Thursday, October 13, 2011

The world in a fishbowl - Feature Address at the graduation ceremony St Stephen’s College, Princes Town October 5, 2011

The world in a fishbowl
Kris Rampersad
Feature Address at the graduation ceremony
St Stephen’s College, Princes Town
October 5, 2011

Chairpersons, Bishop, Archdeacon, Principal, Board of Management, My former teachers, Teachers and Staff and my teachers - I see some of my teachers here, some whom I recognise and forgive me if memory fails and I do not recognise others –
Special guests, and people of the moment, you the Graduates
Friends: and two special ones – Vimlah and Judy - who came through the years to this day believe it or not, we only reconnected a few months ago since we left school.

We will decide later if I should thank you for this opportunity to speak to you today later… but I begin an apology – my apologies for turning down several other requests over the years – and to several other schools as well. Apart from never genuinely having the time – as you see, life leaves little space for so much, I also did not feel I was ready to address such an audience.
I have shied away from speaking to this school or any other graduation classes in the past, because I sincerely believe that to be asked to give the feature address at a graduation ceremony means that one has something of significant value, some unique wisdom to impart to graduates and teachers and parents and attendees. In making such a request, it is as if the school is passing over its enormous responsibility to the speaker, saying we have done our bit, we are letting them out of our doors now, and we are asking you, the speaker, to give them one last lesson.
It seems fitting that this, my first address to schools, should be to my alma mater. Yet, over the last few weeks I was in a quandary in trying to decide what to say.
Happy World Teachers Day!

I could have spoken on the theme for today, World Teachers’ Day 2011, Education for Gender Equality, because there is so much to say and do on how we need to rethink education, and how we define success and failure. But it didn’t seem an adequate subject to bring to you, the 2011 graduating class of St Stephen’s College and my alma mater.
When I told one of my nieces of this dilemma, of not knowing what to say, her immediate advice was, “Go to the internet. Look for something someone has said at a graduation.” (I am sure that would have been the suggestion of many of you as well?)
To the now generation, that could actually have resolved my problem of finding something to say today. The internet seems the source of all things for most of you – the answer to all ambitions and dreams and aspirations to becoming rich and famous and fabulous.

But, if I were to turn to the internet it will be not as just the source of the information but as the subject of my talk. For after acknowledging that the internet is indeed a great source of knowledge and a remarkable networking tool, I would have to gently - or harshly - rebuke those who see it as the source of all things; the remedy for all ills; the solution to every dilemma; the sum all knowledge. I could easily take you through an exercise I have had to take many of my students through and point out the high price of lifting material off the internet – the millions in lawsuits that it has cost some.
And then, fitting nicely into the theme I have been given here today - Conceive. Believe. Achieve - I would have explained how all the information on the internet – every single bit of it – was conceived by someone; they believed that it might be of value to someone else and so they put it on the world wide web; and some did this so successfully that they became instant millionaires.
And then I would ask you to think of why do we tend to think of the internet mainly as a source of things we can use, as consumers, rather than as a place where we can present ourselves as creators, and inventors and generators of new ideas and new products and new knowledge?
Why isn’t our first, instinctive, initial response not what we can take, but the things we can conceive of and create and place on the internet to form someone else’s source of information… so instead of thinking in terms of taking something created by someone else and presenting that to the 2011 graduates of St Stephen’s College, why don’t we first think of how we can present something that is an original creation, that you or I or someone else may think is worthy to be placed on the internet because it is new information, or can be an inspiration for someone else - an original piece of work, conceived and designed and articulated just for this occasion?
The internet may be many things to many people, but at the end of the day, it is only a receptacle of the ideas of all of us. If we were to all go there to source ideas we will really be creating nothing new, just recycling and regurgitating the ideas of others and in effect, we would have contributed nothing to the march of progress or the development of our world, not so?
Well, that’s the direction a talk on the internet would have taken if it was to be the subject of my talk today: why don’t we think of ourselves as originators, as creators, as inventors, as conceivers, rather than just users and consumers, takers and extractors?
And that little discussion on the internet, some of you may realize, has provided the introduction to the topic I was asked to speak on today – Conceive. Believe. Achieve – to which I would add to more small words, connect and confidence.
While the internet has become, it seems, so essential to our lives, and a lecture on understanding how we may use it to serve us as a tool, not as a replacement to our minds, may perhaps be timely and beneficial counsel for you - our next generation of leaders and thinkers and activists and educators and economists and businessmen – on a day like today, it still did not seem the subject I’d choose for this my first formal address to my old school.
For after my initial admonition to not adopt ideas wholesale from the internet but use it as supporting props in generating your own; after my coaxing you to instead focus on adding your original thoughts and creations to this global storehouse of knowledge; after my urging you to believe you can create your own virtual portal as a keyhole to the globe and develop your own apps; and after I provide tips and examples by which you may become overnight billionaires, what else would there be to say?
The dilemma remains. What final lesson can I impart to these students who went to the same school as I did, who grew up in the same locale like I did, who in essence may not be much different than I am, save the few, few, few years that separate us?
It was clear to me that the answer must be in that – in the difference – in the few years that separate us, for who wants to hear about the very similar experiences in the school and in the uniform that most of you are this minute just now counting the seconds to shedding at long last!
So what can I draw from the few years that separate us? What bit of wisdom can I relay that you can take away and take out and reflect on that can comfort, or reassure, or inspire in the years ahead?
Shall I invoke an inspirational line from Shakespeare, or Walcott or Naipaul or Selvon or one of my other favourite writers to whom I go time and time again when I am searching to the exact word that will capture some profound meaning? That comforts? That inspires? And that encapsules the enormous promise and potential of life?
Shall I recall a favourite scene from a movie or play that provided inspiration at a particular time and from which you too might receive such inspiration?
Shall I play a strain of music, like from the Walcott musical, Steel which I promoted and worked on with the team of the Trinidad Theatre Workshop in 2005, that you can replay over and over again in your mind in the years to follow that may fill an empty moment and which may sum up the reason and meaning of our being that gives us the fillip to go on when all else fails?
I dismissed each of those in turn. Much like the suggestion of taking something from the internet, they seemed too much like drawing from second hand knowledge and talent and skill, and that would be cheating, stealing, plagiarism, not so - if I were to attempt to share something that was not my own?
Anyone can do that. Surely that would be an insult to the efforts of those who had been trying to get me here over the years.
So what could I bring here today, to share with you that was my own, of my own making, which I can hold up as an outcome of being a former student of St Stephen’s College, of this district, of this region?
What can I bring from me to you? My dilemma persisted. I’m sure this is beginning to sound to you like the never-ending story. I must confess, temptation stepped in, and ‘taking something from the internet’ seemed a nice easy way out.
And then my eyes fell on this fishbowl that sits in my living room -- except, it is not used as a fishbowl. It contains no fish, no water, no substrate, no seaweed nor ornaments, no pump pushing up bubbles in relaxing gurgling murmurs.
In it are just some rocks, pebbles rather, none much more than a few cubic centimetres. And, they are not pretty rocks. They are nothing like the decorative kind you can buy in a store to put in an aquarium. They hold no particular mineral value. They are not oil bearing, nor are they evolving diamonds, nor rubies, nor even that tantalizing purple-blue tanzanite that are fetched from the volcanic depths of Mount Kilimanjaro. Furthermore, these rocks do not reflect my interest in geology, nor science, nor earth history, nor business, or any of the world’s mysteries.
Their shapes suggest no essential eye-pleasing forms or structures of nature that might stimulate architects into constructing lofty edifices of human civilization like that grand architect, Gaudi, and his monumental tributes to the art of nature that dwarfed any conception of achievement one might have as one stands in their presence in Barcelona.
Non-descript greys and browns and whites, the rocks in my fishbowl without fish do not even have aesthetic value. They do not resonate with colour or sparkle like those that built the Taj Mahal that may attract the painter’s eye, or the poet’s imagination. They do not carry hieroglyphics as the markings in caves in Africa, India, or Central America. And they certainly have no commercial value. They were not bought, nor would they be sold in a shop. Any visitor may easily overlook them, and at most, curiously ask, where are the fish, and why doesn’t the bowl contain the usually colourful substrate one finds in fish bowls? An unsupervised person might easily toss them away, as my neice has threatened to do on many a cleaning occasion.
In fact, my fishbowl of rocks is of little value to anyone, other than me. And that value is, it struck me, that they are actual representations of the time between when I sat where you are sitting, and now, as I stand here, speaking to you. They are a collation of experiences in the some 45 countries and almost 100 cities of the world on whose soils I walked. (It reminds me of something someone had scribbled in my school’s yearbook – ‘good girls go to heaven; bad girls go everywhere’. I have been everywhere, it seems, though from a calculation, 45 countries is only a fraction of the some 198 listed countries of the world, so there is still a lot of world to discover).
While your eyes may widen at the thought and your mind question whether it’s possible – 45 countries, about 100 cities, and in such a short time frame – most within the last decade, I still gasp in disbelief with another thought: such a big world to be reduced to such small numbers.
In the process of trying to formulate this address, my eyes fixed on the rock-filled fishbowl, without fish, and then on one of the rocks in particular. Nothing really marks this one out from among the other rocks: no label, or identification, but it was one I recognised into which I have injected my memory Athens, Greece.
It took me back to the moment at the ruins of the amphitheatre at the foot of the Temple of Delphi at the Acropolis in Athens. I had desperately shuffled my agenda to take in a concert of a Japanese band, singing Grecian folksongs - in English.
(That’s multiculturalism for you. We do not have the monopoly on that as much as we would like to think although we do have some unique elements of it.)

