Yes, I know I wrote about this before, but I have spent a lot of today reading bits and pieces of the new, improved, online Caribbean Review of Books and I need to write about it again.Here's what it has to say about itself:
The Caribbean Review of Books (CRB) is a bimonthly magazine covering Caribbean literature and arts. We focus on reviews of new and recent books of Caribbean fiction, poems, biography, arts, culture, and current affairs, but the CRB also publishes new writing, interviews, and essays on literature and visual arts.
Here's what it has to say about its history:
The original CRB was published from 1991 to 1994 by the University of the West Indies Publishers’ Association in Mona, Jamaica, and edited by Samuel B. Bandara.In May 2004, the CRB was revived by a team of writers and editors based at Media and Editorial Projects (MEP) in Port of Spain, Trinidad. In 2007, the CRB was incorporated as a not-for-profit under the laws of Trinidad and Tobago. Our last print quarterly edition was published in 2009. In 2010, the CRB was relaunched as a bimonthly online magazine.
And here's why you should read it. There's so much to read! Congratulations to Nicholas for putting together such a rich experience, and providing fertile soil in which Caribbean writing might grow.
This is not the crux of Helen's post, but I chose it to inspire people to want to read the whole thing. It's crucial reading.
I have to remind myself to continue making connections, and to look for the triumphant in the stories of disaster, to look for the survivance in them, for the ways people continue to refuse to be victims. I have to remind myself, because on the screen the stories being told are told with such potent images, of the dead and the dying, of the grieving, of those who have lost, and they are almost always brown skin people. And the people with microphones in front of their faces, telling the stories, and the people behind the camera lenses, making the pictures, are almost always beige, pale skin people. Beige, pale skin people who appear magically in these places of such pain, while they themselves appear untouched, able to leave when they want to, to smile even, in the midst of it all.I have to remind myself because I am also beige, pale. And though my socialization is a complex thing – I was raised in a Caribbean country; my way of being in the world, my physical sense of relationship to others is both Africanized and Anglicized and both are rooted in my ancestral Greekness, Greeks from islands, Greeks who were peasants from villages and not aristocrats from the cities – I am still a beige person in a racially polarized society and my imagination is at stake. And what I know is our potential for human transformation depends on our ability to imagine.via The Gaulin Wife: Making Connections.
Before I post this, let me say two things. First, I have been informed by a reliable source (one of the editors) that the Tribune was not responsible for writing the article whose headline I slammed; it was an AP story that they re-ran as the lead.And second, I am trusting that by reposting this I will find someone who will tell me that this is not what my Prime Minister actually said (the emphases are mine).
Ingraham added: "It is not appropriate for us to be collecting goods to send to Haiti because there is no means by which we can get [them] there. The port is in terrible shape. The airport is difficult to navigate. The ground transportation is terrible. The extent to which we in the region can provide assistance in terms of medical support, doctors, nurses, public health, pay for medicine, food, water, whatever it is, we are clearly prepared to do so."via The Nassau Guardian Online
Here's my problem. If this is what he said, the message that our Prime Minister is sending is that it is all right to allow practical impediments get in the way of help. It is OK to let the fact that it's difficult (not impossible, as Miami has demonstrated by getting Channel 10 news crews in and survivors out, or as Jamaica has demonstrated by flying its PM and the leader of the Opposition in) to get planes and boats into Haiti stop us from giving whatever we can. It's OK for us, the wealthiest and most fortunate independent nation in our region, to keep our wealth and fortune to ourselves in this time of great need because it's hard to do something different.I cannot think of a worse message to be sending to a group of people already hidebound by greed and fear. I hold my leaders responsible for setting standards of behaviour. If this is what he said, our Prime Minister just gave his people license to exercise selfishness, to continue to breed prejudice, to continue to choose greed over generosity, to continue to seek the easiest paths to comfort.I hold our leaders responsible for the way in which some of us behave. The stands they take influence the attitudes we display; monkey see, monkey do after all. I am calling on all responsible Bahamians in positions of influence and power to behave as they know we should all behave, to encourage us to make every effort to find ways to get to Haiti, to encourage us to give and give and give until it hurts, to ask us to share our wealth a little more, to ask us to give up a little of our comfort and safety to build true community and nurture compassion with our neighbours. I am calling on all talk show hosts to refuse to allow more hate and fear to infect the air waves, on all politicians to think about what is right instead of what is expedient and to model it, to all teachers to model the highest standards for behaviour, to all administrators to exercise fairness and compassion. I am not giving any of these people a free ride any more; real change comes when individuals take risks. From here on in, let us call them out.
I have often wondered seriously about the American commitment to freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I have often wondered also about the American belief in the principles on which it is founded; it's one of those things that make me deeply sceptical about any action taken by that giant of a country that seems to find it so very easy to draw a line between the rights that it accords its own citizens and the denial of those rights that appears to be routine in its treatment of non-Americans.Below is a case in point.
