Saturday, November 5, 2011

Brother Dedan Kimathi: Freedom Fighter

Passing parade of the warriors of 1970

By Raffique Shah
Oct 30, 2011

Last Monday, we gathered at the Ellie Mannette Park in St James to say farewell to Dedan Kimathi. His name may not mean anything to people outside of the district he helped christen “The Village”. It encompasses De Freitas, Alfred Richards and nearby streets, with the small park as its focal point.

Although he was a key activist in the Black Power revolution of 1970—he was imprisoned during two states of emergency in 1970 and 1971—he kept a low profile, so even participants in those events may not remember him.

To the faithful who assembled to mark his passing, Dedan epitomised the symbols and spirit of that glorious period in our history. He was one of the nicest human beings I knew: friendly, intelligent, informed, vivacious, energetic, helpful. They do not make them like that anymore. As I stood there listening to a number of people pay tribute to the brother, it occurred to me that I was witnessing the passing parade of the Warriors of 1970.

A few months ago, another unsung hero of that period, a boyhood friend of mine named Randolph “Fobs” Chandrakate, also passed on. He, too, was a beautiful person in just about every way. He remained devoted to his mother until she died, pre-deceasing him by only a few years. He was committed to his wife and children, but they lost out some because he gave so much of his time to so many “causes”.

If he was not helping farmers in some far-flung district deal with an intractable problem, Fobs could be found mixing mortar at the Dattatreya Yoga Centre or tutoring younger people in yoga, history or global affairs. Years ago, when we were young and daring, he had given up his secure job to help organise cane farmers. In that period, too, he was among the core of persons who worked hard to breathe life into an organisation called the United Labour Front, well before it was transformed into a political party.

In Dedan’s case, prison only strengthened his resolve to fight for black identity, and in a broader context, to fight against injustice anywhere in the world. He resisted Eric Williams’ attempt to impose the draconian Public Order Act on the people of this country. He spoke out against apartheid in South Africa long before Nelson Mandela’s name and cause became popular. He identified with the Palestinians. And during a sojourn in the USA, he spoke out against that country’s aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Within their communities, Dedan and Fobs were recognised as leaders who could get things done. They would transform ideas into reality. At both funerals, I saw four generations of people pay respect to these brothers. Ma Doris in St James, Tambie’s mother, now 90 years old, is somewhat of a surrogate mother to the Legends of 1970. She knew us as brave young men, and whatever her politics, she looked out for us. I felt saddened last week when I saw her trying to cope with Dedan’s passing.

There were the fallen warrior’s contemporaries, facing reality and our own mortality: Kambon, Nunez, Apoesho, Asha, Josanne (younger, but still a sister), Owen, Esmond, Tambie, Ivan, Georgie, Purnell, “De Prive”.

Then there were the younger ones, those from the “Village Drums of Freedom” who beat rhythms to mark an elder’s passing. There was the immediate family, including the beautiful grandchildren he mentioned lovingly mere weeks ago, who will never know their granddad, an outstanding son of St James.

But there was also a spirit of defiance. For the first time in years, echoes of “Power to the People!” could be heard, loud and clear. The spirit of ’70 came through many of the tributes. You see, among those who were at the forefront of that revolution, not many have stayed the course. Mere weeks ago, Dedan and I spoke about that. We counted those who have remained loyal to the cause on two hands.

All that I have written thus far must tell readers that these were two remarkable men, Fobs and Dedan. I can assure you that I have not done them justice. Nor have I mentioned Ambrose, who also passed on a few months ago—another lion of ’70. These men’s commitment to fighting for justice, for standing up for the downtrodden in society, in the world, cannot be questioned.

Yet, they pass on and the wider society that benefitted from their struggles hardly knew them. As someone noted at Dedan’s funeral, whenever he ran into problems at a bank with some young Indo or Afro clerk, he would politely tell the person, “Listen, I made jail for you to be where you are today!” A gentle reminder of what ’70 was partly about, to a generation that takes for granted some of what they enjoy today, which their forebears could not 40 years ago.