As much as the thrill of that experience of visiting Athens was in fulfilling the original intention – of delving into the heart of western civilisation, thought and literature - it resonated another thrill: of being in a Grecian amphitheatre and with that came an upsurge of memories of a place, not too far away from here, and morning assemblies in its outdoor amphitheatre. The school, our school was built like a Grecian amphitheatre - we found that out (Vimlah, Judy, didn’t we?) when we were researching its history for the first, a special silver jubilee publication of the school’s yearbook. Though its design was borrowed from the ancient Greeks, the towering columns at the front; the graded steps where assembly was/is held, it captured the same aesthetics the ancient Grecians of the second century BC had in their architecture. Adapted to sit against the slope of hills in Craignish, Princes Town, with its fine architectural contours, I am sure you will agree, it remains the best-looking school in the country.
We take our world into the world. It was the memory of events at the St Stephen’s College Auditorium that I was enjoying during that concert at the Acropolis. It was almost like the architects – those of the second century, and the one who built the school in the 1960s had connected over the thousands of years. (Really, it was only I who was making the connection in my mind.)
(I might add here, that then, the architect, was only a name in a page of the school’s history – Colin Laird. He came to life for me in recent years when we worked closely in lobbying to restore another national treasure, the nondescript Biswas house in St James, the ugly sister to the more ornate Lion’s House in Chaguanas of the novel by our home-grown literary laureate VS Naipaul - A House for Mr Biswas.)
With that memory, evoked by a memory of an Athenian-like pebble from near our school amphitheatre (that is no different than any other pebble) I was transported across the two milliennia of Grecian civilization and architecture that the amphitheatre represented, to the 1960s when Laird built the school, and to my much more recent days at the school to which you are now saying goodbye.
A few years, but there have been a billion experiences since I have spoken to our assembly, at that place down the road which I carry around with me as one of the most astounding pieces of architecture in this country. (And one which we should endeavour to protect and preserve even as you seek to have a new school or expanded school, Principal Sargeant?)
Thought of one local pebble was now triggering a ripple of memories. I began to test my recollection of the near one hundred cities in some forty five countries, from other pebbles in the fishbowl, each of which, though of no particular size, shape, dimension, sparkle, value or worth, held a memory of an experience that came from one or the other of those cities.














None of the pebbles carry a date or a stamp of place as a reminder - local place of origin connecting global space of memory) - because that knowledge I carry around inside me, just like much of what you have learnt at this institution would not bear a label, or a subject title, but would surface time and again, when you are in need of this knowledge.
There, in my fishbowl, I found what I would speak of to you at this gathering. Unfortunately, my time is now up, I believe?
(It was here I was going to show a slide show that connects us to each of those places – but technological complications have stymied that for another time perhaps.)
My fishbowl became the bridge between reality - the local pebbles in the bowl - and the imagination - the global experience that I had injected into each; between the time I spent here, and elsewhere, and what I took from here to other places… and that didn’t require wealth, nor power, nor status, nor position to accomplish. (You may ask what did it really took, but that is a subject for another address, perhaps. For the moment, my short answer will be a pen and paper):
A wave to the Pope at the Vatican;
A bow to the Dalai Lama;
Daily talks in Uganda with Terry Waite – the Archbishop who was taken hostage in Beirut while trying to negotiate the freedom of others;
Touching the temple bell that Tulsidas, the author of the sacred Ramayan touched daily as boats carrying the dead drifted down the Ganges at dusk;
Through Japan, India, Malaysia and Singapore; parts of north, central and South America - Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, fro civil society engagements;
Backpacking through Europe as a student with no money but full of a spirit of adventure;
Island-hopping across the Caribbean, 'cause we is island people;
To and from North, South and East Africa - Uganda, Tunisia, then South Africa again; and India again; and Chile, and London, and Brussels and Paris again; Making new friends, from places with strange names like Bhutan and Kazakhstan and Lithuania and Palau;
A birthday spent sliding down an overgrown goat path having foolishly attempt to climb the Old Man of Stowe in Scotland without food, water or sensible shoes.
The memories gushed over each other as if they were in a gurgling stream in the fishbowl.
Working with our Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott to produce his latest musical Steel; railing at bureaucratic pigheadedness at a culture meeting with Pat Bishop and felt her last breath; forming a human chain in Scotland to demand release of political prisoners in Ethiopia, Africa, or spending all night one Christmas eve trying to mobilize international media support for their release so they might be able to spend Christmas with their families, neglecting the calls of my own family to come home to Christmas with them;
Boarding a Greenpeace vessel to protest fish trawling, or clamouring for the right, of all of us, to information.
Surely, my folks would want to hear of my clash with the Head of Security of the British Royal Family at the Commonwealth Peoples Forum during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Forum in Uganda in 2007 where I was coordinating the international media for the Commonwealth Foundation, and from which I now have a treatise on how to quell the ire of the power beneath the power of the British throne when he threatened to cancel the Prince’s visit, charging that I was the reason, perhpas his own private joke, for yet, by the next day, had simmered down sufficiently to facilitate front row videoing and photographing of moments of the Prince’s tour….
Or certainly, they would want to hear of lunches in the drawing room once occupied by Prince Edward and Mrs Simpson or dinner with the Duchess of the real Hogsworth Castle who keeps a real garden collection of poisonous herbs. Did I dare to eat, then, knowing this?
And I could recall the cheekiness of joining a group of women testing attitudes to condom use in Africa – this at a pharmacy in Tunisia in North Africa and the varying shades of disapproval we received from the male pharmacist there on our pretended interest in buying condoms (oops - sorry Honourable Bishop!)
And the conference rooms (of the UN, Commonwealth, OAS, CIVICUS, various world summits on arts, culture, gender and media);
The meeting rooms and activist rooms that merge in a blur as there was little to distinguish them from each other, not unlike our pebbles in the fishbowl;
The inexplicable breathlessness that takes over on entering the haven to art and nature Gaudi created in his tribute to the Sacred Family in Barcelona;
The perfumed gardens and piping birds giving the perfect blend for provocation of the senses in that tribute to love, another creation of artistic perfection, the Taj Mahal;
Looking out the balcony of the Sunway Hotel in Malaysia, and wondering why the name seemed so familiar – yeah, the same Sunway name bandied about in references to the now infamous Calder Hart!
Standing on the Equator line in Jinja, Uganda; in the Shukkheien Gardens of Hiroshima;
Seeing an acorn for the first time – remember A-for-acorn, it was one of our earliest learning experiences but so alien because how many of us have ever seen an acorn. I did only a few months ago.
Being in the ancient city of the Mayas in Tenochtitlan, Mexico, or climbing its old world pyramids: Those once were only drawings in our history book, like Colin Laird was just the name of a builder in a page in our school’s history.
Discovering how the country Portugal got its name from the fruit (only recently I learnt that) while standing on the shores from which Columbus set sail and opened up passages for Europe to discover our part of the world; a working picnic trying to inject the Caribbean in plans for UNESCO’s directions on global culture for under the Eiffel Tower; passing up on a vineyard visit in Bordeaux France and stumbling upon Corajoud’s remarkable water mirror mirage at the Bordeaux waterfront;
An opera, an art gallery, a theatrical performance, a book launch.
Crossing the many rivers of the world and thinking how water has shaped the history of humankind – Having knelt at the Nile’s pulsating source at Lake Victoria in Uganda; sat at the Seine in Paris, tasted the Thames of London; gazed on the goings-on at the Ganges, shed a tear at the Tiber for Rome’s lost glory.
Traversing the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Indian ocean, the Caribbean sea.
It is a lot of world to contain in a fishbowl!
To the theme for today, Conceive, Believe, Achieve, let’s now add those two small words, connect and confidence.
Looking at this little rounded glass fishbowl, it struck me that here is the bridge between the years, and that particular day, when I sat in this very pew, receiving the final blessings and fare-thee-well wisdom within these hallowed walls. In it is the time between those years, and in it are the experiences and knowledge that separate us. In it are the changes that have visited this church, our school, our locale, our country, our world and our planet.
There is one thought that comes with all of it that I want to share with you. Never once did it occur to me that any of them were a better place than the place we are from; born where we are – on a small island, in the Caribbean, in a place that is a true microcosm of the world. It is because we are from here we can make any other place in the world feel like home.
This place allows you, us, like no other, to draw from the histories and cultures and experiences of all the peoples of the world because their histories are your/our ancestries.
And you’d have to agree too, that there is no better age to live in, than this one, where knowledge is not the luxury of a privileged few but a right of all.
At this time when information is available so readily, it is so easy to allow our minds to wither and imagination to die, but it is also an opportunity to leverage all the knowledge in the world from this little corner, here, because the place where you have been born gives you an insight into the operations of the world from the perspectives of all the cultures that form us (the indigeneous peoples, Europe, Africa, India, China…) – a perspective owned by very few, if not no other peoples. Whereas most operate from their monochromatic homogeneous corner of the world, we have front row seats to all of theirs (not unlike at the concert at the Acropolis in Athens or the St Stephen’s College auditorium), and the hybrids we are creating too, like the music of the steelpans which we just heard.
When I sat in a graduation ceremony similar to this, some, few, well really many, many moons ago; When we (Vimlah, Judy and others) exited the school walls and the gates of this church never to return, till now, I never envisioned the life that lay before me – no, never! So I cannot presume to tell you what lies ahead.
Curious thing, we are told that change is the only thing we can be sure of, but nothing prepares us for that – in fact, all our learning is geared to encourage us to resist change.
Perhaps the most challenging circumstances you’d ever have to face is the kind of browbeating that you will be subjected to by people and institutions caught in a time lag, and demanding that you conform to it as well.
In school we were told science is about facts, and the humanities are about imagination and never the twain shall meet. But we know, from the collation of now accessible knowledge on the internet and everyday unfolding events around us that the most unstable knowledge today is scientific knowledge; its truths are true only until the next find, the next discovery, the cracking of the next code, the expansion of the next formula.
