Tag Archives: Barbuda

Arts and Antiguan-Barbudan Independence: a Discussion

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October through to November 1st (Independence Day) is Independence season in Antigua and Barbuda. Of course, if you’re Antiguan and Barbudan, you already know this; and if you’re a blog subscriber, you’ve already seen the 2017 Independence programme.

This post is about some back and forth that first erupted on social media and then made its way on to traditional media concerning the Harriet Tubman activities – three of them on the programme. The gist of the criticism was that Independence should spotlight Antiguan and Barbudan history and that while Harriet Tubman – a hero who shepherded many blacks to freedom in America – was not without relevance to a majority black country with its own history of enslavement and rebellion, the workshops and theatrical production (reportedly proposed by the Leonard Tim Hector Memorial Committee) would have been a better fit for Black History Month while Independence focused on our own icons. I do think the media should have sought (or maybe they did and it wasn’t reported, or it was reported and I missed it) the perspective of the group that proposed it. But the only official explanation came from the Culture Minister, Chet Greene, who was quoted in the Daily Observer media as saying, among other things, “There are no plays that are written on the lives and works of Nellie Robinson, George Walters and Prince Klaas King Court…The offer that was made to us was on a play, which has value to a Black Civilization; value at a time of rebuilding and uniting, and value in exposing our young people in terms of who we are in time and space…I would want to throw an invitation out to some playwriter, or poet in our space, perhaps, for next year or as part of work beginning now, to seek to provide short plays or skits on the lives and works of Antiguans and Barbudans.” The Minister in particular rebuked Senator Aziza Lake, herself an artist, activist, and media producer, for a facebook comment in which she was quoted, in the same article, as saying, “Tubman is an African American hero who risked her life to free slaves, but she has no place in the country’s Independence celebrations with three separate events.” His quoted comment: “Harriet Tubman’s name is an important name in the history of Black people. And to make an issue of having her name surfacing at Independence time, at Carnival time, or at any time of year in Antigua and Barbuda, by someone who is supposed to be a leader of the nation, it really is disconcerting…When I see comments like that coming from persons like the good Senator Aziza Lake, it makes me wonder if people are aware of their own history. I find that she is just using the opportunity to make mischief.” The article also quoted Carol Hector-Harris, an African American journalist, as saying, “I really appreciate the fact that Harriet Tubman is going to be included in this year’s Independence celebration. In the States, we look to our Caribbean brothers and sisters to celebrate a variety of things in our history…And every achievement that is made by our Caribbean brothers and sisters, we consider them to be our achievement too. And the achievements that we make are your achievements too. We are the same people. We just got off the ‘ship’ at a different port.”

In a follow up article in the same paper, creative artist Alister Thomas pushed back. He was quoted as saying, “There should have already been commissioned individuals who could write the history of this country. There should have been various publications as far as the personalities who would have made contributions from slavery, colonialism, post- colonialism to independence. That would have been helpful…I don’t think we should be, in 2017, saying that we do not have drama featuring local personalities who would have made invaluable contribution to our development, our growth and where we have progressed from slavery…These things should have been an integral part of the education system from first form and even from pre-school. We need introspection. Those things should have already been in motion.” He did not seem, as reported, to object to the inclusion of Harriet Tubman, remarking that “It (Independence) is traditionally the time of year when the nation and its people seek to celebrate its accomplishment from post-colonialism to present. But if a decision is being made to feature a Black personality, who would have made an invaluable contribution in writing our history, I could not be critical of it in any sort of way…I would have preferred [however] that personalities here…, because there are Antiguan and Barbudan descendants of slaves here who are not featured who should be featured, not just at Independence time.”

I then received a call from Big Issues, a Sunday news-discussion programme on the paper’s sister station Observer radio. That panel, hosted by Kieron Murdoch, also included playwright and novelist Dorbrene O’Marde

Dorbrene O'Marde

Dorbrene, also a calypso writer, publisher of Calypso Talk magazine, and biographer of calypso legend King Short Shirt, seen here presenting at a 2007 Calypso Association conference.

 

visual artist and former Culture Director Heather Doram

Exif JPEG

Heather Doram, 2005, as Culture Director at the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize awards.

writer and book store owner Barbara Arrindell

Barbara Arrindell

Barbara Arrindell, pictured here at the 2012 Wadadli Pen awards ceremony is a Wadadli Pen partner, former coordinator of the Independence Literary Arts Competition, playwright who has written and produced a play on national hero King Court/Prince Klaas, and the author of The Legend of Bat’s Cave and Oher Stories and Antigua My Antigua.

and me
Joanne C_ Hillhouse
I didn’t want to be a part of any bashing of Harriet Tubman or of the group which reportedly proposed the project, nor of discrediting our intersection as black Caribbean people with African-Americans, but I did have opinions on the role that arts could play in our society and in our Independence (I have been very vocal on this site on the ways in which arts could be better served and used in service in Antigua and Barbuda). The latter was largely the focus of the conversation. Here are some excerpts (I would have liked to share the audio clip of the entire programme or transcribed all of it but this is the best I could do in the time I had and within fair use boundaries):

Heather Doram
“I’m a firm believer that we need to be pushing more of our own, we need to establish who we are as Antiguans and Barbudans, we need to support…all of the artists a little bit more…and those persons should be supported to produce (pieces on local culture)… I don’t think we have touched the tip of the iceberg yet when it comes to us digging in to our culture, our history.”

Barbara Arrindell
“Let’s take one of our national heroes Prince Klaas, I know of three plays that have been written in the last 20 years about him…but in general these pieces that we’re looking for should be encouraged and commissioned by the government and the best opportunity to do that would be independence, when better…we need to be celebrating these people so that our young people understand who we as a people are, that we are not Americans, we are not, we are Antiguans and Barbudans, (and) we have a proud history and heritage.”

Joanne C. Hillhouse
“I do feel that Independence should be specific to our journey as Antiguans and Barbudans. But I don’t want us to take that to mean that we’re not a part of the broader global community, broader African diasporic community. For me, Harriet Tubman is somebody who I respect and admire, I think she’s iconic. I do take issue with that being the central theatrical production of our Independence when we have, as Barbara just said, several plays that have been written, no commissions that have gone out for these artistes to produce these plays, because art is expensive, and this is the thing that is missing from the minister’s comments, this understanding that artists toil day and night in Antigua and that the greatest gift you can give an artist is time. Time to write, time costs money because artists have bills just like everybody else…putting on productions costs money and a lot of the time the artists are doing what they can but then they need someone else to help them get, whether it’s grant funding, whether it’s state commissions, whatever, to help them push things across the line, but artists are creating in Antigua every day. I remember a few years ago attending a street theatre production put on by the Antigua Dance Academy…it was a production centred on the story of Prince Klaas…it was our story…I don’t know that a production like that couldn’t have a place in our Independence.”

Dorbrene O’Marde
“Just to go back a bit, the whole idea that nothing exists, the 1972 Antigua Carifesta production was a play called the Legend of Prince Klaas that was written by Oliver Flax…we have Rick James Exif JPEG…who years and years ago… staged a one act piece about Olaudah Equiano, and I think he enlarged that subsequently and did a large production in the King George grounds… (Montserratian) David Edgecombe just within the last three or four years wrote and produced a piece called Book-Front-Cover-Lady-of-Parham-300dpi-184x300The Lady of Parham about the human tragedy surrounding the legend of the ghost of Parham; so material exists, and even though material doesn’t exist in …theatrical form…we’ve had a large number of writers in this country who have written biographies…or have put together a whole set of stories…there’s a lot of material that if the festivals commission or the whole ministry of culture etc. was interested, and let’s assume that they are, in really getting these things on stage…there’s space for leadership here, there’s space for commissioning such works, there’s an opportunity, a golden opportunity to support the writers in this country…we need to give that credit to understand the process of writing and to understand the challenges that we as writers face in this country…there is material there, converting the material to stage is, of course, the challenge and that is what needs the support of the commission..”

Heather Doram
“My feeling is that I have lived under several administrations and I really do not get the feeling that there is that widespread support for the visual and performing arts…you just use them when you need them…we do not even have a national gallery in Antigua and Barbuda so we the artists are there producing work in sort of isolation. I’ve seen it in many other countries where the national gallery would commission work; this sort of spurs the whole generation and activity of work and then the artists start to feel that sense of involvement and that their art work can actually support them…the same thing I’m sure applies to the literary artist…something like the cultural development division should be that nexus of that sort of leadership, this is where the cradle is…I would really like to see more support for the arts generally.”

Barbara Arrindell
“It has survived so far without the support of government… or with very little support…but it’s surviving, not thriving…you have people like the Reverend John Andrew Buckley…the first black Moravian minister anywhere in the world, and he came from Antigua…you have Elizabeth and Ann Hart…free coloured women who helped first established the first system of education for enslaved people…in the hemisphere…the building at Bethesda…these sisters got people who had to toil all day to come out at night and early morning to put up this structure so that their children could have an opportunity for education, how could we not celebrate them. …let’s say she’s the subject of our next independence…we’re talking about building up our knowledge base, our understanding of who we are.”

Joanne C. Hillhouse
“What’s missing a lot of the times… is continuity…and that will continue to be missing if there’s no master plan; and development, you can invest in a major prize or you can invest in the development of the arts…literary arts development is not an annual competition, it is day to day programmes in the schools, in the communities which foster creative thinking, which foster the imagination, which then bleeds in to other things…if we had ongoing programmes utilizing the artists in the community…then we could say we’re actually having continuity, that we’re having investment in the development of the arts. I know, because I have and I’m sure others have to, have made proposals and have seen those proposals fizzle or stagnate and go nowhere…not only have the artists been doing, but the artists have been proactive about proposing things and those things have gone nowhere. So I do think  that we could be doing a lot more in terms of not just the big show pieces but in terms of actual investment in the development of the arts, in utilizing the talent that we had here on a continuous basis.”

