Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Feature: Eric Williams, Sparrow 'celebrated' at Miami lecture

Rawle Gibbons and “Lord Relator” literally brought down the house with their stirring tributes to both Eric Williams and The Mighty Sparrow at the 15th Annual Eric E. Williams Memorial Lecture on October 18th. 

The event was held at Florida International University’s Modesto Maidique Campus as part of its African & African Diaspora Studies Program Distinguished Africana Scholars Lecture Series. 

With a combination of the spoken word and excerpts of Sparrow’s numerous calypsoes – covering the rise of Eric Williams; the history of Trinidad
and Tobago, the region, and indeed, that of the world – Gibbons and Relator skillfully wove the tapestry of the symbiotic relationship between the two men – the one, elucidating his intellectual vision for his country, the other, in a sense, giving it “street cred.”

“One From Ten Leaves Nought, Ten To One Is Murder: Eric Williams, The Mighty Sparrow and the Arithmetic of Caribbean Self-Definition” completely engaged the listeners with its blend of wit, fun, yet serious scholarship. 

The audience frequently sang the refrains of the various calypsoes, utilized to showcase the development of a national and regional consciousness in Trinidad and Tobago, authored by Eric Williams, and parlayed into the language of the street by “The Calypso King of the World” – Slinger Francisco, aka the Mighty Sparrow.

Rawle Gibbons, founding Director of the Centre for Creative and Festival Arts at the University of the West Indies (UWI), and Willard Harris, aka Lord Relator, pointedly made the case for calypso being institutionalized worldwide as a chronicler of history, much as has been done for the West African Griot storyteller, long recognized as a “repository of the oral tradition.” Both addressed the issue of the apparent decline of this form of social commentary, affirming its continued existence and relevance in Trinidad and Tobago at least – the birthplace of the art.

In the lively Q & A that followed Lord Relator, a seasoned Trinidad and Tobago calypsonian, noted for imitation and his ability to sing extemporaneously – “the art of composing impromptu lyrics about any subject, at any time, without previous thought or study” – ably demonstrated his considerable talent by responding to the 165-strong crowd with humorous ditties as questions were posed to him.

The Memorial Lecture, FIU’s first named and longest running, was established in 1999, and honors the distinguished Caribbean statesman Eric E. Williams, first Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago and Head of Government for a quarter of a century until his death in 1981. 

The Lecture is also supported by The Eric Williams Memorial Collection Research Library, Archives & Museum at the University of the West Indies (Trinidad and Tobago campus), which was inaugurated by former U.S. Secretary of State, Colin L. Powell in 1998. It was named to UNESCO’s prestigious Memory of the World Register in 1999.

Media Contact:
Erica Williams Connell 305-905-9999

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai