Toney’s ‘unapologetic quest for success’
December 16, 2011
Toney’s ‘unapologetic quest for success’

by Colin King Fri, Dec 16. 2011

‘I excelled with flying colours, then returned to my homeland, where my ambition became too large for the status quo, therefore I was kept outside the system.”{{more}}

Frankly and without rancor in a journalistic style of writing, son of the soil Dr. Chester Toney describes a life full of setbacks, trials, triumphs, and a sense of service and adaptation which precludes another realization, analogies to many careers and contexts:

‘A prophet is without honor in his own country’ which Chester applies to his life. The statement is validated many times with incident, example and often forgiving magnanimity in what is clearly a Vincentian literary keepsake, to which Vincentians of every origin, race, and position can relate to: ‘The unapologetic quest for success’ the book’s title.

As the opening quote suggests, the traits of perseverance, and integrity, set in an often troubled depiction of Caribbean life, are balanced with a sense of humour and dignified clarity, spiced with specific details of life, culture, history, sociology, spooning four and a half decades. It also offers much insight into the medical profession (right down to terminology and examples) here in the Caribbean from SVG to Cuba.

Two pivotal points presented reflect disunity, prejudices, and the recourse which transcends and dispels these in the end. In the late 60’s, early 70’s, his mother horticulturist Lucy Alexandrina Toney, he says, ‘was sometimes criticized for sending ‘country pickney’ to town school and private school at that. Even some of the most affluent in Marriaqua Valley did not make that sacrifice’. Yet in the same chapter, Toney writes: ‘we (however) shared everything, even knowledge with our peers.’ Later he describes in the advent of hurricane Allen how those neighbors buried the hatchet and united to salvage their lives out of destructive detritus.

I have seldom read a literary work abounding with as much relevant Caribbean (Vincentian) detail as in this book.

There are references to mid-wivery, folklore, horse riding, farming (Chester awoke and worked from 4:30 a.m. – 7:00 a.m. on the family farm before attending school). It refers to the diversity of origin of our people, Scottish, African, Carib.

In Dr. Toney’s co-specialty-alter-native medicine takes into account natural resources of healing available to us here in SVG – Jumbie soursop leaves heated with olive oil – for muscle pain, trumpet bush for a cold, cudjoe root for tumors, Neena bush for diabetes, hypertension, lemon puree for menstrual disorders. He also outlines how natural Vincentian foods saved his family from starvation in hard times – calaloo, cassava, doughboy, dukuna, madongo bakes, etc.

As equally fascinating is the reality of the process involved in a medical scholarship to Marval Fajardo Medical School in Havana. His sojourn in Cuba and the difficulties – financial inclusive – he had there, add to a brilliant attestation of the sacrifices made in 11 years of studies and student life in Cuba, in which he embraces analytically and grows into a sound sense of Caribbean identity.

His troubles with the status quo in terms of the social background of his tertiary education, to the struggles encountered in setting up a practice here in SVG, are described objectively with the final focus being on how the said status quo taught him to be a better person and professional, the end result being a successful ten-year practice.

There is a bit of everything in this work – the depictions of his social, and romantic adventures, personal Caribbean poetry on many topics, including the theme of black consciousness, to a list of favored Caribbean icons including Ellsworth ‘Shake’ Keane, Alston ‘Becket’ Cyrus, Winston Soso, Penny Commissiong, V.S. Naipaul, Bob Marley – with Wikipedia Internet research on those names, education of value is introduced here.

Exciting also is the quest of breaking a Guinness Book of World records title in terms of the successful attempt to do so by his patient Ole George Daniel if only unofficially, and the account of their unsuccessful struggle (reaching as far a New York) to authenticate it.

This is a work of absolute relevance, and catalyst to discussion on our history, culture and identity as a people.