So I stood there in the park musing on the manner in which true patriots make their exit from the land of the living, from the country they were prepared to give their lives for. Except for families, friends and those of us who will never forget their contributions, they depart without song, trumpets.

Not that these brothers would have wanted the fanfares that other, less deserving departed, would have enjoyed. Other than yearning to see their country and people progress, they asked for nothing in return—not office, accolades, wealth, or awards. Humility was their hallmark.

Those of us they have left behind will carry on, speaking out when we need to, shouting from the rooftops if we must, but never letting an injustice go unnoticed. Revolutionaries do not retire.

Tripolians...40 Years & Counting...

Tripolians 1971 - 2011: 40 Years & Counting...

The St. James Tripolians celebrated 40 years as a single pan band. They recently celebrated their BBQ & Family day at their panside. There was a good showing at the BBQ despite the rain. The rain however did not deter the merriment.

The evening was brought to an end by Sapophonics, a panside from Carenage. They played "ol time tunes" and brought the day that started with rain to a positive end, all mindful of the 11 o'clock curfew.

The BBQ was all under the supervision of Mr. Keith Simpson. Who ensured that things went smoothly.

Congratulations to Mr. Keith Simpson and Tripolians for engineering a successful BBQ and Family Day.

J'Ouvert Jam Prize Giving

J'Ouvert Jam Prize Giving. . .

Mr. Tony Alleng with winner Derry Leelo

Mangen had it's 2011 J'ouvert Jam Prize Giving Tuesday September 20, 2011. Winners included Derry Leelo in the Old Mas Individual category and Mervin Peters of North Stars / West Side Millennium. Tony Alleng and Pat Phillip from the St. James Social & Cultural Committee were also in attendance to distribute the prizes.

Ms. Pat Phillip with winner Mervin Peters

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Excellence In Education

St. James Times had the unique privilege to sit with Mrs. Cancia Throne-Phillip, administrator and Principal of Cancia's Mother Nurture Children's International Center in St. James. Cancia warmly welcomed St. James Times into her Center to show the inner workings. Cancia's Children's Center provides day-care, early childhood education and after school education services for enrolled students (3mos - 5 years) as well as outside un-enrolled children (all ages).

Cancia, has a background in teaching at the Deigo Martin Early Childhood Center as well as at the Mount Kilimanjaro Pre-School. She has been apart of the child care/pre-school business since 1982 and knows the value in providing excellent teaching to today's children. Cancia's staff of 6 (six) includes pre-school teachers and a resident nurse,as a staff all contribute a welcoming environment for all the children. One of Cancia's foundations is the inclusion of spiritual influence. Spiritual music played while the teachers and children went about their daily routines and there was a sense of well being amongst the staff and the children. Cancia's excerpt from Proverbs 22:16 "train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it" we at St. James Times believes is the answer to the proper development of all our young people today.

In talking with Cancia the inevitable question of funding arose. Her response, increased governmental assistance. What this increased assistance would do is prevent Cancias from turning away students whose financial capabilities are compromised. The Ministry of Education has set a minimum requirement for all centers. This includes playground equipment and at present their supply of such is not sufficient. If the children are to have a well balanced foundation they need a place to develop sharing and team work fundamentals. Center outreach community activities has proven to be a valuable asset, this and corporate contributions once solicited can provide the Center with much needed equipment.

There are 30 daycare centers in St. James alone. This to our minds shows that there is a need for this service. Hopefully there is regulation that controls the proliferation of these daycares in an effort to prevent over saturation which could lead to a lowering of standards in the industry. Cancia's Mother Nurture Children's International Center is a cut above the rest. It was indeed good to see the bright and responsive faces of the children eager to learn in surroundings that were designed to encourage a nurturing and caring environment. It is also an environment of preparation for their first steps in formal education.

