T ‘n’ T massive, flash up uno lightah

Which translates to “if you’re from Trinidad & Tobago, hold up your lighters” for my non-Caribbean friends. 🙂 Now strictly speaking, that phrase isn’t colloquial Trini, it’s Jamaican, but it’s one of those cross-over phrases that fits into any Caribbean jigsaw. Something more along Trini lines would be “all yuh, hol’ up yuh lightahs” probably followed by instructions to jump … because everything seems to be followed by jumping. LOL.

Yes, it’s Caribana time in the city again. And what a time it is. I was saying to some of you a couple of days ago how weird it is that I don’t miss the frenzy of activity that used to engulf me at this time of year. For so many years, Caribana was IT. It was bigger than Christmas, New Year’s (Ol’ Year’s for us Trinis), my birthday, graduation, everything. It was The Weekend. There were weeks of clubs, shows, picnics, etc before Caribana and the long, grand fiesta that it has become.

And I don’t miss any of it.

I’m upset that I don’t miss it. I worry that it might mean I’m falling away from my roots, my heritage. I love that part of myself. I love being from one of the most amazing cultures in the world. I love Trinidad and Trinidadians. But, help me Jah, I do not miss the hustle and flow that is this weekend. It’s just too … much. I must be one old fogey now, a fuddy duddy, an old gringo. I’ve been rebuking myself for years about this but it doesn’t make me say “yes” when friends call about going to parties. I would actually rather be home with Ricardo, listening to the soca on the radio than experiencing it live. Weird. I swore I’d never, never, never (never) get this way. I’d always be at a party. Hell, I’d die at a party. My funeral would be a huge party and I’d only enter the Pearly Gates if they were throwing a massive block-o. What happened?

Can’t answer that and won’t attempt to here, tonight. I took Richard down to Caribana today. (Well, I dunno if it’s Caribana or not now. I thought it was the Great Festival of Caribbeanness in Canada or something equally stupid but everyone is still calling it Caribana. Yay for the power of a good name!)

It’s such a wonderful event. A great time with fantastic, lively music, gorgeous costumes, yummy food and fun stuff to buy. The weather was absolutely perfect – a blue sky, just hot enough without humidity, a lively breeze blowing in off the lake. Perfect. The music trucks pounded out the bass rhythms of our lifeblood all over the street, once again rejuvenating this city. I really do feel Toronto would be a diminished place without Caribana. It’s the second best Caribbean Carnival in the world, after Trinidad. It attracts about 2 million people to the city each year – it’s a big deal.

But I digress. The other night I wrote about coolness seeping into me like love to a starved heart. What Caribana makes me realize every year is that my heart is actually starved for it. I might not need the parties but I need the pounding soca, the glinting colours of ethereal costumes, the hearty laughs and smiles of my own lovely people. We may not be the most organized of cultures or the safest culture around (these days my family, these days) but we have so much fun. We just know how to let it all go and allow the music to reach into our hearts, into our souls and bring out something primeval. Our joy.

When I heard the music of the steel drum bands, I felt that wondrous familiar welling up of movement, rhythm. I just love to dance (hence the constant partying when I was younger) but I never do the steps to anything. The music moves me, it flows in and becomes part of me and it calls me to move and I do anything it tells me to do. I always lose myself dancing, especially to reggae, calypso and soca music. It’s the only bit of home I have, the only corner of Trinidad that I can touch no matter where I am. And I love it.

We aren’t just a culture of party animals or happy, funny people. We have scientists, doctors, lawyers, writers, artists, musicians. Trinidad has contributed much to the world and I hope we can continue to do this. I hope I can raise my child to be proud of this ancestry, to embrace it and revel in it, all the while, taking its accomplishments up a notch. Guess to expect that, I’d better get to doing some it myself.

I wasn’t able to forget the road of dead children that lie in the empty spaces between the notes of our music. Nor the people in my family and just about every family that have been bullied, beaten, abused and abased by the corrupt government currently in power. We need to do something about this. Things are really not copasetic. So how can we dance while P.o.S. burns? I think that we don’t party to escape or hide from it; we sing and dance to spite it, to show the evil that Trinidad will never die. Corruption can rot our land but not our souls. Soon, we will figure out how to fight back. Very soon.

So, breds, we can’ backslide. What I saw today is too good to lose. Our children too beautiful to be fed to the dogs in the Red House. Our pride too strong to submit. Happy Caribana to you all. Enjoy it to the max. Power to the people and peace, love and unity to you all.