Dorbrene O’Marde
“We’re definitely not doing enough…you talk to groups today and mention Tim Hectorbuhlebook…in schools, the name is not know; what he does has not been heralded…my interactions with young people…points to this particular void…history clearly is the subject of interest here, that we know who we are…the decisions about where we’re going will be made on the basis of that knowledge…if you understand the history of how we came to own these lands…then we wouldn’t behave the way we’re behaving, for example, with our land…”

Heather Doram
“I think a government has a responsibility number one, to help develop these skills in the population…I don’t think in our developing of our young people we can just focus on the academic…and wouldn’t that (art) really enrich the lives of our people…I don’t think we’re developing these well rounded individuals…we need a balance.”

Joanne C. Hillhouse
“When Heather was culture director…I remember her starting a national collection where she commissioned pieces featuring Antiguan and Barbudan icons…what has become of that? What has been the continuity with respect to that national collection?… things like that, like you can have someone with a good idea start something

monarch

This painting of Short Shirt by Artist, part of the ‘national collection’ was included in this Carnival 50 anniversary anthology, which I edited for the Daily Observer.

…things happened before but there was no continuity, so if there’s no continuity it’s like you’re starting from scratch every time someone gets fired up and passionate about something so that’s the whole point…if you have that continuity then this person’s efforts will connect with that person’s efforts and we’ll have progression instead of starting from scratch every time…one of the things I do on the Wadadli Pen website is I have a project where I record the books that are put out and the plays and the songs that are put out by Antiguan and Barbudan creatives and there’s no shortage of stuff in the last 10 or so years, there’s a lot of people just feeling inspired and doing their own thing… there is stuff happening independently by artistes who feel inspired and creative but not by any system that’s giving them foundation or supporting their efforts.”

Barbara Arrindell
“Nellie Robinson, Dame Nellie Robinson is listed somewhere in our history as being the first chairperson of the artists association of Antigua and Barbuda, but so is a lady named Elizabeth Pickney…back in 17something… I found one in the 18th century too… we’ve had an artists association here many times and it’s been so far apart that each person thinks of themselves as the first chairperson of… in terms of history, there’s a book called A Brief History of Antigua written by Brian Dyde. Brian Dyde wrote brief histories for about four or five islands around the Caribbean, if it was five, four of them are still in print, guess which one is not in print, the other four were taken on and used in the school systems in the other islands, guess which one they couldn’t even sell one print run for…?”

Dorbrene O’Marde
“We must be thinking about the journey that brought us to that point in 1981…what does that mean to us…1981 is really just the start of a journey, the start of a process…the discussion we’re having here is the absence of guidance from our institutions, the ministry of culture…what independence in this particular world means, what it must mean, how we protect it, and the role clearly that artists, those of us on this panel, that artists have in doing that, that that role must also be encouraged, must also be supported, must also be helped, be guided in many ways…this is where we must be.”

That’s just some excerpts and here’s some post chat coverage in the paper:
22414442_10154684584571148_1867804070_n

And that’s that. Or it was, because now (October 20th 2017 update) there’s this our country I saw this play when it was staged in the King George V grounds in 2007 – I remember thinking it was quite ambitious, especially as James was the only cast member (really) with professional theatrical background and given that it spanned pre-Colombian times to the then present. If you missed it, this is an opportunity to catch a screening of it inspired, I understand, by that Big Issues episode; so that’s something.

Oh, one last thing, on the Observer programme, I mentioned that you could find here on this site the open letter read by Barbara Arrinell when she resigned her post as literary arts comp coordinator at the 2011 awards ceremony, the last time any type of literary arts anything (to my knowledge) was held during Independence until last year when there was a lit arts forum and an essay competition. There is no 2017 lit arts activity – apart from the Harriet Tubman workshops and play listed on the programme – and no visual arts activity apart from the fashion competition and show. You can, of course, double check the link to the programme linked earlier in this post.

I think that’s everything.

p.s. the slide show at the top is some of the works produced or co-produced – and/or projects with which they were involved – by the panelists quoted in this post.

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Wadadli Pen founder and coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out http://jhohadli.wordpress.com Please note that, except otherwise noted, images on this site also need to be cleared if you wish to use them for any purpose. Thanks.

 

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A & B Arts Round-up – October 4th 2017—>

November 26th – December 2nd 2017 – Caribbean Secondary Schools Drama Festival 2017. Details here.

November 4th 2017 – In Celebration of Ourselves, Our Journey, and Our Stories To Be Told – a writers’ workshop organized by Just Write. Details here.

