Sunday, July 5, 2015

Inscription of collections of Poet Anson Gonzalez on UNESCO Regional Memory of the World Register

Dear Anson,
How welcome would be your descriptions of the journey through to the other side and what lies beyond the demise, eh? ....
Saying farewell to +AnsonGonzalez who passed away on September 6, 2015: Remembering his life, work, influence and inspiration and so happy was able to celebrate your contributions while still alive with inscription to the #UNESCOMemoryOfTheWorld and that we concluded a month ago that conversation we started so many years ago... RIP @unesco @un @krisramp @lolleaves @glocalpot #CaribbeanLiterarySalon #Demokrissy #LeavesOfLife #Glocalknowledgepot

 Small Island Memories of a World Poet: Tribute to Anson Gonzalez on Inscription of Works to UNESCO Memory of the World Registry of Latin American and the Caribbean.   
Salutations. A minute of silence for a friend, a colleague and a compatriot Mrs Marcia Henville who tried to positively impact our environment with her words yet has had her life snuffed out in most violent circumstances.
In this Carnival 2015 season in which we celebrate looseness, vagabondism and hooliganism, isn’t it great that we can also find the time to recognise and celebrate a BOSS – a Boss poet, a Boss writer, a Boss literary critic, advocate and champion of the literary arts, Anson Gonzalez whose work we are happy to here announce is now inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register.
And what an honour it is to pay tribute to someone’s memory, while they are alive!
It has made me reflective of what we can accomplish if we spend more time celebrating what citizens like Anson represent to us: more poets and writers to stir the public conscience; to give us a greater depth of ourselves so we would have less of the kind of activities that led to the sad demise of citizens like Marcia Henville, Dana Seetahal and others; and to celebrate those who are alive too – collating and chronicling the fragments of experiences that make us who we are:
I refer to those of not only the literary and documentary heritage: among whom are men and women – and let me here recognise the invaluable work of Mr Shamshu Deen, the Chair of this National Memory of the World Committee whose body of work is itself worthy of inscription; but also collections from the oral heritage: the Mighty Sparrow’s encyclopaedic renditions on our society is one such that comes to mind.
I commend the outgoing national Memory of the World Committee which has stirred us to this point that Trinidad and Tobago has six collections on the International Memory of the World Register, seven collections on the Regional Memory of the World Register & ten collections on the National Memory of the World Register.
You have set high standards and large shoes for the new committee to occupy and Mr Deen and committee I know you are well up to the task.
I know it is no simple task, especially in an environment where the work and impact of artists and writers have so little resonance in the financing and decision making fraternity.
I wish I could paint to you the picture on the faces of bankers and insurers and countless others etc, when I tell them I am a writer, before they ask me to define a real job – for which, when I qualify writing and research and analysing and interpreting as media broaden and bring smiles of understanding because that is a real job.
I was talking to an asset manager recently --- so he’s asking me what I am doing with my talent …looking at my net assets very disturbed as felt it does not reflect what he called my considerable ‘my talent and experience.”
I told him if he adds my accumulated knowledge, experiences collated from more than 50 countries and more than 200 cities across the world - explorations of connectivities between our little island world and the big giant blue marble, he might have a different picture; that my net worth might be less disturbing to him.
He said he was not referring to the ‘altrusitic’ elements that are knowledge in my head – elements that have no value to people to whom are assigned the task of putting a ‘value’ to our life’s work.
So what do we allow ourselves to be define as …Assets Altruistic, or the banker’s bottom line.
So I am throwing out some challenges to you now – you the national Memory of the World Committee and all others listening or reading this: I would like you to join me in recommending and advocating for:
1.        A dedicated and substantive enough so it can be effective - fund to support the acquisition of collections and the work of those who are involved in collation, restoration and digitisation of our valuable oral and documentary heritage
2.       I urge you to join me in the appeal for a national literary heritage centre that will recognise the works of our poets and writers and oral bards and creators. It remains a crying shame that a nation which can claim to have substantially influenced not one but two – and I believe we may be the only small island state which can claim such: that we do not have a single national element that recognise our outstanding heritage: monument, museum, centre that is national in scope and from which other nationals and the world can celebrate their accomplishments – and I am not talking about the work of struggling NGOs and individuals to do so: Little St Lucia, which shares Derek Walcott with us, and Sir Arthur Lewis - has an annual Nobel Laureate Week. We do not have to look far to see why and how we are failing as a nation, why the words with which we are greeted in the morning papers and hourly and nightly news are of bloodshed and horror. Our newspapers are in fact losing their value as chroniclers of ourselves and our history, and I say that with the full knowledge of someone who has had a lifetime career in the media industry. Newspapers have traditionally held such a key role of chronicling our society; as chroniclers of history. In my thesis and first book Finding A Place, I turned to newspapers of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries to reconstruct a literary history of Trinidad and Tobago, the birth of a literary tradition in the context of strongly oral ones as Finding A Place (2000) explores. Is what we are seeing in the overriding obsession of our news the legacies of ourselves we are leaving. Does it really reflect who and what we are? Are we just the slew of negatives that greet us every morning? And on the nightly and intermittent during the day news? I say that in full knowledge, too, of having lived the challenges and pressures on an editor and journalist, and trying to balance the competing interests and demands to be served, and fully convinced that there is an alternate reality to us than that, represented, in part, in the fraternity of nation-builders that Anson Gonzalez belong to. I remain convinced that the media can have a tremendously positive impact on our society and that without sacrificing profit or sales turnovers.
