at your dreams. To trample your children under their government boots. They came because they know you are dissatisfied and disgruntled and disappointed with the way they are running the country. 

I look them in the eye when they come for me. They are more afraid of us than we of them. They know they are wrong. They came for us because they follow orders. I shout at them because I don’t know what else to do. They are my neighbours and brothers and liming pardners. They are the people I stand in line for doubles with. That I support the West Indies cricket team with. That I weep for dead children with. Shivonne makes one of them cry. His eyes fill with water. His eyes shine with shame and pain from behind the plastic shield.

They dress back because they know that this battle is not a righteous one. They dress back because, regardless of automatic weapons and tear gas, they have no protection against their own intense sadness and pain at the state of this place. There is no difference between us and them. There is no line that separates their pain from ours. They come for us but cannot complete their mission. And it is the people who teach them a lesson. That in this place sometimes the people win. And power is not about weapons and they haven’t made a gun yet to kill ideas.

Advertisements

Cheerleaders in Cricket

Cheerleaders. With pompoms. It is too scandalous to believe. There I was on the Cycle Track—now a grassy knoll—asking the gods not to send the rain. Feeling happy to be in the Oval yet another time, calling down damnation on the heads of the England cricket team. I was waving my T&T flag in the gentle Oval breeze, trying to channel Tantie Merle in my movements. I was scanning the grounds, looking at the masses of my people, cricket people on their feet cheering on the West Indies team as they came out to take up their positions across the field. And there, like a big meggie in the middle of the cricket, were the cheerleaders. I thought for a second I was hallucinating. Like I think I’m hallucinating when I hear some wild rumour that Papa Patos wants to invoke the Terrorism Act during the Summit of the Americas to stop people from protesting. I mean it can’t be, can it? Cheerleaders in cricket? Why, that’s like making Trinidad mas in sweat shops in China. I guess in the whole scheme of things, pompom-toting cheerleaders are not that terrible. I mean, it could be worse. We could be kidnapping homeless people and hiding them away where the all the foreign press can’t see them. Oh no, we’re already doing that. I guess we still have culture. We still have a film industry. It’s not as if the Government has cut the funding to the T&T Film Company by 50 per cent. Oh no, they’ve done that too. I have to admit that the cheerleaders with pompoms upset me a lot. Not to the point where I couldn’t enjoy the royal cut backside England got from the West Indies. But I have to admit that half of the hoarseness and the pain in my throat came from my scandalised exclamations of rage at the sight of the pompom-toting cheerleaders. I don’t know whose idea it was. And I don’t particularly care to know either. But I suppose if you pay $600 for a sporting experience then you expect to have something completely devoid of any connection to the sport at all. Like premium-ish liquor and girls with pom poms. At least they were red, black and silvery. From what I could see on the other side of the Oval they were doing their job cheering the team on. At least somebody could learn a thing or too from their commitment and professionalism. Still, I wondered if they were being prompted when to jump up and dance and shake their pompoms for our boys. I mean I though Caribbean women didn’t need pompoms because we had bam bams? I must have it all wrong. I must be just jealous because I am not a pompom-shaking cheerleader in the $600 stand with all the beautiful people. I must be the outsider looking in. Wanting to be shiny and beautiful too. My flag sags in the dipping Oval breeze. But I refuse to be defeated by shiny cheerleaders with their Visa tot tots and designer batty riders. The woman to my right who, like a prime ministerial prophetess, declared that England would make no more than 120 runs, feeds me plantain and callaloo and buss-up shut and watercress to cool my righteous pompom indignation. I mean, seeing those cheerleaders with pompoms in cricket makes as much sense to me as the day before when I was at Phagwa celebrations at the Divali Nagar and Geeta Ramsingh of the Hindu Prachar Kendra announced that they had received a cheque of $5,000 from the Ministry of Culture for this year’s Phagwa celebrations, which includes the staging of the Pichakaree competition, among other things. Tantie Merle wherever you are, I’m so sorry. Uncle Ravi Ji, for all your work and effort to make this place a more livable place, I am so sorry. I try not to let the cheerleaders get me down. But this is hard, because they are right in my line of sight. The image of them is permanently etched in my consciousness. This is progress, yes. This is priorities and productivity. This is us being more than we could ever be. We have reached the summit of our national potential for the small fee of $600 million. And I wonder if cheerleaders with pompoms at cricket matches also feel like the country—stuck at silly point.