October 26th 2017 – 7:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. – The Legacy of Prince Klaas – an educational digital presentation – Museum of Antigua and Barbuda.

October 22nd – November 1st 2017

Independence programme  22008119_961084467363254_3152077473436315934_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Antigua and Barbuda Media: an Abridged Record

Primary source: Antigua’s Media: Now and Then by Milton Benjamin (published in Volume 13 Number 1, Spring 2007 of the CLR James Journal: A Review of Caribbean Ideas, a publication of the Caribbean Philosophical Association) CLRand (as a secondary source) Talking with Whom? A Report on the State of the Media in the Caribbean by Aggrey Brown and Roderick Sanatan published 1987 (noting then, grave concern re foreign content, media professionalism, and press freedom). A little additional help from internet resources like Wikipedia, the World Press Freedom Report, Freedom House, the Daily Observer, the Observer Court of Appeals docs, and Censorship: a World Encyclopedia (2002, Derek Jones). These are arranged not as they appear in the respective publications but in an attempt to capture the chronology. Bolds and italics are mine. – JCH, site admin and Wadadli Pen founder; plus trained media practitioner, author, and freelance provider of writing, editing, and (written communication and literary) training services

“a tradition that dates back at least to the first third of the 19th century when newspapers were a salient force in advocating political change in Antigua. Back then, the written word in the form of newspapers and pamphlets were the primary means that activists used to galvanize public opinion to their cause.”

The Antigua Free Press, the first newspaper was introduced into Antigua by Benjamin Mekom (Benjamin Franklin’s nephew).”

One of the earliest newspaper editors and publishers was Henry Loving “born a slave probably in 1790 but was manumitted at the age of nine (9)…” – “Along with Nathaniel Hill he had founded The Weekly Register in 1814 to press their cause and argued in it that they (free coloreds) were Englishmen and should not be treated in an inferior manner.” – “Shortly after winning complete civil rights for the free colored (1832), Loving pressed for the same treatment to be extended to slaves but not all of the free colored were ready to back that project…In fact, two members of the Loving inspired Committee of Correspondence, David Cranston and Peter Walter, were so incensed with Loving for his position with regard to the slaves that they wrote to the planter’s newspaper, The Herald Gazette disassociating themselves from the Committee and from support of the abolition of slavery. The Herald Gazette had been instituted in 1831 especially to rail against the Loving and Hill Weekly Register. Because of the abolition controversy, the Weekly Register lost so many subscribers that Loving was compelled to give up its editorship in 1833 (to G. Hart, another free coloured). The Weekly Register continued to be published until 1839 when Loving ceased its publication.”

“It is noteworthy that there always seemed to have been at least one nonwhite newspaper editor during the post emancipation period…(Hart) also published the Antigua Almanac and Register 1843…the Antigua Observer was founded in 1843 and was being edited by A. B. Hill…The Antigua Times was established in 1851 by an American named Fred S. Jewett…It was purchased by Paul Horsford…in 1872…After Paul Horsford died in 1878, The Times was taken over by Messrs Macmillan and J. H. Hill, but it then closed down. The gap was filled by the Antigua Standard in 1874; and from the early 1890s until about 1908, was owned and edited by Joseph Theodore Thibou…by the 1890s, the Observer was owned and edited by still another former free coloured, Daniel W. Scarvillle….By 1909 The Antigua Standard had been sold to Allan Husband Nurse, a Barbadian who renamed it the Antigua Sun…The Sun closed in 1922…”

1931 – “Joseph A. N. Brown used his own money to inaugurate The Magnet newspaper…and hired Harold Wilson to be its editor.”
WINMP1312
1940The Progress newspaper “editor Edward Mathurin, a printer…” – advocated (sometimes unsuccessfully for) improvements in working conditions on sugar estates e.g. reduced work day and equal pay for women in the sugar estates, end to whipping on sugar estates, and end to share cropping.

The Antigua Star newspaper made its debut as the mouthpiece of the sugar and estates barons, who were, in effect, the ruling class in Antigua and Barbuda up to that time in the early 1940s. Mostly white and of European descent…”

“… radio (came) in the 1940s. Antigua and Barbuda was not to be left behind, though the number of sets was limited to individuals who could afford to purchase a set that could bring in stations that broadcast in the shortwave bands. These included the British Broadcasting Service and the Voice of America. These were the main outlets from which people got their information about what was happening in the world beyond them. Sometimes the cable services would post printed news items in specific locations so that interested individuals could go and find out what was going on in the region and beyond. But through it all, the local newspaper was the main focus of political debate.”

1944The Workers’ Voice “(A publication of the Antigua Trades and Labour Union) with Musgrave Edwards as its editor” started publication – “organizations that were engaged in politics accepted that to get their message out to a wide and increasingly sophisticated audience, they needed some kind of publication.” – other early editors included Rolston Williams, Novelle Richards (1948), George Walter (1958), and Milton Benjamin (1960); and McChesney George (A View from the Ampitheatre by Onlooker) was a contributor.