3.       My fourth recommendation, is that we continue to develop partnerships to retrieve, digitise and have access to collections that are in other parts of the world
If we do not understand what we possess that we can hold them up as mirror images of ourselves – how can we develop policies and solutions – for crime, for social development, for education.
That is why I believe the task of this National Memory of the World Committee, filing as it is that gap through this programme offered by UNESCO, is so pertinent.
The former committee has set the bar very high bar for you to follow. And there are many, many collections out there that are worthy of inscriptions. You may want to look at ways in which collation around themes can help accommodate the volume.
I now turn my attention to the man of the moment: Anson Gonzales who cannot be here with us today but his work is all around us.
Even as he is at the Marie Curie hospice, he refuses to succumb to the environment of people at the end of their lives, a continuous and active presence on social media.
The collection documents the public and private life of a Caribbean laureate, literary activist,  photographer, actor, educator and mentor.
As I said, we who write can’t have one profession, you know, because our world does not allow one to be just a poet, or just a writer, as we well know.
Anson’s work, culling the future voices, launching the promising voices and  a collection reference of poetry in the 1924 to 2012,with more than a 2000 poetry books, photo albums and manuscripts from notable writers whose names resonate of the who’s who in Caribbean literature; like Jan Carew, Andrew Salkey, Edward Kamau Brathwaite, Mervyn Morris and others authors across not just the Caribbean, but the wider diasporas of North America, Europe, Africa and Asia -all places which are part of the memory of our little island world.
Anson spearheaded the introduction of national annual poetry day, observed on October 15.
As he moved to Wales to live with his daughter, mindful of the gap I spoke of about: a national centre for the literary arts: Anson opened his house Sapphire House to remain as a memory and museum of his works – the house which culled a culture of poetry in Trinidad and Tobago and made hundreds of writers and poets and authors  feel like they have a place in this world: how that phrase rings out from our literature: resembling titles of books by Selvon, Naipaul and others -  small island men and women with big dreams ….
All thriving, as Selvon told me in an interview once, to write the big one; to write the quintessential Caribbean story featuring the quintessential Caribbean persona.
I close with reading not from one of his works of poetry but one of his recent postings on social media:  from his Facebook page – again he is expanding form to function, resonating with the poignancy of his poetry.
He writes on Jan 2:
New Years Day 2015:
So I am in a lovely little hospital run by the Marie Curie organisation. The New Year bells ring out and the fireworks blast with roaring brilliance. But here in this hospital for palliative treatment of heart failure and cancer patients, all is quiet, for while some of the patients waited with expectation, they were mostly asleep induced by exhaustion and medications, ent …when the fireworks started and the bells pealed jubilantly.
In this place where they try to keep us comfortable in the last stages of complication, are happy to celebrate each moment that we are still present. Another phone call or chat with relatives, and another encounter with children and grandchildren lifts the gloom off the end stage patients.
I waited but missed the moment as sleep overcame the exhausted Superman …speaking to my family and exchanging greetings were a fitting closure of one year and the beginning of another
For some time I have settled into my fate karma. I have to face the reason why I’m in this hospital/ward. My body, the organism, of course will hold on and struggle till the last minute, while life burgeons and proliferates outside this universe/
I, Soul, sees just another day at the office of karma, faith will be tested often but time will march on inexorably. There will be new dawns and New Years.
How timely it is, that even as he is celebrated, as we celebrate his immortality, he reminds us of the ever present mortality: That we are all mortal --- leaders of business, leaders of NGOs, of politics … we do not possess office, we just occupy them temporarily
So what are we leaving to the memory of the world; the world’s memory of us?
That now is the challenge of the National Memory of the world Committee to define.
I am convinced, and have over the past decades been accumulating the evidence from across disciplines that the memory of Trinidad and Tobago is the memory of the world; that our small islands at the centre of world history in many ways. Can you count the ways?
That is the task of our memory of the world committee. Help us restore our sense of wholeness to ourselves.
Address on Inscription of Anson Gonzalez Collection to UNESCO Regional Registry of UNESCO Memory of the World, Port of Spain and Launch by Dr Kris Rampersad, Chair, National Commission for UNESCO of Trinidad and Tobago. February 2015 
@krisramp, @lolleaves @glocalpot #Demokrissy #GlocalKnowledgePot #LeavesofLife #CaribbeanLiterarySalon