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Media Matters

“Freedom of the press starts at the local level” – so says one of the journalists featured in this TIME Person of the Year video.

The Person is the journalists – some of whom have died, some of whom are incarcerated, some of whom have been threatened, all – of those who are living – doing what journalists do, tell the stories of our times, tell the stories of our lives. The lens through which they tell them varies, as does the intention, the slant, the resources, but those who honour the craft and the role of a journalist are simply trying to tell the stories as fully, as concretely, as honestly as possible. The powers that be wherever they are won’t always like this – they will make moves to discredit or stifle. Coming of age in Antigua, I remember the calypsos sang the stories the journalists couldn’t or didn’t, gave the commentary with a sharpness that the limited (largely state controlled) media of the time didn’t allow.

“now most ah dem against me
take me make big enemy
simply because I am not
what they all want me to be
and with their political views I can’t agree” – Short Shirt/written by Shelly Tobitt

“but ah go sing what ah see
ah go mirror society
culture must be free
they can’t muzzle me” – Latumba/written by Shelly Tobitt

They underscored for me (a young girl who would later become a journalist and a writer, a storyteller) the importance of truth – in fact and in fiction. What is truly at stake, what is the true emotion, what is true about this moment. I do believe that fiction helps us see into what’s really going on, what’s true, I do believe that news should try to give us what’s factual so that we can have an informed perspective about our reality. For me calling the news fake (not because of a legitimate error in reporting, which happens, but) simply because we do not agree with it is one of the most egregious developments in our public discourse in recent years. It puts us in to a space where not only do we doubt facts but we can’t trust reality, we’re all living in our individual realities, and not an objective reality – where the earth is round (there’s not even consensus on that anymore)…because, both sides.

I – having not only worked in media but conducted media training – believe that this TIME choice is important because the media is an important part of any functioning democracy and because facts matter #mediamatters It is for this reason, as well, that I’m re-sharing a post I did on the history of media in Antigua and Barbuda, credit to several sources notably Antigua’s Media: Now and Then by Milton Benjamin. You will note that since the advent of the first press, by Benjamin Franklin’s nephew Benjamin Mekom, Antigua and Barbuda’s long-ish history of activist journalism from Henry Loving advocating for the rights of enslaved people and free coloureds alike in The Weekly Register in the 1800s and losing many subscribers in the process (and being forced to give up the editorship) to Edward Mathurin’s The Progress in the 1940s advocating 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” (yes, they were still whipping people in the 1940s, something I touched on in my novel Oh Gad!) to The Worker’s Voice, the media arm of the Antigua Trades and Labour Union, getting its message re the working class out to the wider public. Also notable, if you read closely, is the use of media by various interests, especially political parties (the red’s Pointe FM and the blue’s Crusader are current examples of this, and that’s before you add the state media controlled by whichever party is in power, as is the approval of radio licenses, and the private media with party affiliations). You will note as well that the vices that trouble our media (foreign content i.e. passive consumption of culturally irrelevant media content primarily from up North, media professionalism – our emerging internet media not listing their publishers and editors on their about page is a concern, and press freedom vis-à-vis government roadblocks and intervention) are hardly new. You may note too the persistent push for independent media and investigative journalism (realities that have not abated, and of which Tim Hector’s Outlet and the Derrick brothers’ Observer are easily the most prominent examples having both fought battles with the powers that be all the way to the Privy Council).

As the TIME story broke in early December, Observer was embattled (again) – and why depended on what version of reality you subscribe to (i.e. they are being victimized by government trying to silent independent media which has been critical of them v. they are being held accountable vis-a-vis their APUA bill and their media license, an issue that has arisen as Observer having been booted from their base of operations and facing other hurdles transitioned to new staff-led ownership as they changed location). Whatever version of reality you subscribe to, there must be some acknowledgment that the cause of a free media requires consistent vigilance. The TIME video underscores how far south things can go if we slip on this point – you may argue that that’s a hell of a leap, and you’d be right …but you’d also be wrong.

I know someone who without the print media and in the days when Observer was silent (off the air as the issues sorted themselves out) was concerned – if something happened to us here on the island, who would know, they lamented. Well, there is social media but point taken. Media matters because (at their best and most responsible) they write and tell, and record in to history the issues, the concerns, the happenings, the facts, the reality, the stories of our lives. Party affiliation (no matter the Party) should not get in the way of us insisting on that.

And as a reminder of how far we’ve come and how bumpy the road, remember you can read  a summary of the history of media in Antigua and Barbuda, read our Antigua and Barbuda Media: an Abridged Record.

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


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Wadadli Stories Q & A

Wadadli StoriesYou’re at the Wadadli Pen blog so, presumably, you know this is the online home of the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize. If you don’t, go here. I promise to stop talking all things Wadadli Pen soon (I know everyone is not as hyped as I am about this) but our Awards are next weekend and, in spite of my other readings and panel at the May 13th Wadadli Stories Book Fair, for me the dopest part of the whole deal (the part I’m most looking forward to) is the Wadadli Pen Awards when we finally get to pat these young Antiguan and Barbudan writers on the back, and encourage them to keep writing and to never ever be afraid of using their voice.

There is, of course, lots more to see and do at the Book Fair and for the rundown we have Best of Books store manager Barbara Arrindell, the person whose idea sparked this entire event. Kudos, in advance, to her for moving inspiration in to thought, thought in to action, and action in to an event I believe the entire community will enjoy. As you’ll see in the interview, there’s something for everyone.

Wadadli Pen: What possessed you to take this on?

Barbara: Many countries large and small have literally events as part of their national calendar of events. There are things planned by government entities and things planned by private groups. In Antigua we have a few activities planned by individuals and service groups and in more recent times there has been a reading day planned through the Ministry of Education but I believe we need more if we are going to encourage our population older and young to read and write more. And the more for me should show the fun side of reading.

Wadadli Pen: On the point of fun, in today’s world of addictive video games, social media, and Netflix bingeing, how can you (and by you, I mean, parents etc. and you the organizer of this event) convince kids that reading books isn’t just this chore they have to suffer through in school? In what ways does this event try to showcase that reading is not only fundamental but fun?

Barbara: We are having celebrity readers. Hopefully, these will be some names and people they know. We are hoping that the message that comes across is that if these “cool” successful people read and have come here just to read to me. Then maybe reading really is cool. Also we hope that they will be exposed to books beyond what they use in the classroom. We come across little people from time to time who have no books in their home other than their school books so they associate books only with school work.

Wadadli Pen: What goes in to organizing something like this? Tell us a bit about how the sausage gets made?


Barbara: Hmmm. Everything we do starts with making a decision to see it through to the end. If a lead organizer is lucky he/she finds a few people who share the vision and are willing to work as a team to make it happen. Contributing what they can and doing what they can. No exception here. So an online call was made for such people and two face-to-face meetings were held. Beyond that most of our organizing was done via WhatsApp. We’ve been lucky to have a few people like Natalie Clark and Marissa Walter who have been able to reach out to their contacts to get much of the physical  things we needed. Marissa was able to secure bathrooms from Island Sanitation and tents from Digicel. She also reached out to our onsite vendors Bobby’s​ Treats, the Sunshine Ice Cream Man and Brydens. Natalie negotiated with ACB [Antigua Commercial Bank] to get use of the parking lot [note: the event venue is the ACB Parking Lot on St. Mary’s Street], she communicated with the police and EMS to have them on hand. She reached out to the youth empowerment centre to borrow some of their resources and to the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium. We have Louis Rivera and his team. skellihoppersThey created our logo and have done much of the design work for our online promotion. Many other people worked behind the scenes. Sonja George is coordinating our 18+ Erotica tent. Glen Toussaint and team are pulling together a Comi-Com tent.

erotica comic on.png

We have Jeriann George pulling together our celebrity readers. JerryAnn Francis working on our Jolly Phonics parents and teachers demonstration session. Mona Gardner of CHATS [Center for the Holistic Advancement of Therapeutic Services] and Dr Jillia Bird will be there conducting free screening. Dr. Bird will focus on sight. She will be testing young people 18 and under, while Ms. Gardner will be looking for things that have an impact on speech and the way we learn to read and process. She will see patients 0-99. She encourages parents to bring out their little children and have them tested if they suspect that there may be something going on that may stand in the way of their child learning. Sometimes understanding is all that is needed so that parents know how to proceed. The earlier the better, she says. And she wants to see adults because it is never to late to improve a situation. She also encourages people who have experienced a stroke or any injury that may have affected the brain to come and see her. This screening is FREE. in office these consultations could cost $200.


Wadadli Pen: How much are you looking forward to this… to be over? And as the person who publicly resigned her post as Independence Lit coordinator during the awards ceremony  with an open letter challenging the Minister to hire a lit arts coordinator and get serious about the year round developemnt of the lit arts…how would you like to see this activity go forward beyond May 13th?

Barbara: I’m still annoyed at the fact that with all these highly educated people floating through our political landscape we have not seen fit to appoint someone to take responsibility for coordinating events .. as part of our culture .. you know the way we have a dance coordinator and a music person and pan ..And so much more. I get annoyed each month when I get an invitation from a government office in Barbados inviting me to participate in an activity and perhaps less frequently from almost every Caribbean space ..EXCEPT Antigua and Barbuda. I’m annoyed when all these people ask me for an hour of my time​ saying they are consultants with the government working on propoals to bring literary arts to the forefront in Antigua and Barbuda and then not a damn thing seems to happen. I’ve had two such interviews this year alone… and for the record I’ve blowm off a few others because I’d rather spend my energy doing rather than talking.

And on to Barbara’s final thoughts.

Barbara: Oh I haven’t mentioned our history and discussion corner featuring a talk by Keithlyn Smith author of To Shoot Hard Labour and a talk by the Reparations commission. I also haven’t mentioned our self development sessions and panel discussions. The first by HaMa on screen Writing. hamaThen a session on moving your manuscript forward by Joanne Hillhouse and Chadd Cumberbatch. Then a session on business and inspirational writing by Chrys Ann Ambrose and Dr. Dave Ray. We’ll also have an international publisher on hand from Harper Collins UK who is flying in from the UK to coordinate our primary and secondary school spelling Bees 17854813_10154497215021188_8497364273538347535_oand will be joining Joanne and Chadd’s panel discussion hoping to meet potential writers (primarily teachers interested​ in contributing to text books but authors in general).

And even more final thoughts.

Barbara: When I look at this event in it’s entirity ..the whole thing is dope. It is being promoted as “Wadadli Stories ..more than words”, yet we are starting off with a sort of academic thing A Spelling Bee because our Wadadli Stories do usually start with words so we want our young people to have command of our words and our language. But the event unfolds into so many unusual and interesting events. People walking around in costume as Comi-Com fans staking their claim in the literary world dispelling the idea that comics aren’t books… Our writers of Erotica ..saying we may not be for the young ..but we have a time and place … Our political figures ..our radio and TV hosts ..our musical stars our authors our artists ..our everybody .. getting involved.. now that’s cool. .and then we bring it to a close with the Wadali Pen writing challenge awards ceremony. We are happy  to host this awards ceremony within Wadadli Stories because it is a celebration of dedication and commitment by the coordinators and the teachers  who get it and know they need to encourage  participation in writing challenges. We  celebrate Wadadli Pen for providing young promising writers with an opportunity to flex their writing muscles for so many years. We are going to have little children and big grown men and women and everyone in between having a great time with “the word”… and we are doing it on the day before Mother’s Day and we hope that people will remember those who mothered the word in Wadadli… people like the Hart Sisters and Nellie Robinson … and many others ..people who ventured down their own path ignoring people who didn’t understand their methods.

Thanks to Barbara; sounds like it’ll be a busy and productive day, but also lots of fun. See you there, Antigua.  You, too, Barbuda.

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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Wadadli Stories – Teaser

Wadadli Stories logo

Mark your calendar – Saturday 13th May, 2017 from 10am to 8pm, St. John’s City.

Ways you can participate…

Volunteer to assist
Buy-in to help cover costs
Help spread the word
Come out to support

p.s. We know you’re waiting for the results of the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize 2017 Challenge. Well, like we said at the top, mark your calendar…

For more on the Wadadli Stories book fair or to contact the organizers, visit
the Wadadli Stories facebook page


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From the Mailbox – Jewell Parker Rhodes

Jewell Parker Rhodes is a past Wadadli Pen patron. This just in, or recently in, news of her Louisiana Girls Trilogy.

The Louisiana Girls trilogy from award-winning author Jewell Parker Rhodes brings together three heroic girls from across history. These coming of age books tell the stories of Lanesha, Sugar, and Maddy, each living in Louisiana during a time of crisis, and each finding bravery within themselves in the face of overwhelming adversity. Steeped in the folklore tradition of the American deep south, this trilogy celebrates the power of friendship and family, and demonstrates how anyone with enough strength in their heart can change the lives of those around them. All three Louisiana Girls books are now available in paperback.

Bayou Magic

It’s Maddy’s turn to have a bayou summer. At first she misses life back home in the city, but soon she grows to love everything about her new surroundings—the glimmering fireflies, the glorious landscape, and something else, deep within the water, that only Maddy sees. Could it be a mermaid? A coming-of-age tale rich with folk magic, set in the wake of the Gulf oil spill, Bayou Magic celebrates hope, friendship, and family, and captures the wonder of life in the Deep South.


Slavery is over, but ten-year-old Sugar doesn’t feel very free laboring in the fields all day. When Chinese workers are brought in to help harvest the cane, the older River Road folks feel threatened, but Sugar is fascinated. As she befriends young Beau and elder Master Liu, they introduce her to the traditions of their culture, and she, in turn, shares the ways of plantation life. Sugar soon realizes that she must be the one to bridge the cultural gap and bring the community together. Here is a story of unlikely friendships and how they can change our lives forever.

This is the one she contributed to the Wadadli Pen Challenge prize package, and because one of the winners was a Cushion Club member, the club got an opportunity to read and enjoy it as well.

Ninth Ward

Twelve-year-old Lanesha lives in a tight-knit community in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward. She doesn’t have a fancy house like her uptown family or lots of friends like other kids on her street. But what she does have is Mama Ya-Ya, her fiercely loving caretaker, wise in the ways of the world and able to predict the future. So when Mama Ya-Ya’s visions show a powerful hurricane–Katrina–fast approaching, it’s up to Lanesha to call upon the hope and strength Mama Ya-Ya has given her to help them both survive the storm. Ninth Ward is a celebration of resilience, love, family, and friendship, and a deeply emotional story of transformation.

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Mailbox – Caribbean Cultural Theatre

Caribbean Cultural Theatre is a New York based organization involved in the business of organizing and promoting activities in celebration of Caribbean arts – and especially Caribbean literary arts. I’m on their mailing list, and recently this one came in.

“Do you remember title of the first novel or poem by a Caribbean writer you ever read (had to read)?  It most likely happened during primary school. Probably the first time you realized that someone who looked, acted; sounded like you could actually be in a book!
We really would love to know what was the novel, or poem, and why it was so memorable (after all these years)”

I couldn’t think of a SINGLE book. Does calypso count as a poem? Because I grew up listening to tons of those, and now in my grown up years as a writer and workshop facilitator have used calypsos from my childhood like King Obstinate’s Wet You Han, a story in calypso form, when discussing character, setting, atmosphere, dialogue, and more in workshops. I’d been introduced to Caribbean fiction, I think, through Anansi and village/true life and jumbie stories (informally, at home and in school) and short fiction (in school) – I remember this one story about a snobbish girl named Millicent who lorded her privilege over her peers, but I don’t remember much else about her; I remember reading Miguel Street which, I think, my older brother who was already in secondary school at the time, might have been studying; I remember enjoying excerpted stories from Michael Anthony’s Year in San Fernando; I remember reading a Selvon (one with a character named Tiger, not Lonely Londoners which would later become a favourite) over the summer – and really digging the writer – only to have them drop it from the reading list by the time the school year rolled around; and I remember Annie John – I was in Antigua State College by the time I read this one (it wasn’t being taught but outside of class we were discovering this and debating her other book A Small Place) and maybe this was the transformative one because by then I already knew I loved to write but couldn’t even begin to form the words to say I want to be a writer – and though it didn’t happen as it does in movies, a sudden and sharp epiphany, but this story of a girl I recognized from a world I knew by a writer from Ovals, a community right next to and much like my own Ottos community, my consciousness started to turn to the idea of it, that maybe writers could come from where I’m from and tell the stories I had dammed up inside. So maybe allahdat is the answer. Not a SINGLE thing but a progression. I feel like I’m forgetting something crucial but that’s what I have for now.

Anyway, I decided to share E. Wayne – that’s the CCT’s artistic director’s – email here and I figured you could share your stories with him as well. So I decided to ask him what the purpose was. He replied that he wasn’t sure-sure, just that he was “hoping to do something around:
•Life-long learning/reading
•A trajectory of Caribbean (young readers) literature (c. 1950 – present)
•Getting parents introduce kids to Caribbean (young readers) literature (both old and contemporary)
•For our WORDFest (June) or Brooklyn Book Festival (Sept)
•Might be a one-off or a season-long project
•Prob have live, online and archival components”

So, there you have it. If you have a memory to contribute, email him: caribbeantheatre@yahoo.com

Don’t post them here, eh, send them directly to him. Cool? Cool.


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, Fish Outta Water, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my pages –  WordPress, 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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Stories Handed Down

Friends of Antigua Public Library – NY, Inc. Presents

Stories Handed Down

2014 Short Story and Visual Arts Competition
Deadline: October 24th 2015


Students are invited to interview an Antiguan/Barbudan elder, and submit a story about “ole time days” in Antigua & Barbuda. For the Visual Arts component, students are asked to submit a piece of artwork that illustrates either a story handed down, or portrays the storyteller.

This year’s prizes include:
First Place: Note book computer;
Second Place: Digital Camera;
Third Place: EC$100 gift certificate to Best of Books.



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Read and learn

Did I mention this before? Did you check out the winners of the Commonwealth Short story prize? If you love to read, they make for good reading. I haven’t read all of them yet but I really like the two I’ve read – K. Jared Hosein (Trini massive!)’s ‘The King of Settlement 4’ and ‘Light’ by Nigerian writer Lesley Nneka Arima. These were among the regional winners – overall winner yet to be announced, I believe. So far, I’m rooting for Kevin (yes, the Caribbean to the worl’!)… but seriously not just because he’s from the Caribbean but because I really like his story. Wishing all finalists well though and, here’s the thing, if like me you’ve entered this competition or plan to again, read…not to mimic… but to be reminded of the effort it takes…and to prime yourself to keep trying.

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, DancingNude in the Moonlight, Fish Outta Water, Musical Youth, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you share this list, give credit; if you appreciate the service, 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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