From quiet rural settlement to a vital industrial heartland and then a thriving Afro-Caribbean community, Handsworth has seen massive changes over the decades, David Bentley reports in this article for The Birmingham Mail. Follow the link below for the original report and the photo gallery.

The Handsworth area of Birmingham was once a pleasant little village in the county of Staffordshire.

But then pioneering industrialist Matthew Boulton chose Handsworth Heath as the location for his Soho Manufactory, one of the first factories in the world and the first to use an assembly line process.

The attractive rural site had plenty of space for the massive works, powered by an innovative array of pounding steam engines, and allowed for possible expansion in future years.

That expansion led to the Handsworth we know today. Here we look back at the history of the area, including a gallery of images from over the decades.

Handsworth parish church St Mary’s – which dates from at least the 12th century – was caught up in the socio-economic changes as the Industrial Revolution thundered into life across the West Midlands.

In fact, the church became known as the Westminster Abbey of the Industrial Revolution because it commemorates the three local engineers and inventors who were at the heart of it: Boulton, James Watt and William Murdock.

The south-east chapel of the church was added as a memorial to Watt, and contains an 1825 marble statue of the engineer. He is shown sitting down and holding a pair of dividers on a sheet of paper. Watt is best known today for giving his name to the unit of power that we see every day on lightbulbs.

St Mary’s also has a bust of Boulton and another of gas lighting inventor William Murdock. All three are buried in the churchyard.

As noted by William Dargue’s A History of Birmingham Places, by 1800 Handsworth had become a popular rural location for several wealthy entrepreneurs.

Among them, Boulton lived at Soho House, near his factory, and now a museum; Watt at Heathfield House; and Murdock at Sycamore House.

At that time it was still considered to be a “pleasant country village” but after Boulton built homes for his workers, the area began to expand. More houses, roads and amenities were added.

By 1851, there were 6,000 people living there, by 1881 that had grown to 32,000, and by 1911 that had more than doubled. It was in that year that Handsworth became part of Birmingham.

Labourers were shipped over from British colonies in the Caribbean to work in local munitions factories during the Second World War, with more coming to help rebuild the area after the war ended. It led to Handsworth becoming a centre for the Afro-Caribbean community.

Racial tensions spilled over in the Handsworth riots of 1981, 1985, and 1991. Handsworth was also part of the Birmingham riots of 2005, which had also erupted in Lozells, and the more general 2011 England riots triggered by the death of Mark Duggan in Tottenham.

Handsworth Carnival, which began as a Caribbean-themed event in Handsworth Park in 1984, is held every two years (the next one is in 2015) and is now called Birmingham Carnival, with the festival instead taking place in Perry Park since 1999.

Among the famous people from Handsworth are musicians Joan Armatrading, Apache Indian, Pato Banton, Ruby Turner and Steve Winwood.

Poet and writer Benjamin Zephaniah, who had a role in hit BBC series Peaky Blinders, is also from Handsworth, along with TV chef Rusty Lee, who once ran a restaurant in the area.

Princess Diana visited the Culture Centre in Handsworth on December 7, 1982, on what was her first official visit to the West Midlands.

For the original report go to http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/nostalgia/26-images-capture-heart-history-7638262

Posted by: lisaparavisini | August 19, 2014

Insanity in the ‘House of Ashes’


This review by Raoul Pantin appeared in The Trinidad Express.

“His mother had named him Ashes and this, she said, was because she had a feeling about him, when he was first born,  that he would live and die many times during this one life, and always survive from the ashes of himself.”

-Monique Roffey, House of Ashes

And so he does, so he does.

As a former hostage myself,  I’m not entirely comfortable with writer Monique Roffey’s obvious empathy with and sympathy for some of the young men involved in Trinidad’s infamous 1990 attempted coup as disclosed in her new novel, House of Ashes.

But I agree with her (I’ve had the same thought)  that the absence of fathers—most of those young men, some still in their teens, came from poor, single mother homes—and lack of love resulted in  a kind of crookedness and moral apathy.

Roffey writes a fictional account of that notorious 1990 event in  House Of  Ashes which she set in the imaginary Caribbean island of Sans Amen with its capital, The City of Silk.

Among other things, Roffey notes that the hopes and dreams of a post-Indpendence Sans Amen generation were quickly defiled by political corruption (sounds familiar?). She also suggests that the coup itself meant political treachery was afoot.

The novel begins one late  July afternoon with a group of men and boys in a religious commune (Islam is never mentioned) going through their prayer rituals, following the example of the charismatic figure they call The Leader, who will soon lead them in an armed invasion of a sitting session of the island’s Parliament and lone television station.