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Sweet, sweet T&T

Well, this is the end of the World Cup road for the Warriors. It’s been a great run and I have never, ever been so hyped up for a sporting event. Never. Ever. The World Cup is just a different animal in sports. It’s bigger than everything else. No matter what you love, this is bigger. And I finally know – I know – what it feels like to have your own team there. Your boys, your bredren, your brothers in football. Oh, I wouldn’t exchange that feeling for anything in the world. I have loved watching the Warriors amazing run up to the 2006 WC and I have cherished every game they played.

I think they did us proud as a nation, as a people. They played excellent football and showed the big boys that they are right up there with them. The most joyful sound to my ears would have been “GOOOOAAAALLL for Trinidad & Tobago!!” but it was not to be. So instead, I’ll settle for the announcers’ refusals to count them out. That was a signal that “We reach!” – we were there, right up there with England and Sweden in terms of respect. We came, we played, we conquered. And now we go home.

It’s alright. The boys can hold their heads up and Beenie can give us that gruff smile of his. We’re leaving but without any shame at all. Warriors to the end.

And this, this is what it is to be a Trini. To step on a world stage and show what you’re made of. To find that you are an equal to titans, to try your best, from your heart so that even if you fall short of your goal, you have earned respect. I hope we remember this, savour it and live it. Respect, my people. Peace and love now and for always.

T&T+flag

Oh god boy, we lose!

That pretty much says it right there.  A solid and wonderful effort that kept England at bay for 82 minutes but Crouch got one in over Hislop’s head (naturally) and then Stevie G. got one in (why, Steve why?). And it was over. At that point the Warriors had nothing left to give – too little with not enough time. But Beenie, where was Latapy? He’s one of my faves and besides sharing part of his name with me, he’s so talented. I just feel that he would have created something …

Ah well. The pub where I watched the game had some Trini fans but mostly they were for the Lions. Many of them passed by after and made a point to shake hands and say it was a very good game and they had a lot of respect for the Warriors. That was really decent. In the past, I’ve been in pubs where the England fans were quite obnoxious but there was none of that today. In fact the only obnoxious guy was some dude cheering for the Trinis. And get this, he wasn’t even a Trini – he was with a Trini girl. Man, that guy was an idiot. I wanted to ask him not to be a Warrior fan. He seemed to be totally ignorant about football in addition to being a general tool. Thankfully there was enough action that I was able to ignore him.

Well, what can I say? Had the Warriors pulled this off, they could have gone straight home. I wouldn’t even care what happened next. But well, what can you do? England is England after all. And they totally outplayed us in the second half (*groan* Latapy we needed you). Then, like a death knell, Rooney came in. So, good on those chaps.

Maybe we can get some offense going for the game against Paraguay. There is still a chance to advance if Sweden loses to England …

Loving the Warriors and this journey with them, win or lose! WARRIORS!! Respect.

Oh god boy, we DRAW!!

What else can you say but “Well, yes!!” We draw, boy! Here we are, the smallest nation in the World Cup and we held off Sweden. Held them off, breds! Hislop was fantastic in goal. What a remarkable talent he is – told a few minutes beforehand that he would be in (Jack was injured in warm-ups) and he stepped up magnificently. He is real hero material, that man.

I loved watching this game! Woo, boy! To see them run around Larsson and Ibrahimovich, mixing them up and befuddling their Swedish sensibility with their ‘unorthodox’ defence. The announcer was getting a kick out of it and so were we! Strike after strike, in the air, deflected, off the bar, off of Hislop. It was beautiful (and agonizing for the Swedes). The sports guys in the pre-game show were talking about it being 3-nil by halftime. Well, hah(!) to them. Hmmpf. 3-nil my tanti’s goat. Time to party!

Next up is England. I’m not sure what will happen here. England played a pretty boring game against Paraguay and only won because of the own goal, so we’ll see … Should be an interesting game at the very least. I’m too superstitious when it comes to sports and writing, so I won’t go into predictions or wishes. I’ll just wait and see. And pray. A lot. 

Ah yes, this is a good day.

WARRIORS!!

The Beautiful Game

Ahhh… Here it is. The World Cup!! We’ve waited. We’ve watched and now we’re ready.

WARRIORS!!

I’m betting they’ll be one of the stories in the World Cup. Don’t know how far they will go but I know they have all the right ingredients to shake things up. So excited! I can barely stand to be at work today! Tomorrow … we’ll be on! Warriors vs. Sweden!

Not a day for black

The sun is high and the sky is blue. I actually heard birds this morning. 🙂 It’s a gorgeous spring day and not at all a day for black. And yet, it is.