“Only with advocacy journalism as practiced in The Magnet, The Progress, and The Workers’ Voice…was the horrendous treatment of the underclasses begun to be addressed…”

“In 1956, Antigua got yet another political newspaper. Rohan Henry, a distinguished lawyer, put together a political party which he called the Antigua National Party (ANP). He launched a newspaper, The Anvil, to propagate the views of the ANP; the editor was Musgrave Edwards.”

Late 1960s, Henry’s next publishing venture was The Antigua Times (coinciding with his new Antigua People’s Party) – Bridget George Harris was the editor.

ABS TV…began telecasting in 1965 as ZAL-TV. ZAL-TV was owned by a private company then, and served Antigua on Channel 10…The station was run by an expatriate management and staff, and was affiliated with another television station in Bermuda…in the mid-1970s, because of severe financial problems, the television station was eventually bought by the Government of Antigua, and re-named ABS-TV.”

1995

Me, just back from University of the West Indies in 1995 and reporting on ABS TV – this was The Year in Review year-end broadcast.

The Outlet newspaper (founded 1968, edited by Leonard Tim Hector), (became) one of the most influential newspapers ever published in Antigua and Barbuda (associated with the Antigua Caribbean Liberation Movement)…The Outlet exposed many instances of corruption…” – “In its heyday Outlet claimed a circulation of around 5,000 copies, thus being the most widely read newspaper on Antigua. As of the early 1970s, Outlet and Standard (which appeared on irregular basis) were the sole opposition newspapers in the country…Exif JPEGDue to its criticisms, Outlet was often targeted (the offices were raided in the 1980s and the publication faced off against the government in court more than once, and in the 1990s its building was attacked by arsonists)… Hector died in 2002 and publication continued for a short time after his death.

“Not to be outdone, the fledgling Antigua Workers Union (which started in 1968) brought out its own organ to disseminate its views in the form of The Trumpet newspaper, stenciled sheets of paper, with a lawyer’s clerk, Theodore Dunning, as its initial editor.

Cable Television, a privately-owned company, began operation in Antigua in the latter half of 1983.” (non-local, primarily American content)

(in the 1980s and early 1990s) the surviving papers were The Worker’s Voice, the Outlet, and the Nation’s Voice (out of the Government Information Unit) – Local radio in the 1980s was dominated by ABS Radio (government-owned and run)and  ZDK (privately owned, by Ivor Bird, son of Prime Minister V. C. Bird Sr. of the ruling Antigua Labour Party) – beyond that there were Caribbean Relay Station, gospel station Caribbean Radio Lighthouse (plus whatever regional stations we could pick up – like GEM which was then popular among teens- JCH).

“…The Daily Observer was founded in 1993 and it is now published from Monday to Saturday…As (co-founder) Winston Derrick disclosed…because he and (brother) Fergie (Samuel Derrick) had a desire to publish, and Winston owned a computer, both he and his brother started the Observer newspaper by fax. Now the grand daddy of current Antigua newspapers…”

Observer

Antiguanews
“In 1997, (American businessman) Allan Stanford established The Antigua Sun newspaper and subsequently followed it with the sister publication the Sun Weekend, each in color.” (Both are now defunct and Mr. Stanford is a federal prisoner in the US)

Observer Radio burst on the scene in the year 2001.” – “Journalism in Antigua and Barbuda has not been the same since then. That decision freed up the radio airwaves once and for all.”

“Prior to the coming of Observer Radio the airwaves in Antigua were dominated by the Government broadcast services in radio and television (i.e. ABS, GIS), and by the private radio and television services (i.e. Cable TV, the lone cable TV service and Grenville Radio/ZDK) owned by the Bird family, the family which dominated politics in Antigua and Barbuda for almost half a century…”

When Observer Radio first started broadcasting “the editor and publisher were arrested for operating a radio station without a license” (note: the paper, like the Outlet, and subsequently the radio station has also been sued multiple times by government and/or government ministers).

“On September 1 1996, the appellant, without the requisite license, commenced broadcasting over a telecommunications media in Antigua called Observer Radio. On the second day of the broadcast, the police arrived with a search warrant…and seized various pieces of broadcasting equipment.” – per Observer court of Appeals docs – a business license and a telecommunications license had been sought; the former granted while the latter dragged for more than a year. Observer won Privy Council appeal related to this case in 2000.

“It’s a truism that Observer Radio would not exist but for the fact that the Observer Group had to go through a lengthy and expensive court process to get a license to broadcast, because their original application for a license to set up a radio station was denied them by the government …It was the Privy Council in London, Antigua and Barbuda’s court of last resort that compelled the Government of Antigua and Barbuda to grant the license to the Observer Group.”

“The Observer Group also maintains a sister radio station (Hitz FM) …(which unlike the Observer Radio talk format) plays mainly popular music…”

“…the first flagrantly political radio station, Crusader Radio, opened up its channels in the year 2004. Crusader began broadcasting explicitly on behalf of the United Progressive Party (UPP), the opposition party.” UPP (whose previous battles with the ruling government for access to ABS TV/radio are also a matter of public record) became the ruling government for two terms after 2004.

The opening up of the airwaves, traceable to the Observer Radio case, a faultline in Antiguan and Barbudan media, is credited with expanding the talk radio format and shaking up the political landscape.

On the subject of press freedom, Independent watchdog group Freedom House gives Antigua and Barbuda (up to 2017) a 34/100 rating, dubbing it “partly free”. And in a November 3rd Daily Observer article, the editor writes, “Antigua and Barbuda is indeed a peaceful place, but it is not immune to the anti-media wave that is flooding the world…”, citing name calling, threats of physical violence, online trolling, financial pressure, and property damage as some of the hurdles faced by some of its media workers.

Post-note (from memory so forgive any oversights/errors, please): Clearly many of the publications (several like the Sentinel in the late 1980s/early 90s (?) – started by Vere Bird Jr., News Pages Antigua in the 2000s edited by Timothy Payne, and others, as well as magazines like Woman’s Place 1990s (?) edited by Iva Williams David, Business Focus Antiguapage_1 and Essential edited by D. Gisele Isaac, and others, and online publications like the Antigua and Barbuda News Source i.e. sourceAB.com – both Source and Essential in the late 1990s/early 2000s are publications I was involved in starting along with other enterprising media people) have come and gone – at this writing, there are only two daily papers, the Daily Observer and Caribbean Times caribbean-times-65th-issueboth with online components, as well as purely online publications Antigua Chronicle and Antigua Newsroom (sidebar: it is of some concern that no masthead is easily found for these online publications indicating, as print would have to, who the editors and publishers are). There are also several annual tourism publications. Radio is much more populated with the likes of RedHot, Vybz, Nice FM, and others – all also online – lots of music but post-the launch of Observer Radio lots more talk than ever before, lots more freedom to talk – and consequently a rise in loose talk; and while local TV is still primarily ABS, there’s been marginally more local (film and TV) content (via independent producers such as HAMA – see here for more on film content) but also an explosion of foreign content thanks to cable offerings from Flow TV and CTV; and, of course, there’s the endless internet (touristic and otherwise) landscape where new content creators stay creating, though there remains a need for more grounded, well-sourced, verifiable research, documentation, and accessibility (to said research and documentation) of all areas of life in Antigua and Barbuda (as we try to do with literary arts here on this site).

As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Fish Outta Water, Musical Youth, and With Grace). All Rights Reserved. Seriously, a lot of time, energy, love and frustration goes in to researching and creating content for this site; please don’t just take it up just so without even a please, thank you or an ah-fu-she-subben (credit). If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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From the Mailbox – Concerning Barbuda

Ben Rainey contacted me shortly after the passage of hurricane Irma and its decimation of Barbuda. He wanted to do something; a feeling all of us can relate to at this time – especially factoring how many of our neighbouring islands and countries have been hit between Irma and Maria (and the conflicting feelings of urgency and helplessness this can induce). As a related sidebar: remember this post linking ways you can help Barbuda and others affected this hurricane season (another sidebar: let us as Antiguans extend continued compassion to the people of Barbuda, empathy, and our ears and support re their future and the history and future of their land). Okay, sidebars over; back to Ben and the initiative he has taken to help our sibling island. After some back and forth with Ben, I decided to share it here because of its arts-driven nature (given that Wadadli Pen is and remains a community-focused arts project, here to nurture and showcase the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda…and on this occasion an opportunity for the literary arts to step up and help Antigua and Barbuda). Read on.

Ben Rainey

Ben Rainey.

 

From Ben Rainey:

‘A humanitarian crisis’ – so PM Gaston Browne has said is developing in Antigua, with the entire population of Barbuda forced to seek refuge on the larger island. The prime minister’s rhetoric has become increasingly fiery over the weeks since the hurricane (hurricane Irma), as he travels from the UN (United Nations) to music festivals in the USA, seeking to raise both funds and awareness. Climate change is real, and needs to remain at the very top of the agenda.

The authoring of crises to serve the wealthy is already endemic in the Caribbean. Structural adjustment programmes, such as those offered by the IMF and World Bank, are often predicated on debt crises themselves originally manufactured by the same organizations – hence PM Browne’s heartfelt plea to the UN. Barbuda, however, represents a real challenge to the consensus of debt-as-freedom – an island which is one of the longest running modern projects in genuine mutual aid and common ownership in the world, and not to mention a pioneer in climate change research, given the Blue Halo initiative and all it represents. To allow these achievements and insights to be overwritten for the sake of quick dollar would be a grave mistake and a travesty.

