R. Rose - Eye of the Needle
December 4, 2020
Mixed feelings: Joy and sadness

Given our recent elections it was no surprise that this column focused a lot on political and electoral issues immediately preceding and after the

general elections of November 5. It is therefore quite in order to turn our attention to other, social issues.
However, I crave your indulgence to offer congratulations to the members of the new House of Assembly of St Vincent and the Grenadines, sworn in on Monday of this week. If nothing else this Parliament will go down in history as the first Vincentian one to elect a female Speaker, with another young woman as her Deputy to boot. Special congrats to both of these ladies and a reminder to them that not only will Vincentians be looking forward to excellence in the performance of their duties, but that they owe it to the women of SVG to shine in their performances.

It was encouraging to note the positive atmosphere in which the inaugural meeting of this Parliament was conducted.

This included positive remarks by the Leader of the Opposition which stood in stark contrast to the misguided attempt by some NDP supporters outside to try and detract from the occasion.

There will and must be occasions in the life of the Parliament when disagreement will arise across the aisle, but there does not have to be the rancour and bitterness which characterised exchanges in previous Parliaments. Indeed each Parliament should seek to lift the level of debate and cooperation and to be an improvement on its predecessors, for how else can we “lift SVG higher”?

Our parliamentarians must always bear in mind that they represent the nation, the best of it, ALL OUR PEOPLE. They must as far as possible try to find common ground in the interests of our people and try to work together in our best interests.

In this regard, I was particularly impressed by the remarks of opposition Senator Shevern John, the defeated candidate for the North Windward constituency. She congratulated her victor, the new Deputy Prime Minister Montgomery Daniel, the first of Garifuna ancestry to hold this post, and reminded us all that their common heritage and constituency origins are far more important than partisan political choices. It was the moment of the Swearing-in for me, a solid platform on which to begin her parliamentary career. I wish her all the best.

Joy and Sadness

Prior to the opening of parliament I experienced the very contrasting feelings of joy and sadness. On the bright side there was news that the University of the West Indies is to confer Honorary Doctorates on two outstanding Vincentians, Edgar Julian Duncan for his contribution to Caribbean Science and Agriculture and Franklyn “Frankie” McIntosh for his contribution in the field of music and culture.

The two are among 14 regional icons to be so honoured at UWI’s graduation ceremonies in January. These include a genius in the field of pan, Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, and the renowned comedian, dramatist and storyteller Paul keens-Douglas, of legendary “Tanty Merle” fame.

I am particularly happy that the iconic but very humble “Frankie” is to be so honoured. His musical road outlasts any marathon, starting from his own schooldays. He has lifted Vincentian music to international heights that only the late “Shake” Keane had been able to achieve and his contribution to calypso and soca has helped to both transform and put a stamp on this art form. His arrangements have not only done wonders for his countrymen like Becket, Soso and Scorcher, but he has to his credit arrangements which won the road March title in T&T for the Mighty Sparrow and Calypso Monarch titles for Chalkdust and Duke, both of Vincy ancestry as well.

It would be good if the Nine Mornings Festival Committee would remember “Frankie” and his own musical contribution to the Festival in the days of the fifties and sixties. Fetes were part of the Nine Mornings scene those days and “Frankie’s” band, playing at the Oddfellows Lodge in Middle Street Kingstown, was very much a part of it. It was not just Carnival, Nine Mornings was also touched by his genius.

Conversely, sadness filled the air last week with the news of the death of another local cultural icon, Alexis “Lexie” Joseph. “Lexie” was virtually part of the rock on which calypso development in SVG has been based for decades and his own contribution to it is unsurpassed. In
addition, he was himself an outstanding calypsonian of exceptional talent and skill, renowned for his use of the language, humour and picong to comment on serious social issues.

I agree wholeheartedly with the acclamation of Calypso Association President Earl ‘Cabba’ Bennett that Lexie’s immortal song of 1986, “Ease up Fisherman”, a biting commentary on the policies of the Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell, is one of the best pieces of social commentary ever written or sung.

I was particularly struck by his line, “…your stand on apartheid brittle..” This was in the context of a global thrust to end apartheid which led to the boycott of the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh that year by African and Caribbean nations. Mitchell was considered to be somewhat lukewarm on the total isolation of South Africa, thus Lexie’s characterisation of the anti-apartheid position being “brittle”.
How we will miss him! Rest in peace Brother!

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.