The pace at which change is occurring is demanding greater and greater flexibility and most cannot keep up, not being taught how to keep up, not learning how to keep up.
There are many events, circumstances, opportunities even setbacks that will shape your life, but there is no blueprint, no roadmap, nor GPS waiting for you outside the church door that will point or talk you through the journey you are about to take.
Life opens up to you when you open up to it …. Be flexible, approach all with an open mind and an open heart. We close ourselves out to so much of what life has to offer if we do not.
And the benefits are multiplied when you do so with confidence.
That's the word I was looking for when I began this talk. Confidence.
To the question: Why is our initial instinctive response about using/taking from the internet, not creating for it, for the use of others? There is a simple answer. It is because we do not conceive and envision ourselves as creators; we do not believe in ourselves, in our talents, in our abilities. We lack confidence. We see ourselves as small island people, from a small district, in limited circumstances and with insufficient resources, battling tremendous odds in a not-too-friendly world. We constantly compare ourselves to others, to the technologies and the institutions available elsewhere and feel inadequate. It is the source of failure. If we lack confidence, how can we believe that what we can achieve, become contributors to the world, rather than borrowers and takers?
Own your world!
We are everyday creating and recreating our world. That is the change that is constant. The world is of our making, and we already have all the ingredients to remake it into the kind of world we want – in our minds, in our hearts and in the raw materials and the pebbles that are in our communities. The making of it is in the quality of minds that would leave this hall.
I have said all this to say that you already have all the tools you need. You do not have to step one foot out of your district or village or town to achieve once you have confidence that with the power of you. There are raw materials all around you to achieve, just as Einstein and Galileo and Gandhi and so many others discovered, through working with materials in their immediate locale. Go out and find them - pebbles, straws, leaves!
You have the added advantage of access, from your home corner, to the enormous intellectual wealth of the world through the internet. Research and knowledge is no longer the privilege of the view but a right of the many - use it!
You have it in you, in your heritage, the substance of the heritage from every other corner of the world – in our human ancestry, as well as in our geological and natural history – think about it! I can’t think of any other society any where in the world, and indeed, have not encountered any other that is so endowed – not with the range and the diversity and proximity – in our everyday practices, our everyday reality. Draw on it as an unending source of knowledge.
We have been given all that we need to be the best person that we can be.
And growing up doesn’t mean giving up your dreams. How often we have been told that – grow up, get real! It is about continuing to believe in dreams and finding a new one every day to follow and to fulfill, and looking for a few more to fulfill the next day.
I challenge you, as you leave here, have one dream - at least one - and work immediately to realizing it. It might not augment your income or your knowledge or your network of friends, but it fulfills you. And then, find some more dreams and make them come true.
This day, as you now see, is not about me; it is about you so let me now add my, congratulations.
You might ask why am I congratulating you? Don’t you believe it? Certainly there is so much for you to celebrate today – congratulations. Being here is an achievement in itself, maybe you do not realize the enormity of this achievement:
Think about it – why should we celebrate you today? What have you done to deserve this – still in bobby socks and ribbons – some of you.
We are celebrating you, because well, just because you have been born. And we know that it is not “just because” – you have actually already achieved much more than the hundreds of thousands of infants who never survive birth. So look around and congratulate the person sitting on either side of you, and in front of and behind you and applaud that: for having been born, it is enough to celebrate you!
If you think that in itself isn’t enough, there is more: Congratulations. You have made it pass the hundreds of thousands who never have the opportunity to attend primary school. You got past primary school. Please shake each other’s hands for that, and maybe some applause?
Yes, we must now be feeling some sense of accomplishment?
Not only did you make it through primary school, you also made it into this school. And that means you have rocketed past a few more hundreds of thousands who never reach secondary school.
You are not among the school drop outs. You are not among the many youths who are on the street fending for themselves, holding guns in gangs and who have fallen to lives of crime.
As you congratulate yourself for making it this far, know that these things already make you all potential candidates for the title of young men and women of the decade.
As you congratulate yourself and each other, pause a minute, and acknowledge, too, that for those who have not been able to go to primary school or not having the opportunity of a secondary school or not having finished secondary school are in themselves not a signal of failure; and that your achievement does not make you superior. It is just that you have been a little more fortunate. While we bask in the glory, treat it as not an opportunity to gloat; but one to be grateful and give thanks and praise, as David Rudder will say, for such good fortune. You have been given, most of all, the capacity to dream and the tools to make them true.
And having done that, think now as you step out from this hall, to beyond the school walls, from the gaze of your teachers, how can you return some of what you have been given? You have indeed already been given so much. The world owes you nothing; it is you who are in debt for all that you have received and are about to receive, because always there will be someone with less, much, much less than you.
Think of the knowledge and experience of your elders and how you can draw from that – and remember to give credit where credit is due (remember, my earlier admonition about plagiarism?) Think of how you can share what you have learnt with the less fortunate and how together you can benefit from your knowledge and their experiences – benefit not just materially, but mentally and spiritually too. How can the knowledge and experience of those of us who are in here, and those who are not, support, compliment and build each other? That is how we build community. In the world of which we are a part, it is now called networking – and I am careful not to say that in the world you are entering, because you are not about to become Columbus to discover a world that is already there – it is already there and you are a part, and a vital part of it …
We have been given all that we need to be the best person that we can be. Though it seems such a large place, the world is really a small place, a very small place. It can be contained in a fishbowl.
In each experience we are merely connecting the pebbles to form a bridge between our world, and the rest of the world. And if we fill up the spaces in between with confidence it bellows out into a very large place that is your own, and in which you have a significant part to play.
Conceive. Believe. Achieve, and connect them with confidence.
What will be in your fishbowl? You may be sharing it with an audience like this a few years hence. I thank you for listening, and for this immensely pleasurable and honored opportunity to speak to you.
Kris Rampersad
October 5, 2011.
PROGRAMME
Procession of Graduands.………………………………….……………..……………...…..Musical Interlude
National Anthem…………………………..……………..………….…………………………………..….....Pan Duet
Opening Prayer…………….……..………..……….……The Venerable Archdeacon Edwin Primus
Welcome and Introductions…………………….…..………………….……………….…Ms. Aneshia Beach, Ms Shara Khan
Greetings:…….………….….………..………………………..………..…Mrs. Joan Brown (Chairman PTA)
The Venerable Archdeacon Edwin Primus Chairman of the Board of Management, The Right Reverend Bishop Calvin Bess, Ms. Clare Telemaque, School Supervisor III
Principal’s Report……………………..……………………………….…………….……...Ms. Allison Sarjeant
Musical Interlude “In Living Years”……….………...…………..………….………….………Pan Ensemble
Introduction of Guest Speaker…………………………………………..………….…… .. Ms Shara Khan
Feature Address…………………………………………………………….………………..Dr. Kris Rampersad
Vote of Thanks………………………….……………………….……………….…………Mrs. Margaret Dailey, Ag. Vice Principal
Distribution of Tokens to Graduates; Presentation of Awards & Prizes: C.S.E.C. and C.A.P.E. Levels
Song: “You never walk alone”………………………………….………………..……….…..….Emilie Alpheus
Valedictory Speech………………………………………..………………………………..…..………Nalini Dookie
Special Presentations
Chairman’s Closing Remarks……..…………………………………………………….…....Ms. Aneshia Beach
College Hymn & Prayer……………………………………..….……………………………………….Congregation
Blessing…………………………………….….……….....……….. The Right Reverend Bishop Calvin Bess
Recessional