Google May Hand Over Caribbean Journalists' IP Addresses (Updated)Google said the following in a letter to the TCI Journal last week, as posted on Wikileaks and sent to us by the Journal:
To comply with the law, unless you provide us with a copy of a motion to quash the subpoena (or other formal objection filed in court) via email at firstname.lastname@example.org by 5pm Pacific Time on September 16, 2009, Google will assume you do not have an objection to production of the requested information and may provide responsive documents on this date.
Google has not yet responded to our inquiry asking what the company might do once the TCI Journal does send a motion to quash the subpoena, which we presume it will do. Hiring lawyers in California will likely be an onerous task for a volunteer-run website from a tiny Caribbean island. Journal editors tell us that they hope Google will decide to help them fight the case on 1st amendment grounds.Update: A Google spokesperson sent us the following response to our inquiry.
"When Google receives legal process, such as court orders and subpoenas, where possible we promptly provide notice to users to allow them to object to those requests for information. Users may raise any and all objections they feel are relevant, including First Amendment arguments. In addition, we are still evaluating all our legal options regarding this particular request."
Here's my problem. In small nations like ours, fighting for freedom of speech and opinion, fighting against corruption and special interests and the continuation of the rape of our region by those who can gain disproportionate access to leaders is risky at best, virtually impossible at most times. Victimization is the word we use to describe what has happened in The Bahamas; in the USA it was called blacklisting and it was carried out against suspected communists in the 1950s, and it is pretty widely rejected as being anti-democratic (though the communist ideals and the communist party has never recovered in the USA since McCarthy). No matter what the British response was to the exposure of the corruption of the Misick government in TCI (and the suspension of the TCI constitution is questionable at best, but that's another topic), it is nevertheless crucial that such corruption could have been exposed and dealt with in a reasonable amount of time.Because the fact is that in small nations like ours, corruption can be achieved pretty easily, often simply by presenting leaders with tastes of fancy lifestyles. Large corporate interests from outside the country find it embarrassingly easy to get what they want from our governments, as we have poor records of social protest, weak organizations on the ground, and a habit of factional interests that often lead us to suspend our critical judgements in favour of partisan support (simply put, that means that our attachments to one political party or another, which for many of us are complicated by familial, social, historical and sometimes racial ties leads us to support actions we might otherwise criticize if "our" party was in power, or to criticize actions we might otherwise consider a good idea).This makes it very easy for corruption to take hold. (And if you ask me, I'll say, yes, there is probably an element of corruption of some kind or another -- not necessarily economic -- in virtually every foreign investment deal passed in The Bahamas and, by extension, in the Turks and Caicos; it's certainly evident that our governments here in The Bahamas favour activities that benefit our foreign investors (Miss Universe) while rejecting those that favour Bahamians (CARIFESTA)).The twenty-first century answer -- and it's this that I believe to be crucial to the spread of democracy in the world, and not American bootstamping and shock-and-awe tactics, or free markets -- has been that investigative journalists in small countries can expose and criticize corruption thanks to the virtual anonymity of the internet. This is what the TCI Journal achieved. Whether we agree or not with the British reaction to the exposure of corruption in TCI, the fact that the colonial power took such drastic action is testament to the power of the internet press.Google's action threatens the ability -- indeed the possibility -- for true democracy ever to exist in these, our little nations (and by extension those nations that really really need the anonymity of the internet to fight the physical oppression that they face). I have no doubt that it is being pressured by the kinds of external interests that held the Misick government in the palms of their hands, and that the kinds of resources possessed by investors enamoured of their near-absolute possession of a land and its people, virtually limitless in comparison to those of the TCI Journal. But its inability to see its action as being in contravention of its own constitution -- the constitution of the country that it sets itself up as a beacon for democracy -- calls into question, for me, the ultimate value of America's democratic principles.
