I can no longer refer to the election season as Silly. What we have is sheer insanity!
I was reflecting on this and then came across a video of Marika Baptiste from Fancy making her presentation at the Lions Club South Public Speaking Competition. I was thoroughly impressed. Her presentation was first class. I later saw a video of her impromptu speech which strengthened my view of her. The impromptu part of the public speaking competition is the great divider. This is where many persons fall to pieces. Her topic was ‘Give thanks’ and she dealt with it like a pro. Very often in the public speaking competitions it becomes obvious that participants are reading their speeches. Not so with Marika.
Her prepared speech was on “Challenges Faced by People Over the Dry River”. She was articulate, fluent, and very much into a subject that obviously meant much to her. In commenting on the challenges facing persons beyond the River she highlighted Stereotyping, Poverty, and Geographical constraints especially at times of natural disasters. Her body language complemented her speech. She invoked the spirit of National Hero Chatoyer as she declared that her Garifuna people would not be undaunted. For them, ‘the Struggle Continues’. She repeated it on different occasions as she grasped her hand in the air, at first stating it in the Garifuna language, and declaring that the blood of Chatoyer was flowing through their veins.
I was pleased with the way she dealt with the stereotyping, because for too long there were too many negatives associated with people in that area of the country. The question of loose morals and of them being ‘unfairly sexualised’ ‘since their blood was close to their skin’. Their ability to use the Queen’s language was another of the stereotypes. This she dismissed drawing attention to her top performance in the CPEA in the language area. She mentioned some of their outstanding sportsmen, artistes and individuals who have been highly acclaimed; among them, Sarah Baptiste the famed mid-wife and Elma Francois who migrated to Trinidad in the 1930s and became a national heroine there. POINT, winning the National Lighting Competition on six occasions was highlighted. But poverty in the area, she stated, was above the national average. Their virtual isolation in times of national disasters and difficulties faced by students who went to school in Kingstown, were brought to our attention. She reminded us of Chatoyer’s struggle against Colonialism, something that was appropriate, given the fact that we were into the month of our 41st anniversary of Independence.
I have digressed from what I originally intended to write but did so gladly. Marika said that her story is yet to be told and I have no doubt that it will be a story worth hearing. Actually, it appears that what is really needed in our dear land is the spirit of Chatoyer. To shift things a bit, I am happy to see the involvement of a number of young people in the political campaign, speaking out and getting on to the front stage. Women are also heavily involved. For too long they had been left in the political background. I am disgusted with the scaremongering and our failure to address issues as sane, sensible people. Discussion on the China/ Taiwan issue could really be highly informative. On this matter I am reminded of a statement attributed to former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to the effect that “Nations do not have permanent friends or enemies, only interests”. The CBI matter becomes foolish talk even though there are aspects that need serious discussion. The issue about dress at the launching of candidates befuddles me as part of our Caribbean civilization and in this period of our Independence anniversary. Finally, why is our Prime Minister being called World Boss? What does it mean and what does it have to do with tackling the serious problems we are facing? A season of insanity indeed!
Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian