Commonwealth Heads of Government…..

He better save his sign

He better save his sign

He better save his placard. Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting takes place in November 2009 in Port of Spain Trinidad and Tobago.

Photo from the collection by David Wears, Sharla Hudson, Georgia Popplewell and QD Ross.

SOLOMON, SIDEWALK AND THE SUMMIT

SOLOMON, SIDEWALK AND THE SUMMIT

10

And Solomon said: Those who remain silent in the face of atrocity are as guilty as those who commit the atrocity.

What does Solomon, singer, entrepreneur, the owner of the beleaguered Sidewalk Radio, mean by this? He means: Don’t just sit and watch. Throw up a hand, speak a word, do something, anything, fling a dinner mint, a leaf. Do anything, except remain silent in the face of atrocity.

On New Year’s Day 2006, Solomon established his community radio station under a staircase at the Curepe Bus Terminal, two feet away from the populous sidewalk. He was granted a license by the Telecom Authority to broadcast on 92.1 FM, for a range of 16 km around his transmitter. The mission of Solomon’s Sidewalk Radio was to highlight that part of society that was not always served by other frequencies, the man in the street, the unknown artiste, and to raise issues such as the constitution, human rights, without chasing after the corporate advertising dollar. Sidewalk specialized in un-sanitized broadcasting.

But Sidewalk Radio soon encountered all kinds of problems, like Sauce Doubles next door, from slight, medium, to hot. First, the frequency of another community radio station began to interfere with Sidewalk 92.1 FM. Solomon appealed to the telecom Authority: the offending Radio station had boosted its power and was operation outside its legally permitted range. Solomon affirms that the owner of this interfering station was a “political favorite” and his pleas to the authorities were ignored; the offending station, on the other hand, was given a license to broadcast nationally. Eventually, the Telecom Authority appointed an arbiter, who ruled that indeed Sidewalk had suffered a wrong.

In February 2006, the Telecom Authority sought to upgrade all community radio stations, except Radio Toco, from community to national status. Community radios were granted new frequencies and given an extension of nine months to set up their amplified equipment and move to their new frequencies. On December 2th 2006, the State issued a summons to Solomon. He was accused of: “operating a broadcasting facility without a license granted by the Telecom Authority.”

Solomon recalls: “I was not broadcasting calypso. I never did in fact. Calypso, in its modern phase, is a circus, used to obliterate opposition and rational thought, a tool of frenzy and political control. I was broadcasting unknown artistes like myself. I was broadcasting a show hosted by Clive Nunez. He was talking No Smelter. I was broadcasting a series hosted by Wayne Kublalsingh. He was bringing experts from UWI to discuss the need for revolutionary change in agriculture, education, land use planning and so on. Before I was shut down, my license seized, this is what Sidewalk was broadcasting. I faced five years in jail and a fine of 250,000 dollars.”

“I remember two days before my license was seized a Government Minister called when Kublalsingh’s program was on. “Is that a paid program?” he asked. I said, “No. This is free un-sanitized radio.”

After two lonely years of battle, Solomon won his case against the State. One man, against the overwhelming authority of the State, against “a bottomless pit of State dollars”, had gained a victory of sound over silence. However, the State did not like this outcome. With nothing to gain but vengeance, it has appealed against the victory of Solomon.

Last Saturday, Drummit to the Summit Saturday, Solomon was down at the St James amphitheatre. He was wearing a plaster over his mouth. He was standing in the pit of the amphitheatre with a tall billboard: TO THE GOVERNMENT OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO. STOP THE PROSECUTION OF SIDEWALK RADIO RIGHT NOW.

Solomon was there to Drum Truth to the Summit. He was there to witness the victory of drums over dumbness, the victory of rhythm over repression. Citizens and community groups had gathered to Drum Truth to the Summit, to expose what was being smoothened over and silenced by the State’s Grand Silencer. The theme of the Summit was in direct contrast to actual State action: economic malfeasance in smelter and steel, social insecurity, ecological ruin on the West Coast, a mad headlong rush towards energy insecurity and unsustainable development. Again, Solomon, along with other Truth Drummers, achieved a victory. A routine event, behind God’s back, far away from the leaders of the Americas, was converted by a repressive executive order, into another defeat for State authority.

Three victories for Solomon against State authority and still the latter would not let Solomon go. This authority means to seize Solomon by the Adam’s Apple and asphyxiate.

But why, we ask Solomon, why don’t you use the national license granted to you and start broadcasting? Solomon replies, with deadly seriousness: “The victory for the Government right now is that I am off the air. But the State has done wrong. We cannot cowardly turn our backs on atrocities committed against us, especially by the State, cowardly saying ‘no big thing’.”

To Solomon, the voice of Sidewalk, of a just and fair media, is worth more than precious ointment, more than all the bible-gold and bible-gems of the ancient world. If we silence this voice, we suffer in biblical proportions: fire, brimstone, riot-squad.

This is the last of this series on the Summit of the Americas. Many thanks to the Sunday Editor and Newsday for the opportunity to write this series.

Dr. Wayne Kublalsingh

(Used with his permission)

Celebrating the Americas

Celebrating the Americas

9

On this Summit Sunday we celebrate the communities, lands and peoples of the Americas. We salute the full tidal wave of 900 million souls, inhabiting every manner of pueblo, village, town, suburban sprawl, metropolis, from the snowy deserts of Alaska, to the Southern tip of Patagonia, Chile.