Related Links: LiTTscapes at Greeenpeace: http://kris-rampersad.blogspot.com/2014/05/littscapes-at-greenpeace.html

Murder She Wrote: Death Written in Stone in Dana Seetahal Assassination

Creating Centres of Peace in Trinidad and Tobago

The Price of Independence:#DanaSeetahalAssassination

Conceive. Achieve. Believe

Demokrissy: Wave a flag for a party rag...Choosing the Emperor's ...
Oct 20, 2013 Choosing the Emperor's New Troops. The dilemma of choice. Voting is supposed to be an exercise in thoughtful, studied choice. Local government is the foundation for good governance so even if one wants to reform the ... http://kris-rampersad.blogspot.com/
Apr 07, 2013 Old Casked Rum: The Emperor's New Tools#1 - Towards Constitutional Reform in T&T. So we've had the rounds of consultations on Constitutional Reform? Are we any wiser? Do we have a sense of direction that will drive ...http://kris-rampersad.blogspot.com/
Apr 30, 2013 Valuing Carnival The Emperor's New Tools#2....http://kris-rampersad.blogspot.com/
See Also:
Jul 30, 2013 Wherever these breezes have passed, they have left in their wake wide ranging social and political changes: one the one hand toppling long time leaders with rising decibels from previously suppressed peoples demanding a ...http://kris-rampersad.blogspot.com/
Oct 25, 2013 Some 50 percent did not vote. The local government elections results lends further proof of the discussion began in Clash of Political Cultures: Cultural Diversity and Minority Politics in Trinidad and Tobago in Through The ...http://kris-rampersad.blogspot.com/
Oct 14, 2013 They are announcing some political meeting or the other; and begging for my vote, and meh road still aint fix though I hear all parts getting box drains and thing, so I vex. So peeps, you know I am a sceptic so help me decide. http://kris-rampersad.blogspot.com/
Jun 15, 2010 T&T Constitution the culprit | The Trinidad Guardian · T&T Constitution the culprit | The Trinidad Guardian. Posted by Kris Rampersad at 8:20 AM · Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to Facebook ...http://kris-rampersad.blogspot.com/
Related:
Apr 30, 2010 'How we vote is not how we party.' At 'all inclusive' fetes and other forums, we nod in inebriated wisdom to calypsonian David Rudder's elucidation of the paradoxical political vs. social realities of Trinidad and Tobago. http://kris-rampersad.blogspot.com/
Oct 29, 2013 An indication that unless we devise innovative ways to address representation of our diversity, we will find ourselves in various forms of deadlock at the polls that throw us into a spiral of political tug of war albeit with not just ...http://kris-rampersad.blogspot.com/
Oct 16, 2013 Sheilah was clearly and sharply articulating the deficiencies in governmesaw her: a tinymite elderly woman, gracefully wrinkled, deeply over with concerns about political and institutional stagnation but brimming over with ... http://kris-rampersad.blogspot.com/
Oct 21, 2013 Ain't Trini politics d BEST! Nobody fighting because they lose. All parties claiming victory, all voting citizens won! That's what make we Carnival d best street party in the world. Everyone are winners because we all like ...http://kris-rampersad.blogspot.com/
Jan 09, 2012 New Media, New Civil Society, and Politics in a New Age | The Communication Initiative Network. New Media, New Civil Society, and Politics in a New Age | The Communication Initiative Network. Posted by Kris Rampersad ...http://kris-rampersad.blogspot.com/

