When I entered the press conference at the Chief Secretary's Office recently and saw the Chief Secretary Orville London and the Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism Winston 'Gypsy' Peters sitting together, it felt so good to see two African brothers whose forefathers experienced the horrible middle passage and hundreds of years of plantation brutality.
However, I was disappointed and devastated to know that after discussions, they could not agree on the staging of an event in Tobago which was geared to the promotion of the African arts of steelband, calypso, and mas making.
What in heaven's or hell's name could prevent an African Tobagonian like brother Orville, an ace educator and an African from Mayaro like brother Gypsy, an artiste par excellence from agreeing to stage an event which would be of benefit to thousands of Tobago Africans? Was it the inherited British version of party politics Trinbago style which put a wedge between our brothers, I wondered.
However, when former Tobago News editor Earl Manmohan who is now 'eating a big food' out of the Chief Secretary's office sneaked in a question to Gypsy, certain things became clearer to yours truly. The experienced journalist asked the Minister if he had consulted the churches in Tobago on staging a second carnival.
A few days after the press conference, a press release from the Chief Secretary called on the Tobago Pentecostal Church to speak out on the second Tobago carnival.
Now let us go back to our recent history as it relates to the Plymouth Jazz Festival. A few years ago, there were church leaders in Tobago who raised their voices in protest against the self confessed homosexual Elton John performing at the jazz festival in Tobago.
Nine such church leaders representing 11 denominations objected to Elton John performing in Tobago to Chief Secretary London. According to one of those church leaders, "We were told by the Chief Secretary that there was no consensus among chuch leaders on the matter. As a result of the Chief Secretary pronouncements, we were then subjected to a barrage of criticism for our stand on the Elton John issue."
It is also instructive to note that senior Tobago PNM operative Neil Wilson in commenting on the Tobago pastors' objections said, "Who is without sin, cast the first stone."
Back to the time at present, Carnival as we know it in Trinidad and Tobago is a manifestation of three major artforms, steelband, calypso and mas making while soca and chutney soca are the off shoots of calypso music.
All three major artforms were derived directly from African cultural arts. In Tobago, the population is comprised of over 90 percent African.
However, because of a calculated and more devious, long lasting plot by our neo-colonial masters, our cultural arts have been portrayed as ungodly and evil. This is why it took long and difficult struggles by our conscious brothers and sisters to destroy the evil colonial concepts as it relates to our peoples, art and culture.
Make no mistake about it, those concepts of our slave and colonial masters still linger on in the minds of some of our leaders and peoples hence the reason why the education of our people about the truths of their existence must never cease by those of us who have gained that sense of awareness.
In my own mind, I do believe that brother London must be aware of the value of our cultural arts to our people. After all, he is a historian and one who has experienced the consciousness of 1970. However, it could be putting Party interests and political survival at the blockades to his acceptance of what is before him at present. The idea of a second Tobago carnival could well represent the cultural and artistic freedom which Tobagonian artistes long hoped for one day would come. Take the late George 'Katie' Brown as an example, as a Tobagonian he was an integral part of Tobago.
As a masquerader he was once the King of the mas bands in Tobago. He was a regular member and leader of the Tobago All Stars Steelband rhythm section.
As a calypso lover, he was involved in the promotion of many calypso shows and religiously attended every calypso tent show on the island. He was among those calypsonians arrested during the 1970 uprising. During our time in the jail cells back then we sang calypsos every night to keep our spirits up, and Katie Brown since then was championing the call for Tobago to have its own carnival.
Many of our great Tobago masqueraders such as Wilton Nancis, Earnest 'Beng' Lyons and Curlin 'Hondo' Brooks have all gone to their graves knowing that their efforts to promote the carnival culture in Tobago have not gained the recognition they deserve.
So too some of our great calypso composers and steelband arrangers have never been adequately rewarded for their efforts to keep the culture and art of our people alive. There is not much one has to say about the immense benefit to the Tobago economy from such an event. Almost every business operative on the island will 'eat a big food' from the staging of a second Tobago carnival. Yours truly urges all to get on board and bring on the festival. Remember 'God is in every culture'.
Opoku Ware is
a freelance writer