The diversity of the Caribbean boasted 29 creative representatives from 13 countries speaking in four separate tongues to amplify “Word” the Caribbean Cultural Theatre’s literary book festival on the last day of Caribbean Heritage Month.
Voicing prose, poetry, fiction and non-fiction, the creative talents expressed themselves in word and deed delivering personal and fictional stories, they related in English, Dutch, Spanish and French. Although all presenters were fluent in English, the various accents punctuated every presentation. Puerto Rico’s Maria Rodriguez entreated her audience with a hybrid of Brooklyn Borinqua during a session entitled “Get Up Stand Up.” Intermittently switching from Spanish to English she poetically bragged about her mother’s “cocina” and the New York melting pot which she said is flavored by Caribbean input.
During that same period, St. Lucia’s Hermina Marcellin enraptured an entire crowd with a recitation of politically, enchanting words.
Jamaica’s Ras Osagyefo delighted and excited with “Psalms…” and revelations on the origins of a word denounced as “bad” on his island yet interpreted in West African to be spirited. It is a word, the late Bob Marley & The Wailers collaborator Peter Tosh frequently uttered as an irritant to the establishment there.
Osagyefo said banded about publicly on the Caribbean island, one could be sentenced to 10 years in jail for saying the word “bumbocloth.”
While visiting an African nation, he said he was told the reference is to describe the fabric used to clothed the dead.
Jason S. Price was introduced as the very first Belizean to join the seven-year series of presentations.
For his debut he brought “Weapons of Minor Destructions: Poems From Belize.”
From St. Maarten – “The Rainy Season;” Haiti – “A is for Ayiti;” Trinidad & Tobago – “Freedom & The Cashew seed: A memoir;” Canada/St. Kitts – “Ship of Fools;” and Barbados – “Nowhere Is A Place.”
Although writers from St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, St. Lucia, Antigua & Barbuda, St. Kitts & Nevis, and Guyana participated the Jamaicans dominated the fest.
Their presence and publications manifested in print, art and spoken word.
The island’s first winter Olympic athlete to qualify and compete in the four-man bobsled competition stacked his first book written for children.
Athlete-turned-author Devon Harris engaged his mixed audience to echo “Yes, I Can,” the title of his biography.
In a children’s book he published the same year President Barack Obama claimed the same mantra, Harris detailed in simple words, how he and his colleagues pushed, steered and drove their sled to register the seventh-fastest time in Calgary, Canada when the games were held there in 1988. According to the “Cool Runnings” movie inspiration, the team trained only five months before tackling the icy sport most athletes train seven years to perfect.
In the book, he likened his accomplishment to the brave deeds of Civil Rights activists Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dodgers baseball giant Jackie Robinson.
Books were abundant and inspiration and pride seemed abundant.
“We are working hard to keep the series going,” Ewayne McDonald, artistic director said, “we would love to grow bigger and bigger. Our hope is to show off the best from the region. We are diverse, talented and proud to tell we own stories.”
SLY & ROBBIE COMING TO BROOKLYN METROTECH
Summer is now in full effect and with the season comes plenty of outdoor entertainment – many of them free. The BAM series kicked off early last month with a free lunchtime concert series at MetroTech Commons, on the corner of Flatbush and Myrtle Avenues in downtown Brooklyn. On July 11, Jamaica’s Sly & Robbie are due to delight reggae fans with a few of their Grammy-winning drum and bass lines. The pair renowned as the Rhythm Twins are billed to strum the beats and represent with reggae during the noon to 1:30 p.m. performances.
The outdoor summer series features an eclectic roster of legendary trailblazers along with many emerging musical visionaries of R&B and world music. Past performers have included George Clinton, Maceo Parker, Los Lobos, Jimmy Cliff, the Wailers, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Salif Keita and Blitz the Ambassador.
The series will continue every Thursday until Aug. 8.
Catch You On The Inside!