The assault on what is called the House of Power is as chaotic and it is horrific. People, including a defenceless woman, are shot and killed. The prime minister is roughed up, his hands fastened tightly behind his back, his pants dropped.

Hal, the name of the leader of the assault group on the House of Power, is in touch with The Leader at the TV station via a walkie-talkie.

But suddenly, unexpectedly, the Sans Amen army responds by shooting up both the House of Power and the TV station.

The prime minister, with a gun to his head, is told by Hal to order the attacking soldiers to cease and desist. Instead, taking his life in his hands, the prime minister shouts into the walkie-talkie: “These men are murderers! Attack with full force!” (The well-known words first uttered by then Prime Minister ANR Robinson, now deceased, in similar circumstances during the 1990 attempted coup).

He is shot in the leg and roughed up some more. But the army carries out his order. The insurgents are soon pinned down, the insurgency stuck before it can go any further…

The hostages in the House of Power include two female government ministers who are, naturally, both terrified by this violent assault.

Roffey also notes, and this is not fiction, that not a single citizen of the island lent the insurgents a hand. Instead some of them took advantage of the preoccupied security forces to loot and vandalise the city.

This nightmare story is re-told by Roffey largely through the eyes of two young men, Breeze, who is about 14, and Ashes, who is in his mid-30s, and also from the point of view of the female cabinet minister, Aspasia Garland, who suffers all the terrors of being held hostage for six days.

Curiously enough, to me the most REAL character in this novel of insane violence, death and redemption is Mrs Cynthia Gonzales, a House of Power cleaning woman who hides herself in a broom cupboard for two days and two nights before emerging only to be instantly enraged when she enters the main chamber of the House and sees  the wreckage there:

“Allyuh damn stupid fools. Why you do this, eh? Why?”

When Hal tells her the insurgents were out to “liberate the people of the City of Silk who are oppressed”, Mrs Gonzales responds: “Who is oppressed?”

“You!” Hal says.

“Mrs Gonzales…steupsed at the ridiculousness of this idea.”

She declared that her former husband cuffed her down once “and I end up in hospital…That man now long dead. No man go oppress me again… I doh need no crazy bunch of boys with guns to come inside here on my behalf. I have job, home, good health, family. You mad or what?”

Eventually, after days of tense negotiations, the prime minister is released, followed by the other hostages and the insurgents lay down their arms and surrender to the army.

What follows next is truly fictitious. Let’s just say an original act of insanity—a violent attempted coup by a small band of insurgents who are soon easily outnumbered and outgunned—is compounded by another fatally insane act, which, I don’t doubt, many Trinidadians would have applauded.

The novel then jumps forward 23 years and ends with a surprising twist.

This is a well-written tale, rich in imagination and with some very insightful moments. Ms Roffey, who won the 2013 OCM Bocas Caribbean Literature award for her novel, Archipelago, should expect even more kudos for another laudable piece of literary work which, mark my word, is likely to be a best-seller.

For the original report go to http://www.trinidadexpress.com/commentaries/Insanity-in-the-House-of-Ashes-271931781.html


Set to make its world premiere at the 39th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) next month is Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck’s latest work, titled “Murder in Pacot,” which we first alerted you to in May, when it was wrapping up principal photography, Tambay A. Obenson reports for indiwire.com.

The feature film is loosely inspired by Italian director, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s 1968 drama/mystery “Teorema,” which starred Terence Stamp as a mysterious stranger who injects himself into the home of a wealthy Italian family, and seduces everyone in it, including the maid, which leads to each of them reaching some unique epiphany, leaving viewers (and the characters in the film) wondering who this enigmatic, nameless visitor is: Christ, or the Devil?

Director Pasolini adapted the screenplay of “Teorema” from his own novel.

Peck’s “Murder In Pacot” will be set in a plush neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, Haïti, and will tell the story of an upper middle class couple struggling to rebuild their lives amid the rubbles of their luxurious home, which is now in ruins, after the earthquake, in 2010. In desperate need money, the two intellectuals decide to rent the still-standing part of their mansion to a high-level foreign relief worker of unspecified nationality. The man brings with him a beautiful 17 year old Haitian girl from a modest background, whose malevolence will eventually reveal itself.

Alex Descas and Nigerian-German singer Ayo star as the couple; Thibault Vinçon is the high-level foreign relief worker; and newcomer Haitian actress Lovely Kermonde, is the young girl.

“Murder in Pacot” was written by famous novelist Lyonel Trouillot, Pascal Bonitzer and Raoul Peck.