I can’t thank you enough. So many of you replied and even left comments and all of you said you would remember Sean today. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I know that this story is not different from any other atrocity done to a child. We’ve had these hideous stories before and we will have them again. If I had one wish, one job I could do before I die, it would be to help as many children as I could. Yes, the environment and so many other causes are worthy. But for me, our children are the most overlooked, neglected, abused, abandoned part of society when they should be our greatest wealth, our highest treasure. Is there some currency worth more than the smile of child? Than their trust and their innocence? Not to me.

Thank you for taking the time to mark the memory of this little boy, ripped from his life in such an ugly way. To any other Trinis out there who might read these words, it’s time. Time for our country to wake up. Time for us to shed the black blanket of evil that has covered us. In a few short years we have gone from prosperity to squalor, from hope to despair. Even our children, especially our children, are not immune. What are we – what kind of men and women who will not look after our children? This murder of a child, by children. This should not have happened. The numerous atrocities we hear daily, should not happen. Will you awake now? Can we make a difference from this day on?

I’m so vividly reminded right now of “The Scouring of the Shire” where the folk don’t know what to do and the Horn of Rohan sounds clear in the evening air. We need that Horn right now. We need that clarion call to wake up a nation to the evil being done to it. To you. To me.

I don’t know what good deed I must have done to deserve the kind and generous people I know now, but thank you all from the innermost part of whatever I am. Thank you for your love and support. Each one of you knows how much I love you.

Memorials for and news about Sean Luke:

Please forgive us our sins

I … don’t know how to begin this. I never, never thought I would be writing something like this here. But I have to. I have to ask you to do this with me, for me. For a child so brutally murdered … dear God I can’t even imagine.

For those of you who mightn’t know, I’m from the island of Trinidad in the Carribean. Over the weekend, in Trinidad, a child, a six-year-old boy, was taken into a canefield and sodomized. To death. Two 14-year-old boys have been arrested and are accused with sodomizing the boy, Sean Luke, with a cane stalk so brutally that his internal organs were destroyed and his lungs punctured.

I can’t tell you … I can’t … My girlfriend at work, also from Trinidad told me this as I was going out for my walk at lunch. You know, something normal – going to eat. We talked of all the wrong that is happening in our home, the heartbreak we feel, the disgust for the morally decrepit, irresponsible and socially inept morons running the country into oblivion. But this … ? As she talked, it sank in – what she had said about this child, this small child. It went into my skin, through it and into my soul.

I couldn’t eat. I could hardly walk. I don’t know how I got back here. Maybe I stumbled. I don’t know. She said she got cold and shut herself in a room and cried and cried. I could hardly keep from sobbing on the sidewalk. My heart is beating so fast from just trying to make it to my office without falling apart. And now, I can’t stop. My sobbing doesn’t do anything for little Sean, or for his mother. But, my god, as a mother, as a human being, I can hurt.

What is happening to my country? If there is an overarching power, what has it to say about this? He isn’t the first child and he won’t be the last. WHY? Why does this have to happen. Why is it happening there? WHY?????? Look at this little face: http://www.trinidadexpress.com/index.pl/article_news?id=147130599

What could he ever have done? What will his mother do now? What does this say about us as a people? Are humans always destined to have such evil prevail over the innocents? Why damnit?!?

You know as a parent, you go through the whole “My god, what if this was my child” routine. But as certainly as there is a sun in the sky, I would go insane. Sean’s mother is said to have shut down completely. Of course, she is in shock. How will she cope with the knowledge of the agonizingly slow and painful death of her child? At the hands of other children. How will she function? I want to reach out and just hold her, but what good would it do? If it was me, who could possibly comfort me?

My friend, her words they have gone into me, deep inside. All I have right now is a cold, slimy sensation. I feel nauseous, more than physically. I want to vomit out whatever belongs to the land where I was born. Which is all of me isn’t it? For the first time in my life, I feel that way. It sickens me. I love my home. I love that island more than any other place in this world. And they have their share of atrocities, this is not the first. But this one goes deep. Like a knife pushed into the soul, the heart of what we are.

Here is my request. People are asking that we wear black tomorrow (http://news.bn.gs/index.php) to remember Sean and other young people killed in the ever-escalating violence in Trinidad. I’ll be wearing black for him. I would ask you if you can, would you please wear something or carry something black as well? Even something small.

You may not be from Trinidad, but it doesn’t matter. We are all one family, one people. That’s a beautiful thing in Canada, in this world. If you can, please, please remember him. And thank you.

For Sean,

I can only say sorry
my heart can only break
for you

I can only wish that angels
hold you now
safe and protected

I can only love you
in the sad, empty way
of a stranger, come too late
to help

But know that if I could have
protected you, if any of us
could have

My god, son, we would have
fought for you
All we have left is tears