We salute, especially, those who stitch together their soul-cases, day by day, inhabiting every manner of favela, barrio, slum, ghetto, conventillo, callampa, shanty, all 200 million, living on less than US$2 a day. Soul-cases stitched, with the barest thread of water, electricity, sanitation, sewage systems, health care, education, literacy, communications, transportation, a secure roof and room. We salute the tenacity of the slumdog, the scavenger, the scrunter, the dignity of those, in Sea Lots and Beetham for example, who refuse to be hidden. Who refuse to take basket from the elites.

We salute the rural “masses”, those whom the social scientists call the peasant, the rural poor. We salute their struggle, over the course of the last 500 years, barefoot, pulling hoe and machete, to retake the land. The little farmer, the ejido, those of the Andean Belt, Central America, Mexico in particular, where the son and daughters of the Zapatistas fight wars, generation after generation, are disappeared and murdered, en masse, for a little lot of land. To plant a little maize, potato, bean.

We salute those who have brought succor to the masses. The revolutionary politics of Cuba, which export literacy, medicine, health, revolutionary ideas, which touch the lives, materially and intellectually, of hundreds of millions of peoples.

We salute the Cuban people, for their dynamic struggle against imperialism, racism, sexism. We salute the sharpest sniper against bad ideas, reactionary politics, mistaken values, First World debauchery: El Comandante, Fidel Castro. We salute a species unique to the Americas, the Cuban champion boxer, the counter-puncher, he who knows how to mix it up, speak bibles with the fist.

We salute the magicians of sport in the Americas: Brazilian football, punishing with dance; Russel Latapy, vision not thought; Brian Lara, back-lifter of sixes; Shivnarine Chandrapaul, a craftsman of survival. The Cuban and Jamaican sports programs, producing champions, without weed, steroids, banned substances. The Magic M-Men of North American sports: Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson; Muhammad Ali, who simply refused to go murder, maim, mutate the Vietcong.

We salute the hundreds of ethnic communities of the Americas, all of whom have suffered on the cross of their genes. The great and noble African communities of North America and the Caribbean, biting whip for four hundred years, rising like a faint blue thread of woodsmoke at early dawn to create the Blues, Jazz, Hip-Hop, Reggae, Kaiso. Nailing and sealing a White House, a Slave Mansion, that one day would be overpowered, peacefully, poignantly, by the beauty of an unbeatable gene.

We salute the civilian leaders of the new revolutionary movement of the Americas. The successors of those who have ruled on behalf of narrow sectoral interests: plantation, military, commercial, scientistic elites. We salute the leaders of El Salvador, Panama, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia who mean to bring real social goods, water, food, financial and energy security to their peoples. We salute President Hugo Chavez for his undying mission to bring real energy security, against humungous odds, to the vulnerable states on the planet. We salute of Evo Morales as he labours to bring his native peoples into the modern era: just a little equality in water, land, indigenous industry, literacy, education, political affirmation.

We salute the indigenous peoples of the Americas, the sedentary and tribal civilizations of North, Central America, the Andes, the Guianas and the Amazonas, against whom every manner of mischief has been made: genocide, slavery, neglect, the deliberate grinding down into the dust like worms, millipedes, bugs. We salute their humility, their tenacity, their wisdom, their mythopoeic vision: the rock, the soil, the tree, the lake, anaconda, the cloud and rains are not dead; they are fertile, alive, enduring; they are our blood, our brothers and sisters, we ourselves. We salute the Amazon, the most formidable rain forests left on the planet, the lungs of the Americas.

We salute the rationalist planning model of states like Canada, Argentina, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Chile; they create organized and effective agrarian cultures and spaces for generating protein, carbohydrate, vitamins, ital fruit and nutrients for their peoples.

To Michelle Bachelet and Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the two women leaders of Chile and Argentina, we express our most poignant salute. They represent more than themselves. They represent the struggles of 500 million women of the Americas. They represent the sterner stuff, the fervent battles of all women against those who would silence them, the historical patriarchy of clerics, dictators, hacenderos, caudillos, caciquism.

We salute the beauty of two hundred million children of the Americas, whose lungs, whose brains, whose every organ is deserving of intimacy with alphabets, clean water, clean air, safe homes and neighborhoods, communications technology, nutritious food, freedom from worms, parasites, debauched values and schools which cage and imprison in the name of education.

These are some of the achievements of the Americas. We can no longer afford to be narrowly self-absorbed, provincial, self-satisfied. We must look to the Americas for inspiration, for models, for guidance.

Dr. Wayne Kublalsingh

(Used with his permission)

The IV Peoples’ Summit-My Experience_7

courtesy Colin Maharaj

courtesy Colin Maharaj

A very tired looking Rhea! I introduced Essar Steel of India to as many people from North and South America I could corner. I now know how an insurance salesman feels! Lol . I overcame language barriers to achieve this feat!

The IV Peoples’ Summit-My Experience_6

courtesy Steve Theodore

courtesy Steve Theodore

The auditorium 16th April 2009.

The IV Peoples’ Summit-My Experience_6

courtesy Colin Maharaj

courtesy Colin Maharaj

Wayne Kublalsingh and Sterling Craig taking a break after passing out materials about Essar Steel planned atrocities in Trinidad and Tobago.

The IV Peoples’ Summit-My Experience_5

courtesy Colin Maharaj

courtesy Colin Maharaj

Dr. Wayne Kublalsingh chats with an environmentalist from Canada as I look on. Algoma Steel was the topic of course!