The film is co-produced by ARTE, the World cinema Fund (France) and the European ACP.

It was shot in what was described as an exceptional location in Haiti: a three level Villa in a neighborhood already totally rebuilt; “A neighborhood I drove through everyday while shooting my documentary “Fatal Assistance,” is today hardly recognizable, and is the location of one of the most styled and selective Haitian hotels,” said Peck. That hotel being The Inn at Villa Bambou.

“Murder in Pacot” is a TIFF Masters selection for this year’s installment of the festival, one of the top movie showcases and a favored platform to unveil Oscar contenders, which will run from September 4-14.

Needless to say, I’m most certainly intrigued, and I’m looking forward to what Monsieur Peck has been cooking up for us next!

No trailer yet, but within this post you’ll find first official still images from the upcoming film.

For the original report go to http://blogs.indiewire.com/shadowandact/first-look-at-raoul-pecks-haiti-set-mystery-loosely-based-on-pier-paolo-pasolinis-teorema-20140819


Seven men accused of killing Costa Rican sea turtle conservationist Jairo Mora last year will stand trial on Oct. 27, the Prosecutor’s Office confirmed to The Tico Times today, as Lindsay Fendt reports for Tico Times. The trial, open to the public, will be held at a court in Limón on the country’s Caribbean coast, near where the murder took place.

The seven men, alleged poachers, are accused of kidnapping Mora along with four foreign volunteers at Moín Beach, near Limón, during the night of May 31, 2013. The volunteers escaped, but police found Mora’s naked and bruised body the next morning. The suspects, Felipe Arauz, Héctor Cash, Ernesto Enrique Centeno, William Delgado, José Bryan Quesada and brothers Darwin and Donald Alberto Salmón, have been in preventive detention since their arrests in July 2013.

For the original report go to http://www.ticotimes.net/2014/08/19/murder-trial-set-for-oct-27-for-suspects-in-slaying-of-costa-rican-conservationist-jairo-mora


The trinidad+tobago film festival (ttff) is presenting a series of film screenings to commemorate the 52nd anniversary of the country’s independence, sponsored by The National Gas Company.

The screenings take place over three days in San Fernando, Port of Spain and Tobago, respectively. All screenings are free and open to the public.

The first screening takes place on Thursday 28 August, in the observatory at the San Fernando Hill Recreational Centre, from 7.00pm. The films to be screened are the documentaries Julia & Joyce (Sonja Dumas/2010/60’), the story of two pioneers of dance in T&T, Julia Edwards and Joyce Kirton; and The Strange Luck of VS Naipaul (Adam Low/2008/78’), a portrait of the Nobel Prize-winning author.


Then on Friday 29 August from 7.00pm, at the audiovisual room at NALIS in Port of Spain, there will be a screening of Fire in Babylon (Stevan Riley/2011/87’), the inspiring story of the all-conquering West Indies cricket team of the late 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s.

Finally, on Sunday 31 August at 3.00pm at MovieTowne, Tobago, two films will be screened: The Audacity of the Creole Imagination (Kim Johnson/2010/13’) and ‘70: Remembering a Revolution (Alex de Verteuil, Elizabeth Cadiz-Topp/2011/120’). The first film looks at milestones in the history of the creation of the steelpan, while ’70 is a thoroughgoing account of the black power uprising of 1970.


Doors for the first two screenings open at 6.00pm. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Technical services will be provided by North Eleven, the ttff’s official screening partner.

About the trinidad+tobago film festival

Founded in 2006, the ttff is an annual celebration of films from and about Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean and its diaspora. The Festival also screens films curated from contemporary world cinema. In addition, the ttff seeks to facilitate the growth of the Caribbean film industry by hosting workshops, panel discussions and networking opportunities. The Festival is presented by Flow, and given leading sponsorship by bpTT and TTFC. For further information visit www.ttfilmfestival.com.


Posted by: ivetteromero | August 19, 2014

ARC Magazine and NLS collaborate for (e)merge Art Fair


The fourth edition of (e)merge takes place October 2-5, 2014 at the Capitol Skyline Hotel in Washington, DC. The (e)merge art fair connects emerging-art professionals from around the globe with collectors, curators and cultural decision makers in Washington, DC.