If there is anything we can do from London to effect and help the people of Barbuda with preserving what they have, with not losing it to prospectors and investors, then we owe it to them. To that end we are starting a journal, ‘Reef’, aiming to feature poets, writers and thinkers from both the Caribbean and London – of the diaspora and beyond. Barbuda needs the solidarity of all who refuse to consent to erasing the future, and who believe in the power of poetry, art and words to effect change. If you would like to submit any poetry, writing or thoughts, please send them to:

reefanthology@gmail.com

As this is a grassroots effort we are aiming to keep overheads minimal, and will be printing on Risograph; so a few guidelines:

● 300 words max for poetry/500 for prose
● Feel free to submit multiples, but we may only be able to accept one piece per writer
● First rights are unimportant, we welcome poems previously published
● We cannot offer payment, but will provide all contributors with a subscription to the journal as it develops
● Deadline October 5th.

We’ll also be having a promotional night in Clapton, north-east London on the 6th of October, to present the project and more importantly show our support for the preservation of Barbudan life for the Barbudan people. Poems submitted to the journal will be read out on the night.

Pending investigation, all profits from both of these efforts will be sent directly to the Waitt Institute’s Barbuda fund – you can find details, as well as a full transparency statement, at: https://donate.icfdn.org/npo/barbuda-recovery-conservation-trust-fund

Please join us – to speak, sing, dance and most of all shout our support for those who have lost their homes and who we will not allow to also lose their way of life.

x

About Ben Rainey: Originally from Antigua, Ben Rainey is a student in Linguistics at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, UK, with an interest in creole studies and pragmatics – specifically, metaphor and reality and where they meet – and where he also works on Grambank, an international project documenting grammar in languages from around the world. When not studying he co-runs the art night and radio show ‘voice of god’ , looking at ways to talk about the invisible in art, as well as producing music as äkeä and playing in punk band Business Lunch.

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Mailbox – Barbuda Aid

I don’t know how many more of these I’ll be sharing (this is an arts site after all), but I really do want to make sure that we don’t lose sight of the fact that many islands and countries (like our own Barbuda) have a long road to recovery ahead. Support is needed. So, when a series of releases re support via USAID hit my mailbox, I elected to share some of them. The releases are specific to Barbuda but this fact sheet – 09.09.17 – USAID-DCHA Caribbean Hurricanes Fact Sheet _3– provided information about several affected islands and countries. Our heart goes out to all affected, and we have already provided on this site  hurricane relief links relative to Barbuda and other parts of the Caribbean.

Here’s the first and last of the messages I received (to date) from USAID post-Irma:

USAID LENDING ASSISTANCE TO STORM-RAVAGED BARBUDA (September 8th 2017)

USAID GENERATORS

Emergency Generators Donated by USAID.

 

The United States Government, through the United States Agency for International Development’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA), is providing assistance to the Government and people of Antigua and Barbuda following the recent passage of Hurricane Irma. Working in partnership with Antigua and Barbuda’s Red Cross, the United States Government  will provide US$100,000 in immediate disaster relief for essential relief items including mattresses, bedding, hygiene kits, kitchen sets, kits, and clean-up equipment.

The catastrophic category five storm decimated the smaller of the twin-island state, damaging 90 % of its buildings and leaving the country “barely habitable” before continuing on its destructive path across the region. A USAID/OFDA assessment team is expected to be on the ground in Antigua next week to conduct further assessments to determine what additional assistance is needed, following the passage of Hurricane José.
USAID/OFDA is continuing to monitor the impacts of ongoing weather systems, and has deployed response teams to countries in the projected path of the storms. Disaster experts are prepared to conduct damage assessments and provide immediate assistance to affected countries as soon as conditions permit.

USAID supports a number of international NGO and UN partners in the region that are equipped to immediately provide assistance to hard-hit areas. As the U.S. Government’s lead federal coordinator for international disaster response, USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance is coordinating with disaster officials in the region, as well as with U.S. embassies in countries that could potentially be impacted by these storm events.

***

US SENDS RELIEF FLIGHT TO ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA (September 14th 2017)

Photo by Ricardo Herrera USAID-OFDA _3

A Relief Flight from Miami, containing key assistance commodities including tarps, blankets, hygiene kits, kitchen sets, water containers, and chain saw/clean-up kits, arrived in Antigua and Barbuda today.

The shipment is part of the United States Government’s ongoing assistance to the storm-ravaged twin-island state, still reeling from Hurricane Irma, the category 5 storm that severely impacted Barbuda last Wednesday, September 6, 2017. This assistance is being coordinated through the United States Agency for International Development’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA), and in collaboration with Antigua and Barbuda’s National Office of Disaster Services.

Today’s flight included several essential items not available in-country. This relief flight follows a U.S. $100,000 award donated by the United States Government to the Antigua and Barbuda Red Cross for assistance to those affected by Hurricane Irma.