It came to my attention last month that our government was planning to postpone, once again, the hosting of the Caribbean Festival of Arts, if it had not yet done so. Announcements to that effect would be made very soon, I was told. The fact that such announcements have not yet been made may make this post obsolete. I rather doubt it, however.It should be no surprise to anyone at all that I think this is a terrible idea. It's not just because I would like to write for a living and make that living in the country in which I grew up. It's also because it's flying in the face of what international agencies focussed on development economics suggest is the place of culture in that development.For those of us who don't know, or who haven't noticed, the world has changed. As I write, indeed, at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, the US President is opening the door for negotiations with Cuba, which, as we all know, is the only viable competitor for The Bahamas' prosperity in the Caribbean region. In fact, it's possible to argue that the only reason The Bahamas has maintained its supreme position in the region has been because the fifty-year long US embargo of Cuba, has coincided with the latest Bahamian boom. But now, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton is visiting Cuba, and the Obama administration is making very clear noises that the embargo will soon be lifted.At the same time, for the first time in almost twenty years, the Bahamian government's plan for prosperity -- foreign investment, foreign investment, foreign investment -- is not bearing fruit. Why not? The reasons are various. Perhaps the biggest is the reason Barack Obama himself gave for changing the way the USA has done business for the past generation or so -- that trickle-down economics, or the spreading of the wealth accumulated by the rich and mighty -- does not work. It no longer works in the USA, which is the greatest nation in the world; and it has not worked in The Bahamas as an engine of development for a country that has not yet invested in itself. Oh, it has done well in providing a couple of decades' worth of get-rich-quick money for a smattering of people. But as we are noticing, where the sharing of wealth is dependent on the goodwill of the greedy, little gets shared. And so our current "wealth" is almost wholly dependent on the goodwill of the foreign investor, who is interested in the people of this nation only as workers -- as block-layers, lifeguards, toilet-cleaners, cooks, drivers, or middle managers who have no ability to affect or shape company policy.It is not foreign investment that economists and development agencies are suggesting is the engine of economic development in the 21st century; it's culture. If you don't believe me, go and look it up. Culture is no longer regarded as peripheral to development. It has been recognized as a viable, resilient, sustainable and renewable source of economic gain. A quick look at any international economic arrangement negotiated since 2002 will illustrate this truth. International agencies everywhere, from the European Union to the Organization of American States to the United Nations to the World Trade Organization, are recognizing the place of culture on the economic agenda.But here, in The Bahamas, for a generation and a half -- the entire time since Independence -- our national policies have been shaped by a group of men and a handful of women whose actions and behaviour cumulatively suggest that they would rather erase Bahamian culture than invest in it.Despite our so-called prosperity, we are the only Caribbean nation that cannot demonstrate our government's pride in what makes us us. Part of this is because Government policy since 1992 has focussed on conning foreign investors to put in infrastructure that (we are told) the government cannot afford. The result? Despite soaring tourist arrivals (and, presumably, soaring demand for authentic Bahamian cultural products), the cultural industries are in effective decline. Those foreign investors in whom we've placed our trust? They don't care whose culture visitors consume, as long as the profits flow to into their coffers. What we should have learned by now is that no people -- or their representatives -- can depend on someone else to develop their own cultural resources. We have to do that job for ourselves.But we don't. The recurrent budget allotted by our goverment to culture, despite all the fussing about a so-called Ministry of Culture and the appointment of Ministers of State, only crossed the $2 million line in the 2008-2009 budget year. The government agency charged with the development of Bahamian culture is not a Ministry, nor is it a Department; it is a Division, which means that even that $2 million is not administered by anybody in that Division. (It isn't administered by the Minister, either, for anyone who remains fooled into thinking that this may be so.) The Chief Financial Officer in any government agency is the Permanent Secretary, or the Director of any Department that has a budget head; and the Cultural Affairs Division is so far away from having a budget head that it would be laughable if it were not so frightening. That $2 million is inscribed in a single line item under whatever budget head the Division is attached to (Office of the Prime Minister (Head 14) one year, Education (Head 38) the next, Youth, Sports and Culture (Head 47) the next). And that $2 million is expected to support festivals throughout The Bahamas, maintain a "national theatre" (which is so far from being either thing that it demonstrates the depth of the contempt that our governments have for us) run a National Arts Festival, finance sundry cultural events throughout the year, and run the $1.5 million festival of Junkanoo.Stand this up against the over $91 million we allot to the Ministry of Tourism, much of which is spent outside The Bahamas. I was once told, laughingly, by a senior official in that Ministry that the budget I was given to work with (that was back in 2004, when the budget was maybe $1.2 million, give or take) was what Tourism managers were given to make mistakes with. We can afford Miss Universe, which will benefit Atlantis; but we cannot, it appears, afford CARIFESTA, which will benefit us all.But it is not Miss Universe, which is a cultural brand developed elsewhere, with economic returns for the owners of the brand that will develop the Bahamian economy.According to international agencies and economists the world around, it is our culture.This is why the planned postponement of CARIFESTA, if it is indeed so planned (and if it isn't, the lack of any progress towards the hosting of that festival in 2010 indicates that a decision has already been made, if not announced), is the terrible idea that it is.I have yet to be convinced that Miss Universe will benefit the Bahamian economy substantially, other than in the collection of departure taxes, which will be funnelled into agencies that spend their monies outside the nation anyway. I am sure it will keep the Kerzners happy. I know, however, that I and mine will certainly not benefit in any way from Miss Universe; nor, I imagine, will most other people in the cultural industries, unless their name be Ronnie Butler or K.B. and unless they be set to open for whatever international giant that comes to perform. I do not think that food vendors or writers or poets or improv performers or even the broad Junkanoo community will benefit in any substantial way from Miss Universe, not to mention the car rental agencies, the restaurants and watering holes on the Bahamian side of the bridge, the small hotels and guest houses, the vast majority of taxi drivers and the tour bus companies not sanctioned by Atlantis, the street cleaners, the road-repairers, the marching bands, the graphic designers, the t-shirt makers, or the film community.These are the people who will benefit from CARIFESTA, however, which is unsuited to be housed at Atlantis, that most inauthentic institution, that theme park for the unsuspecting, which only resides among us, but is not of us. The influx of visitors, and the type of visitors that will make up that influx, will be interested in us, who we are, what we do, and will spend money on what is most Bahamian, will not be conned into overspending on what is fictional at best.And yet (I'm told) our leaders believe that to host the Festival will be a waste of money in the end.I know this much. Economic evidence from around the world exists which proves our leaders wrong. And common sense suggests it too. Our development will not happen at the hands of foreigners; it is in our own hands, and the hands of the governments we elect to lead us. We can read the reports for ourselves, and accept the idea that culture is the economic sector in which to invest for nations that are still developing; or we can share the delusions of our politicians, which confuse the grandeur of the monstrosities the foreign investors build (and usually protect behind gates and bridges and visitor passes) with development of a nation and of a people. We need to make up our own minds. From here on in, it's up to us.