New Local Space (Kingston, Jamaica) and ARC are collaborating on an exhibition at the art fair featuring work by James Cooper (Bermuda), Stephanie Cormier (Canada), Ian Deleón (Cuba/Brazil), Nadia Huggins (St. Vincent & the Grenadines), Leasho Johnson (Jamaica), Becca Kallem (Washington, DC), Mark King (Barbados), Oneika Russell (Jamaica), Anabel Vasquez Rodriguez (Puerto Rico), and Storm Saulter (Jamaica). The exhibition is curated by Deborah Anzinger, Holly Bynoe and Nicole Smythe-Johnson.

(e)merge’s presents two exhibition platforms to inspire a new echelon of art collectors and provide curatorial access to the latest movements in emerging art: the Gallery Platform features participating galleries in hotel rooms and other spaces on designated floors; he Artist Platform features a vetted selection of works by independent artists throughout the hotel’s public areas and grounds.

For more information, see http://arcthemagazine.com/arc/2014/08/arc-nls-collaborate-for-emerge-art-fair-2/

Image above: Oneika Russell’s “Untitled” (Digital C-type Print on archival paper, 2012)


Groundation Grenada in collaboration with ARC Magazine invites submissions for” Forgetting is Not an Option,” a multimedia cultural memory project about the events surrounding the Grenada Revolution 1979-83. The deadline for entries is October 31, 2014.

With an awareness that Grenada’s revolution is linked other radical movements and philosophies, submissions from across the Caribbean, its diasporas, Africa and the African diaspora are encouraged. Groundation Grenada welcomes written, visual, audio/music, performance and mixed media entries.

The selected works will culminate in an interactive virtual archive, which will launch in March 2015 alongside a series of exhibitions and live events. We welcome written, visual, audio/music, performance and mixed media entries.

The selected works will culminate in an interactive virtual archive, which will launch in March 2015 alongside a series of exhibitions and live events. This project is an exploration of living histories and aims to pave new pathways of community and artistic engagement in the development of contemporary Caribbean society.

See here for guidelines: http://bit.ly/1AtqcnR

For more information, see http://arcthemagazine.com/arc/2014/08/groundation-grenada-presents-call-for-works-to-forgetting-is-not-an-option/ and http://groundationgrenada.com/2014/08/01/groundation-august-events-forgetting-is-not-an-option-phase-n1/

Posted by: ivetteromero | August 19, 2014

ICS Lecture Series: Conferencias Caribeñas 15


The Institute of Caribbean Studies of the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras (UPR-RP) has announced the latest lecture series for this academic year (August 2014 to May 2015): Conferencias Caribeñas 15.

Unless otherwise indicated, lectures will take place at the Manuel Maldonado Denis Amphitheatre (CRA 108) at the Carmen Rivera de Alvarado Building, School of Social Sciences, UPR-RP.

The series for this semester includes a lecture on chikungunya in the Cariibean—“La epidemia de la chikungunya en el Caribe” by Dr. Brenda Rivera (UPR-RCM)—this Thursday, August 21, 2014.

On September 9, 2014, there will also be a launch of a special issue of Sargasso—“Global Cuba/Cuba Global: Worldly Perspectives from the 21st Century”—with Drs. Don Walicek, Katherine Miranda, Lowell Fiet, and Vivian Martínez Tabares.

The following lectures and events are scheduled for this semester:

Conversation with Dr. Luis Toledo Sande (author of a biography on José Martí, El cesto en llamas) and Dr. Félix Ojeda Reyes (Institute of Caribbean Studies, UPR-RP); “El comercio entre Hamburgo, Puerto Rico y St. Thomas en el siglo XIX” by Dr. Argelia Pacheco (UPR-RUM); “Exploraciones identitarias: género, raza, clase para una aproximación a lo caribeño en la escena cubana” by Dr. Vivian Martínez Tabares (Casa Las Américas, Havana); “Transiciones socioambientales del Caribe en la era de la globalización” by Dr. Reinaldo Funes Monzote (Fundación Antonio Núñez Jiménez de la Naturaleza y el Hombre and University of Havana); “El Caribe en sus encrucijadas geoestratégicas, 1492-2014” by Dr. Humberto García Muñiz (Institute of Caribbean Studies, UPR-RP); “Mapping 21st Century Caribbean Literary Transgressions: Cuban Blogging & Trinidad and Tobago Spoken Word” by Dr. Katherine Miranda (UPR-RP); “El impacto del exilio republicano español en Puerto Rico y el Caribe Hispano: una revisión” by Iliaris Avilés Ortiz (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain); “Versiones de un mangú: sabor caribeño, memoria cultural y etnografías alter-nativas” by Dr. Lidia Marte (UPR-RP); Conversation: “El rostro humano del cambio climático” with Ramón Bueno, Dr. Rafael Méndez Tejeda (UPR-Carolina) and Dr. Marta Pérez (UPR-Mayagüez); “Cambio climático y el Caribe: ¿costosa inacción o nueva oportunidad/visión?” by Ramón Bueno (specialist in climate and development, Massachusetts); “Canal de Panamá a 100 años de su inauguración: situación y perspectivas” by Prof. Olmedo Beluche (University of Panama); “El Caribe en la era de la globalización: cadenas de valor y la nueva relación centro-periferia” by Dr. Emilio Pantojas (UPR-RP); and a screening of the documentary “Vieques, manos arriba – el calipso en la Isla Nena” by Dr. Nadjah Ríos Villarini (UPR-RP).