St. James Times wishes Cancias and staff our blessings and hopes that they continue to enrich the lives of all the children that attend the Mother Nurture International Center.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Future of WeBeat

WeBeat, the visitors have returned to their homes, St. James has resettled into its 'normal' routine and those 'locals' who were there for the (9) days are still reflecting on the good time they had at the Street Party.

We as St. Jamesinans must now address an issue that surfaced over the period of the festival. At the WeBeat dinner, which launches the (9) nine day affair, the Chairman of C.I.C. Mr. Earl Crosby said the future of WeBeat is in a not to good place. Funding for WeBeat was not as generous as previous years and as such for a successful outcome there has to be an immediate infusion of 'monies' if WeBeat were to fulfill the mandate of its 2020 vision.

We at St. James Times are befuddled that in a city of such prosperous entertainment establishments, malls and variety business concerns, who by-the-way benefit handsomely from the festival, wonder how it is that C.I.C is not more vigorously supported on the financial front.

There is a concept that the State should be the primary supporter/sponsor of any and all community activities is a misplaced one. State support is warranted when community groups and local/national business concerns actively support events of this nature. The business concerns in St. James should be encouraged to understand that WeBeat is 'we ting' and if it fails it is a reflection of the disharmony between all parties.

The street has it that WeBeat may not see next year. St. James Times sees this as tragic. This 'street party ' infuses into the local economy a hefty dose of badly needed money and at the same time showcases the diversity of the community.

WeBeat, Points' Boro Day, Centrals Sugar Festival and Tobagos Heritage Festival is all about continuity and community survival. St. James Times has portrayed St. James as a vanguard town and as such the health of WeBeat as a premier event must not be allowed to go the way of the dinosaur. St. James Times is committed to the idea that WeBeat must always be in the St. James landscape and will continue to be an advocate to ensure its survival.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Pre-Grad Receives Outstanding Club/Organization Award

On Friday April 15, 2011 the daughter of St. James Time’s Editor, Shakira La Fond, received a leadership award at Saint Joseph’s College of Maine’s College Awards Ceremony. Leslie Rocheleau, an area coordinator at the college, presented Shakira with the award for Outstanding Club/Organization through the group Interhall. Shakira received the award for introducing the concept of card lock systems for the residence halls on campus. This card lock system has ushered in a new era of security for the current student population as well as those to come. To quote Ms. Rocheleau, “it has brought Saint Joseph’s College of Maine into the 21st century.” St. James Time's congratulates Shakira on this stellar achievement and wishes her the best on her upcoming commencement!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Saint James Market

The OLDEST STRUCTURE in St James is now threatened with CLOSURE by the City Corporation of Port of Spain. The Mayor and by extension the Council has sent out signals that the Market has run its course. To those in the know the Market is not just a building for Vendors to "ply" their trade, it is the Centre of St James and as far as memory goes this is where everything happens. Culturally, Socially, Economically and Politically the Market has served as the place where all residents gathered on a daily basis but especially so on the weekends.

International Day of Persons with Disabilities

On December 3, 2010 the International Day of Persons with Disabilities commenced at Hios Oasis. Several special guests were Mr. Brian Lewis Honorary Secretary of the Special Olympics Committee as well as Dr. Jennifer Rouse the Director of the Ministry of Aging. All of those in attendance were greatly satisfied with being there. During the evening several commendations were given to Mr. Anton La Fond for his advocacy with persons with disabilities.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Loss of a St. James Staple

The St. James Community and by extension the St. James Times expresses its sincere condolences to the family of Ricardo McKenzie, better known as Smokey from the iconic Smokey and Bunty bar on the Western Main Road in St. James. Smokey, 56, was an entrepreneur, community activist and sportsman. Smokey will be missed by all those who frequented the establishment that has become symbolic to the St. James community.

St. James' Motivating Advocate


St. James Times congratulates Mr. La Fond on his addition to material that is lacking in regard to individuals with disabilities. This publication demonstrates the ability of differently abled individuals and the strengths of Mr. La Fond as an advocate and educator.