Bahamas Suffers While Jamaica RocksPosted by sally 1 day 23 hours ago (http://www.jamaica-gleaner.com)Category: travelJamaican Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett has announced a 3.4 per cent increase in visitor arrivals for the month of January, compared with the same period last year.Bartlett said the 138,000 tourists who visited the island last month were the largest number of visitors to vacation in Jamaica in the month of January... in any year.The minister was addressing journalists during a press conference at the Ministry of Tourism on Knutsford Boulevard in New Kingston on Wednesday.Bartlett credited the growth to the staging of the annual JAMAICA Jazz and Blues Festival held last month, as well as the intense advertising, marketing and promotion campaign that the ministry had embarked on in recent months, especially for the start of the winter tourist season.Bahamas News Center, my emphasisRead More
There's a tendency for Bahamians and other "sensible people" to express scepticism regarding the value of the arts. Word has it that there's a fairly widespread consensus that the hosting and/or attendance at CARIFESTA is a waste of money and time.
However, there's no similar consensus that direct expenditure on the hiring of international (read Madison Avenue) advertising firms is a similar waste. And yet such expenditure has not borne dividends in the refocussing or development of our tourism industry.
Look at what the arts, on the other hand, is doing for Guyana, traditionally not a tourist destination:
Canadian based Guyanese and other theatre enthusiasts from the Caribbean Diaspora and Canada are receiving a sample of CARIFESTA and at the same time contributing to the Canadian contingent's participation in CARIFESTA X with the premiere of "Sweet, Sweet Karaila."
It's an entirely different demographic from the one we generally target. Is our expenditure on CARIFESTA ($0.5 million to attend this year, and $15-$20 million over three years to host) really any more wasteful than the $12 million we found to engage the new advertising firm this past January?
In one week's time, the Opening Ceremony of CARIFESTA X will be over. We'll be in Guyana, the place CARIFESTA originated, celebrating the festival's return to its birthplace. Guyana stepped in when we in The Bahamas relinquished our commitment to host, and, despite having had only one year to plan the festival in, took the plunge anyway.There's a lot of discussion in cyberspace about whether or not it'll be a success. There's debate, particularly in the Guyanese global community, about whether it's even a good idea to "invite people to Guyana", given all the social and economic difficulties in the country. There's criticism of the CARIFESTA Secretariat in Guyana, there's criticism of the organizers, and it's true that on some levels and in some ways the way in which CARIFESTA has always been conducted continues -- in particular the way in which the festival is promoted globally. On the other hand, though, there's a current of excitement out there that indicates that there's a change in the way this festival is held and perceived. The very fact that there's independent discussion about CARIFESTA, whether the discussion is critical or supportive, indicates that it's no longer the best-kept secret in the Caribbean -- last time, when I began to blog from Trinidad and Tobago, people I knew in the artistic cyber-world had never heard of the festival, which has been in existence since 1972. This time, Guyanese from the diaspora all over the world are at least contemplating attending the festival! This in itself is a step in the right direction. And this time, too, the Bahamian delegation is going to CARIFESTA accompanied by observers, well-wishers and people who are paying their own way to get a chance to see what's happening on the ground, or just to have a slightly different kind of vacation. We're going to be accompanied by officials from the Ministry of Tourism so they can get an idea of what the whole thing is about, and also by some other advisors who can get a sense of what it is we've committed to hosting in 2010.I have no idea what the Festival's going to be like, but the buzz is growing. We'll need to ride it if we want CARIFESTA XI Bahamas 2010 to be a success. I'll blog from there and keep people posted.