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Y local level proactive community intervention important POS the new Baghdad | Trinidad Express Newspaper | News

POS the new Baghdad | Trinidad Express Newspaper | News

Network of NGOs celebrates National women awardees | The Trinidad Guardian

Network of NGOs celebrates National women awardees | The Trinidad Guardian

What we can fix with $10m.!... Karim: UTT in $10M car rental spree | The Trinidad Guardian

Karim: UTT in $10M car rental spree | The Trinidad Guardian

Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday : newsday.co.tt :

Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday : newsday.co.tt :

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pat Bishop’s last struggle – the killings, the curfew and culture

It may seem a far stretch to connect the current state of emergency that we are now in with the sudden collapse and subsequent death of Pat Bishop on Saturday (August 20) during a meeting meant to borrow value from the culture sector for national development. But is it really?
Pat’s death may in fact signal the kind of cultural state of emergency in which we find ourselves. If, as a society, we cannot link the killings and the curfew and other quick fixes with the state of our arts and culture in the struggles articulated in her life, and so poignantly in her last days, then it speaks volumes about the state of our nation as we look for solutions to crime and other social negatives across the country.
It also seems particularly significant as we prepare to ‘celebrate’ our 49th anniversary of Independence next week, celebrations which will take place under the shroud of the state of emergency. It certainly represents how far away we have moved from the aspirations and hope and optimism that must have hung over that moment in our history 49 years ago when the national flag of Trinidad and Tobago was first hoisted, when the national anthem was first sung, when the people of Trinidad and Tobago asserted themselves as a self-governing independent nation responsible for its own destiny.
In fact, part of the mandate of the meeting at which Bishop collapsed was to define ways of celebrating our next, the 50th anniversary of Independence in 2012.
Pat Bishop threw herself into the discussions with the kind of passion she is said to resonate in all her work as a painter, musician, conductor, orator, historian, lecturer, mentor; and that, despite her skepticism of the outcome of yet another committee, another panel, another meeting, to discuss the way forward for national development, for the culture of T&T, and the culture sector.
When I had expressed similar skepticism, she looked at me with that sympathetically knowing look that comes with the wisdom of years and the frank bluntness many expect of her and said: ‘and you are just a baby, yet. I can’t tell you how many of these I have been in; how many truckloads of reports I have at my home.”
It was a bitter pill for her to swallow that perhaps those were efforts in futility in pursuit of her stated vision “that my countrymen may find their place in the sun,” as she cites as her goal in her resume.
A child of pre-Independence Trinidad and Tobago, Pat Bishop was born at the crux of the nationalist movement of the 1940’s. The vision of people’s empowerment ignited by the trade unions, regionalism, federation and the movement towards self governance; of self assertion and of aspiration to be whatever a fledgling nation wanted to be, were all embedded in her ample personage.
She would have been twenty-two years old when the red, white and black national flag of Trinidad and Tobago was hoisted for the first time; when the national anthem with its assertion of “boundless faith in our destiny” and its final refrain, “every creed and race finds an equal place” was first sung.
But she lived those words. Independence was an iconic word then; icon is now the word that will attach itself to descriptions of her life and works.
I did not know Pat Bishop well before the few days within the last few weeks when I sat at the same table with her, and got glimpses of her encyclopaedia of experiences which she was so generous to share to those willing to receive knowledge. But I did, to some extent, know and was touched by her work as a musician, painter and orator and have interviewed her occasionally over the years.
In fact, one of my earliest inspirations for my work in the culture sector, following on gestation from involvements in our village community, was when I was preparing a special television report to examine the potential of the then upcoming Carifesta V which T&T was preparing to host in 1992. Her vision of a Caribbean united through the vitality of its arts poured out in images of quicksilver that seemed so tangible and so elusive at the same time. It is a vision that has kept its potency through the years and which she has tirelessly asserted through her every activity as vibrant, alive, real, and certainly, achievable.
She embraced in her work the cultural incubators that are in the main in the obscure and often invisible village niches and tried to connect them to the vast field of opportunities available at the national and international levels in her tireless pursuit to have her countrymen benefit from those opportunities as well as her experiences. She kept an enduring faith in the power of the arts to transform, regenerate, to provide sustenance for its users, benefactors and beneficiaries, and to nourish them both physically and spiritually. She was an academic who never lost sight of the significance of informal education influences and processes that included popular culture. She recognised the value of providing avenues for self expression in the language of various forms – music, art, design, words and the connection between such self-confidence and the self image it defined as essential life-skills and companion to critical thinking and a compelling alternative to those expressions that manifested themselves in violence and criminal activity.
She held firmly to the notion that well-visioned, well-structured and well-managed culture systems were the antidote to the negative self image, lack of self confidence and the essential elixir to cultivation of a sense of self and nation self.
Very little angered her as much as any suggestion that elements of the cultural sector were at loggerheads, or that differences among them were related to ethnicity. That was a position she derived from long experience of working with groups of all races and classes at all levels in T&T. It was not a dream to be realised; it was already real.
She embodied the reservoirs of cultural energy that resides in so many of our artists and culture practitioners. Where resources did not exist, (or was not accessible to the arts) she created them. Drawing on the creative power of her artistic genius, she continuously improvised facilities and methods to make up for the deficiencies. She once said that she could have stayed in Britain after her studies and indulge in its rich array of arts; but chose to return to these islands where “if you want to enjoy a concert, you better make it yourself.” And she did make concert after concert after concert, as she did painting after painting after painting. So graphic and lyrical were her expressions that those who remember her speak, also felt that each of those speeches was a song, a painting, a gem to be treasured.
The spring well of her artistic energy fuelled her faith in the potential of T&T to rise above its circumstances as small islands in a vast globe and tremendous countercurrents, and that despite the weariness that seemed to be overcoming her spirit in trying time and again, and again, and yet again, to represent that position in boardrooms, and committees and panels. She fought that those of us around the table would not have to be fighting the same fight and in the same words some half a century hence.
“I would get kicked out, and every time they fired me, they gave me an award,” she would often say dryly.
She had many words to add throughout the meeting, held on a Saturday, her sacred day of engagement with her students which she so reluctantly gave up for the meeting. With an expressed aversion to use of technologies that were negatively moulding and growing mould over minds of men women and children, she upheld a vision of Trinidad and Tobago as a collective of tremendously talented people that is not imagined but real. She vehemently rejected any notion that the culture sector is divided and fragmented and that its various elements are at loggerheads with each other, but saw it as perpetuated myths by those who can best benefit from fuelling such divisions.
After many words reiterating those experiences, her last words to the culture panel last Saturday were:
“I have no words to add to this discourse. I have spoken at meetings like this all my life I have no more words to add. I am very tired. Maybe I am too old now.”
Bishop’s last words resound the weariness of the culture fraternity who have sat around such tables and in forums like those, eternally planning for the culture sector, lobbying for the realisation of the options that she and others like her offered, even in the face of the violence and the crime and the depletion of the youth communities with which she worked, often with very little, if any resources.
An enabling environment that included changes in thinking about development priorities, how those priorities are addressed, how they could be accommodated and activated in a national blueprint for development were what she brought to the table. It was a vision that accommodated all of Trinidad and Tobago, even as it championed our creativity and the arts and culture as the fuel with the best properties to ignite such progress in a way none of the abundance of energy resources ever could.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Research

Research

Research

Research

Research

Research

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

newsday.co.tt

newsday.co.tt

newsday.co.tt

newsday.co.tt

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Research

Research

Research

Research

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Research

Research

Saturday, May 28, 2011

files.php (1469×859)

files.php (1469×859)

1289274043593n19.jpg (320×180)

1289274043593n19.jpg (320×180)

1289274043593n19.jpg (320×180)

1289274043593n19.jpg (320×180)

Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday : newsday.co.tt :

Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday : newsday.co.tt :

Radical Radiance: Meena Keshwar Kamal | Imagine Today

Radical Radiance: Meena Keshwar Kamal | Imagine Today

Kamla: Beyond the Glass Ceiling Review by Herman Silochan, c - Kris Rampersad - Open Salon

Kamla: Beyond the Glass Ceiling Review by Herman Silochan, c - Kris Rampersad - Open Salon

Together we are Pelau

Together we are Pelau

Cadiz blames 'persons with other agendas' | Trinidad Express Newspaper | News

Cadiz blames 'persons with other agendas' | Trinidad Express Newspaper | News

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Facebook murders

The Facebook murders

The wires were abuzz around this time last year. Twenty five year old Paul Bristol flew to London from Trinidad and Tobago to kill his ex-girlfriend, 27-year -old Camille Mathurasingh. He was enraged after seeing a photo of her on Facebook with another man. He stabbed her 20 times in her car in London. It became known as the Facebook murder.
There have been other similar incidents. One recalls the shock that shook Siparia when a mother of four left home for a date with a man she “met” on the internet. It turned out to be a date with death. Her decomposing body was found four days later mangled with the mangrove in the Manzanilla River. The autopsy revealed she had been strangled.
There are increasing reports of similar incidents around the world.
Emma Forrester of the UK changed her Facebook status to single after separating from her husband, Wayne He returned to their family home and hacked her to death with a meat cleaver. He claimed he was provoked when she changed her marital status to 'single' on Facebook.
In October last year, a married Zimbabwean man accused his mistress of having an affair after she altered her Facebook account. He whipped her with wire. Both were immigrants to Britain. He told British police that “such savage attacks” were common in his homeland.
Another, a mother-of-two was murdered by her jealous husband after she posted on Facebook that her marriage was over.
Teenager Ashleigh Hall was lured to her death by a convicted serial rapist,Peter Chapham. He had posed as a teenage boy on Facebook. They planned to meet. He collected her from her home in Britain, drove her to a lay-by, tied her up, raped and strangled her. Another schoolgirl met her ex-boyfriend, who was charged with murdering her, on the site.
Also in the UK Mary Griffiths was a Facebook friend of John McFarlane. He broke into her home when she was asleep, beat her and shot her twice with a bolt gun, normally used for stunning animals. He claimed to have been provoked by a message she had posted on Facebook that he was "delusional" if he believed they would ever have a relationship.
In less bloody forms of abuse, a former boyfriend posted nude photos and videos of a Philippine girl in an account he had created under her name. He mailed a copy of the video to her Muslim parents.
UK studies have shown increases in crimes linked to the social networking site - more than 100,000 in the last five years. Murders and rapes were among them bit they also found a range of range of other crimes, from terrorism and gun crimes to pedophilia, fraud, hate crimes, malicious messages, suicides and threats of violence.
Investigators found that offenders sometimes use fake identities and befriend victims scandalously in order to abuse their trust, bully, harass and use their private information for various ill doings.
The incidents have stimulated a raging debate on an off line. Facebook fans have been discussing their occurrences and entering the debating whether Facebook and similar social networking sites are encouraging such crimes, or whether the incidents merely mirror the extent of violence and abuse of women that already exists in societies.
Facebook estimates that more than 700 million Facebook updates are posted each day by its more than 400 million active users who share photos, messages, contact friends and link with others who share similar interests. In many cases, some of these interactions take place with strangers. One UK study found 85 per cent of women on Facebook in that region had been contacted by strangers on Facebook.
The internet has opened up private lives into new avenues of potential violence and has led to a rise in cases of electronic violence against women through cyber harassment, stalking, online pornography, and unauthorised recording, reproduction and distribution of images and videos.
Yet, it is believed to be social, even professional, “suicide" to avoid such sites. Even organisations like End Violence Against Women (EVAW), and the UNIFEM virtual knowledge centre to end violence against women, use the internet with the former also on Facebook.
The Association of Progressive Communications Women’s Networking Support Program (APC WNSP), based in the Philippines, is working to help women around the globe better understand new technology and its potential and impact on their rights and lives.
They too use the internet, among other forums, to communicate their messages, functioning from a belief that persons who understand technology - know how it works, how to use it and change it with technical knowledge have more control over it. Some of the tips they offer to persons to protect privacy on the internet are:
• Do not to disclose too much personal information to social networking or dating site, even such information as place of work, address or telephone number which can become a map to a potential killer.
• Pay attention to the consistency of the information being revealed by online ‘friends’. The more inconsistencies, the greater the chance that the person is lying about themselves.
• Stop all communication with people who are obsessed with trying to pry personal information from you.
• Be on the look-out for warning signs such as the use of foul language, disrespectful remarks, signs of anger for no apparent reason and elusiveness in answering direct questions.
• If one decides on a face-to-face meeting with a strange “friend”, under no circumstances agree to meet with that person at one’s home. Have these meetings in public and tell someone where the meeting would be, with whom and expected time back.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