All lectures of the Caribbean Conference Series are available online through InternetArchive.org at http://goo.gl/6HBvWT

These lectures will be broadcast LIVE online through the following website: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/cc71***

Comments and suggestions on the presentation will be welcome at iec-ics@upr.edu

For further information, you may call Dr. Humberto García Muñiz, Director, at (787) 764-0000, extension 4212, or write to iec@uprrp.edu

Also see the Institute of Caribbean Studies on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#%21/pages/Instituto-de-Estudios-del-Caribe-UPR/146169468754542?ref=sgm

Posted by: ivetteromero | August 19, 2014

Bermuda’s Role in the War of 1812


This past weekend, the ship named Spirit of Bermuda made a voyage tracing Bermuda’s key role in the War of 1812. It narrowly avoided a ferocious squall on Saturday, but festivities in St George’s continued and were successful, despite the rough weather, according to organizer Rick Spurling. The event also celebrated the Bermuda Heritage Partnership, a consortium of local registered charities dedicated to promoting Bermuda’s cultural and historical legacy.

Two hundred years ago, a British fleet congregated in Bermuda waters to launch the historic surprise attack on the US that would end the transatlantic war. Then, as this month, Murray’s Anchorage was subject to strong easterly winds. The British forces were only able to set off with the quick aid of Bermuda pilots guiding the warships through a treacherously narrow channel through the reef.

Mr Spurling had arranged for St George’s Town Crier David Frith to fire the cannon at Gates Fort as the Spirit headed out from the Old Towne. “I got a call saying ‘You’d better hurry up — there’s a huge squall coming’,” Mr Spurling said. “They didn’t want the powder to get wet.” The display went “impressively” for the eight visitors and roughly 40 locals on board.

The schooner also cruised past sites like the Sea Venture wreck and “as close to North Rock as we could”. The Spirit was led out by the pilot boat to the site where skilled Bermudian hands guided the British fleet out the perilously close fit of the North Channel.

[. . .] Stormy weather spared the cruisers all but a few sprinkles, and the vessel returned to St George’s for the Star Spangled 200 Reception at Penno’s Wharf — so-called because the conflagration of the British assault on Baltimore harbour inspired Francis Scott Keys to compose the US national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner. That piece was sung solo, along with God Save the Queen, by singer Jenn Osmond, around a presentation by Governor George Fergusson. [. . .]

For full article, see http://www.royalgazette.com/article/20140818/NEWS/140819749


The BBC reports that Cuba is the host for a series of negotiations that have been going on since 2012, gathering members of the left-wing FARC, politicians, and former victims of violence in Colombia. The peace talks are aimed at getting the FARC to sign an agreement renouncing to its armed struggle in order join the legal political process. [. . .]

A group of victims from five decades of conflict in Colombia has for the first time joined left-wing Farc rebels and government negotiators in peace talks. The negotiations were launched in October 2012 and have been taking place in the Cuban capital, Havana.

Some 220,000 people are estimated to have died in 50 years of violence. The victims told a press conference in Havana that they were listened to by the negotiators with a great deal of respect. One woman whose entire family was killed by left-wing militants said that being able to look Farc members in the face was “the most important meeting” of her life.

At least three million people have been displaced by the conflict. Most of the victims were civilians. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos hailed the direct involvement of the victims as a historic step towards ending the conflict.

The group of 12 people attending the talks include victims of left-wing rebels as well as those who have suffered at the hands of right-wing paramilitaries and government’s security forces.

That has led to criticism in Colombia, said the BBC’s Arturo Wallace in Bogota. Some people believe that only those affected by the Farc’s violence should have travelled to Cuba to attend talks with the rebel group.

But the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay praised the move, calling it unprecedented and a potential model for other countries dealing with issues of justice, peace and reconciliation.

Sixty people in total have been selected to join the negotiations in Cuba over the next weeks. [. . .]

For full article, see http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-28822683

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