Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A story worth reading - told by Candice from Laventille

National Security Minister, Jack Warner presented an award to Chantelle Jacob for her success in the recent CXC exams. It happened during a visit to Trou Macaque, Laventille. Attorney General, Anand Ramlogan congratulates Chantelle (Guardian photo)
Good morning.

Thanks to a blackout caused by a tripped breaker, I had no electricity when I got back home last night until just now when the electrician came and sorted out the problem. Otherwise I would have sent off this letter to you long time.

Yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon around quarter past four, I got a call from my macumeh Liz, who lives Pashley Street, telling me the police had organized a community meeting for 5 o'clock, in the basketball court near by the Plannings that got burnt down by that madman last year just before Christmas. 

You remember the fire I'm talking about? People get killed jumping to the ground to escape. They have the culprit in custody but up to now the case ent start yet. I wonder if the police and DPP planning to drag out this cut and dry case the same way they keep dragging out bringing other people before the magistrate? But, that is not what I really writing for. What I writing to talk about is the community meeting I just mentioned.

Liz begged me to come and to bring along my two boys, Justin and Andrew. Justin is 13 and real resembles his father. Andrew is 9, everybody say he takes after me. 

She said I should bring them because since their father was senselessly killed when I was just two months pregnant with Andrew, I had been sticking close to myself, not going anywhere except work, school meetings and church, as I had more or less given up hope on Laventille and Laventille people, so she thought this was another great opportunity to get me out the house with the boys in tow for something worthwhile. 

I was still hesitating, I figured if things were scheduled to start 5 o'clock, it would be dark time it finish, and I not walking up no Wharton Street once sun gone down.

But, you all don't know Liz. She could sell airconditioners to the people living in the north pole and sand to the people living in the desert! I does always tell her she should go up for election, she would do just as good as Kamla. But all she does is laugh. 

When Liz said Jack Warner would be there, that was the clincher, because Mr Warner is Andrew eyeball and, stupid me, I had the cell phone on speaker because I was cooking a hurry dish for my boys at the time, so he heard and start begging me one time to carry him to meet "Uncle Jack".

That in a nutshell, is how we ended up going to the community meeting in Trou Macaque yesterday evening. That is why we reached after it had already started.

The place was full, but a policewoman told us there were some seats to the front and carried us in under the tent. I don't have to tell you how beside himself Andrew was when he saw Mr Warner seated at the head table. 

But I didn't share his excitement because Anand Ramlogan was there too sitting at the head table with Jack. 

I asked myself, what he doing here? This is Trou Macaque. This is African people town and African people business. He too out of place. But, only for the sake of Andrew I whispered under my breath, let me keep my cool, let me stay and pretend. It's a damn good thing I did, because they asked him to say a few words, and what he said stripped me of all sense of self righteousness, which is very strange, since he began with me fully determined to reject anything he had to say.

When Mr Ramlogan got up to the microphone I became immediately curious, because he didn't have any prepared speech to read from, like most politicians do on occasions like that. 

Without looking at me and my kids, the man started talking like if he was talking directly to us. I'm telling you, it was one of the most connecting speeches I've ever experienced, and apparently the whole audience was on the same wavelength together with him. 

I swear, this attorney general could hold his own with any of the great speakers and preachers I've heard or heard of.

He called on us, the parents and the older ones in audience to look at our children differently if we want them to be different. He described how before becoming attorney general, he represented people from Laventille to Cedros in the courts for seventeen years and how he never encountered any person who was on a criminal charge who didn't beg that their children or younger brothers and sisters don't follow the wrong path like they did. 

I still wasn't paying close attention to every word he was saying and every now and then you could hear someone say, Is truth, is truth.

But, it was when he switched to speaking of his own life, that any doubts of the Attorney General's sincerity or relevance to the well being of African people in Trinidad and Tobago disappeared. If anyone had told me before, I never would have believed them. 

Did you know the Attorney General came from a huge family? And when I say huge, I mean huge, he was the sixteenth child in a family of eighteen children and the first one to complete secondary school. 

He didn't hold back, he shared some personal details about his own life to show the young black men and women in the audience that they must never doubt or deny their ability to overcome and succeed in life, despite whatever miserable environment they found themselves in. 

He described how his older brothers and sisters having to learn a trade such as mechanic or technician instead of getting their CXC and CAPE passes. He didn't talk about those things like we do, if you know what I mean? He came across as if well, life gave them lemons so they made lemonade, not fling back the lemons and say the government have to mind us. By that time, I was completely engrossed in what he was saying to all of us.

When he described how his older sister's hands have become deformed from forty-four of sitting over a pot of hot oil frying doubles for sale on High Street, his voice trembled a bit, so I knew at once he probably loves that sister more than all his brothers and sisters. 

At that point, I couldn't hold back the tears. Afterwards, I asked him how old he was. He said forty, so immediately I knew without him saying it, he singled out her life story more than the others, because of his deep sense of loyalty to his older sister and his regret that he couldn't heal her who must have sacrificed to help him become a successful lawyer.

Before going to the meeting, nobody could badtalk Mr Warner for Andrew to hear. Because of Liz, I attended the community meeting in Trou Macaque on Tuesday night, so I am moved to writing this letter to say to Mr Ramlogan, I glad I didn't have the phone on SILENT when talking to Liz.
I'd be happy if you can put my letter in your paper for everyone to read.
Thank you.

Candice Bartholomew-Reyes | Upper Pashley Street, Laventille

READ RELATED GUARDIAN STORY: Warner vows to step up fight against crime

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
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