PM to PM: Kamla to Julia: woman to woman

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s pitch to her Australian counterpart, Julia Gillard to put a woman’s touch on the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) sets a new tone to these meetings. For the first time, the Commonwealth has a woman as its chair-in office who will transfer the baton to another woman. The ‘chair-in-office’ is assigned to the host country of the previous CHOGM. Persad-Bissessar inherited the post when Patrick Manning was moved from the office of Prime Minister, given that Trinidad and Tobago hosted the 2009 CHOGM; and it will pass to the Australian Prime Minister which hosts the 2011 CHOGM.
It changes the tone of CHOGM meeting because these have historically been male dominated. In fact, in this period in which Persad-Bisessar and Julia Gillard are on the scene, they are among only three women of the fifty-four political leaders of the Commonwealth. The third female political leader in the Commonwealth is Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed of Bangladesh.
The PM’s call is the kind of woman-to-woman conversation that new development thinkers are encouraging and believe is essential if there is to be progress in the UN’s Millennium Development Goal towards more balanced global development.
It is anticipated that it will also change the tone and impact of women in local politics where the track record has not been altogether encouraging.
A review on interventions in support of women’s participation in electoral processes in the Caribbean between 2007-2008, released by UNIFEM last year, tells that women in politics have not had the impact on their societies as expected.
In the first instance, the review which initially targeted examination of interventions in Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago and either St. Lucia or Guyana, had to curb its ambitions and focus only on Trinidad & Tobago and the Put a Woman project of the Network of NGOs of Trinidad and Tobago for the Advancement of Women because it was the only one that “provided a substantial enough base for making an assessment.”
To its key question on “whether the significant increase in the number of women Members of Parliament (MPs) in Trinidad & Tobago in 2007 had led to an increase in the representation of women’s interests in Parliament,” the simple answer was, “No”.
It describes the aim of Put a Woman to transform the culture of politics in Trinidad & Tobago by making it more inclusive, beginning with women. This was to be achieved through:
 Training women across party lines to understand government at both local and national levels and in gender mainstreaming government decision-making;
 Encouraging more young people to take part in the electoral process;
 Documenting and publishing information on women in local government in Trinidad and Tobago;
 Making the environment conducive for women to effectively participate in the highest levels of decision-making; and
 Creating a critical mass of gender-sensitive elected or appointed women representatives who would influence policy in national political bodies.
This translated into actions involving political skills training; revitalization of the Women’s Political Platform; documentation of women in local government; and the establishment of a Women’s Political Participation Fund.
The review identified Put a Woman’s major successes as the reach of the training it provided and the significant increase in the number of women elected to Parliament following the training. With local government elections postponed in 2007 and 2008, the Political Skills Training concentrated on training for the national elections of 2007. It used various approaches to working with women who were potential nominees or candidates along with women working to support them and reached more than 500 women. It updated the Women’s Manifesto; prepared a document on women’s contribution to local government and the establishment of a small Women’s Political Participation Fund which distributed nominal sums as expressions of support to 13 women candidates.
Among the weakness it review identified was the project’s inability to establish a Women’s Political Caucus.
But, it concluded, “more critically, “the project did not lead to increased representation of women’s interests by women Members of Parliament in spite the increase in their numbers and the exposure to ideas and tools which the project had provided.”
It found that women MPs were in the main not raising issues of concern to women, and cited reasons as their failure to work across party lines and with women’s organisations. the problem was one of the quality, not the quantity of women MPs.
But there are other broader underlying factors. These, the review identified as:
 The nature of the political party culture in the region;
 The sometimes antagonistic differences among women and how this impacts on the aim of creating a critical mass of women in Parliament;
 The diminishing space that national governments have for decision-making; and
 The possibilities and limits of national and local government.
This was discovered of the political environment in Trinidad and Tobago, but it is also a reflection of the political environment globally. And these are the areas that Persad-Bissessar and Gillard will have to transform in their party systems and in their local and national politics, if they are to make substantive impact on the policies and directions and affect a ripple effect across the Commonwealth.