A five-person USAID/OFDA Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) was deployed to Antigua and Barbuda on September 11, 2017 to conduct a needs assessment and explore potential for further assistance.

As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Fish Outta Water, With Grace, and Musical Youth). All Rights Reserved. Do not re-use content without permission and credit. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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A & B Arts Round-up – August 26th 2017—>

September 8th 2017 – 21192001_10155565130254373_7294598830576358023_n

September 3rd 2017 – 2 p.m. New session of Let’s Paint Antigua at Russell’s Bar and Seafood Restaurant at Fort James, Saint John’s, Antigua and Barbuda (go to their facebook page for more)

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Calypso Battle

Update again (July 25th 2017): This story has been fast moving so this update may already be dated. But last I read, Queen Ivena was being told she had to either remove the ‘offensive’ lyrics or lose her spot in the semi-finals (which went by last weekend), and last I heard she opted for door number 2. This may be the last update as I don’t want to get too deeply in to this as this space belongs to Wadadli Pen (maybe at some point, I’ll write about it on my own blog), but the writer and journalist and free thinker in me is disturbed. It’s one thing for the PM to follow through on his threat to sue for defamation (though honestly I’ve heard calypsoes more scandalous than this one e.g. – this calypso did call names and I was a child but I remember adults lapping up each line). It’s quite another thing, if the reports are true, for the body responsible for staging the calypso show to deny a calypsonian access to the platform given to calypsonians to sing their song (in a matter that has not yet been ruled on in the courts, to the best of my knowledge). This seems to be a harder line than the Carnival Development Committee took in 2010 when, in response to legal action involving objectionable lyrics by another artist, it reportedly said, that it can only advise an artist not to sing the song, not compel them to. Banning an artist from the stage feels unprecedented (stand to be corrected on that but I remember, through the years, even artists banned from the radio got to have their say on the stage). If the court rules that libel or slander has been committed, that’s one thing (it’s a risk). But this precedent (i.e. the Festival Commission’s change your lyrics or else you won’t get to perform), once set, can potentially affect not only the single artist but the art form as a whole (the internal pressure calypsonians and writers in general then feel to not offend and how that then re-shapes what they produce and dilutes the role of the calypsonian and the artist in our society). This concerns me as a writer and as someone who through Wadadli Pen pushes the literary arts (among which this site has consistently counted calypso) as an avenue for expression.

Update: According to the Daily Observer newspaper, Saturday 15tth July 2017, Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne has followed through on his threat to sue former Calypso Monarch Queen Ivena. “Queen Ivena was served on Thursday with a copy of the claim filed by Rika Bird & Associates on behalf of the Prime Minister,” according to the Paper. He reportedly claims severe injury to his character and reputation. The singer, based on the report, remains resolved not to change her lyrics (per his demand) as the song makes its way through the elimination rounds in the singer’s 2017 Calypso Monarch competition run.

At this writing, this posting of the song, ‘Nasty‘, is at over 7500 views and counting with majority up-votes/likes and user comments: e.g. “this is real calypso”.

ORIGINAL POST

A bit of context: There’s a calypso, by Antiguan and Barbudan Scorpion, which declares ‘Calypso go call Your Name’, and that has always been a hallmark of the art form, a folk music tradition that gained prominence as the voice of the people in a time when other platforms for free expression were not available. If you check our lyrics data base, you’ll see that speaking truth to power (via social and political commentary) is something calypso prides itself on. It does so via lyrical masking (symbolism, metaphor, pun, double entendre etc.). Just as often, though, names are called, and the cut is sharp and pointed. Ivena, who became, in 2003, the first female Monarch (as calypso is still a male dominated field), is the self-declared Razor Lady and has landed some cuts in the past. Usually politicians, often the villains of calypso, take it in stride, an alleged radio ban here or there, not to mention allegations of rigged calypso competitions; the chatter gets loud (to understand how loud you’d have to understand how topical Carnival is in season, across the Caribbean, summer in Antigua, and how intrinsic the voice of the calypsonian is to Carnival even with the popularity of soca), but lawsuits are rare. However, rare is not the same as never, and here we are. We try to stay out of politics here at Wadadli Pen, but we’ve covered calypso, an oral literary art form, on this site, including posting song lyrics, song writer credits, and artiste profiles, including this one on Ivena. It seems only right to share this local calypso battle, especially as it’s specifically over lyrics, and has now gained regional attention.

Antigua and Barbuda’s The Daily Observer reports on the possible legal battle between Prime Minister Gaston Browne and calypsonian Lena “Queen Ivena” Phillip if she does not change a line from her song, “Nastiness” [also known as “Nasty”]. The article does not quote the critical content, but you may check it out on YouTube. Queen […]

via “Queen Ivena” gets ready for battle — Repeating Islands

As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Musical Youth, With Grace, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved.

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