Posted by: lisaparavisini | November 24, 2014

Pulitzer-Prize Winning ‘Rent’ Will Play Havana For Christmas


Jonathan Larson’s groundbreaking musical about artists, squatters and AIDS in New York’s Alphabet City in the 1990s will open on Christmas Eve in Havana for a three-month run, Jeremy Gerard reports for Deadline Hollywood

The Spanish-language production is being produced by Nederlander Worldwide Entertainment in partnership with the Cuban National Council of Performing Arts. Nederlander says it’s the first Broadway musical with a full cast, musicians and first-class production elements produced in Cuba in over 50 years. The show will open December 24 at the Bertolt Brecht Theatre, according to Robert Nederlander Jr.The Broadway creative team is led by Andy Señor Jr., who will direct a company of 15 Cuban actors. Señor, according to Nederlander, is a leading member of Broadway’s Cuban American community and has played the key role of Angel on Broadway . He is a protégé of original director Michael Greif, assistant directing the Off-Broadway production and later directing productions of the show in multiple markets around the world.

Nederlander Worldwide mounted Broadway Ambassadors, a concert featuring Norm Lewis, Capathia Jenkins, Rob Evan and Luba Mason performing classics from the Broadway songbook, at the Havana Theatre Festival in 2011. The Cuban Ministry of Culture invited the group back to do a full Broadway musical that would feature aspiring Cuban actors and musicians. The show’s anti-capitalist sentiment will doubtless go over well with authorities, though it’s anybody’s guess how Cuban audiences will respond to the show’s distinct New York vernacular and references.

For the original report go to

Posted by: lisaparavisini | November 24, 2014

Wyclef Jean on His New Single ‘Divine Sorrow’ with Avicii


Last week Wyclef Jean released his new single, “Divine Sorrow,” Jeryl Brunner reports in this interview for Parade. He collaborated on the song with famed electronic music DJ and producer Avicii. Proceeds from the single will benefit the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and will help finance grants which provide HIV prevention, testing, counseling, treatment, and care services.

In fact, “Divine Sorrow” is part of the Share the Sound of an AIDS Free Generation campaign that was created by Coca-Cola in partnership with (RED) – the AIDS organization founded by Bono and Bobby Shriver. As part of the initiative, a multitude of artists like Bono, OneRepublic, Deadmau5, Aloe Blacc, Wyclef jean and Avicii are offering special experiences (like back stage visits) or lending their voices with unreleased songs to inspire people to take action. And for Jean, encouraging people to take action has always been part of his DNA. “My dad passed away years ago, but one thing he told me that continues to stick is, ‘your birth date is set, your death date is set. The only thing that matters is what you do for people in the space in the middle,” says Jean. “That is my philosophy on how I move on life.”

Wyclef Jean talked about “Divine Sorrow,” Bono, the Fugees and lessons learned from his past.

What inspired you to be involved with the Share the Sounds of an An AIDS-free generation campaign that (RED) and Coca-Cola are doing?

When AIDS came out in my era, we didn’t know what it was. We saw people dropping like flies. I remember MTV and different people giving initiatives and telling kids to protect themselves. But now we’re going into 2015. This is something that our generation can eradicate.  If I can be part of eradicating HIV, that would be a great thing.

What drives you to be so philanthropic?

I left Haiti when I was 10 and grew up in the Brooklyn projects and then moved to New Jersey. My father was a Nazarene minister of the Christian faith. I watched my dad and my mom constantly helping communities. That inspired me.

How did “Divine Sorrow” come about?

I went to Stockholm. I was going through the craziest period of my life. It was after I ran for president {of Haiti). And so I came back to the states and I thought, I’m going to Stockholm. Like Nina Simon said, ‘I’ll go to Paris’ and Jimi Hendrix went to London, I went to Stockholm. I was in the studio with a Avicii for a couple of days and some other good writers. And the idea of “Divine Sorrow” was how can sadness turn to joy? When Coca-Cola and RED embarked on their campaign, the song fit perfectly for their concept of what happens when you turn sadness into happiness. No matter what you think you’re going through, no matter how bad it seems, you can overcome it by turning sadness into a celebration.

So how do you turn sadness into a celebration?

When I went to Africa a month and a half ago we went to the clinics. I visited HIV patients. One woman said she had HIV but she took her drug every day and her baby was born HIV negative. She said, “Clef, what appeared to be the saddest moment of my life turned to be the most joyous time of my life.” That’s one example how sadness turns into joy.

And for me personally. I think of how I came from Haiti – from a dirt village, taking a donkey to school, then landing in Marlboro projects, and my mamma being on welfare. I remember teachers saying statistically I won’t see 21. But we are the masters of our minds and can create whatever we want. Another human being can’t define you.

Unless you really live or lived in the projects, it’s hard to explain what it really feels like.  And when you go out of it, you completely feel like you’re in a different world. You come back into it you think, here’s the basketball court, that’s what they doing on this corner, where is my space? What helped me change was watching people do the wrong thing. They basically vanished one by one by one. Being in the middle of that is why I don’t talk about selling crack or taking a gun and shooting someone in the head. I know real Og’s {original gangsters} that are doing time in prison. When I speak to them they say, ‘yo Clef, let the generation know, man, this is not cool.’ If you take all this negativity, once you turn it into a positive, you’ll become a leader for that community.

What did you know you had to be a performer and musician?

I went to Vailsburg High School. So in high school and in the streets, I was a battle rapper. Like you see like Eminem’s 8 Mile. Basically, I had a double life because I was also singing gospel inside my dad’s church. I was the biggest gospel singer. We had a church band. I was a complete Jekyll and Hyde.

But performing was survival. If I couldn’t get food. Or I wanted to buy something and couldn’t get it, I would just start singing. For me, singing was the escape and seemed like the gift of the gods. And I could play multiple instruments and was self taught. My aunt always says when I was 3 or 4 in the village in Haiti, I was singing Creole songs – just rambling. And if someone would tell me to shut up, I’d sing another song. When I was about 11, my father gave me, my brother and sisters a bunch of instruments. They were Muppets Show instruments, like the drums and trumpet. I used to love the Muppets.

What was your first professional gig?


The first professional gig that I got paid for when I was 17 years-old. My friend said to this group, Exact Change, from Trinidad, ‘I have this kid from New Jersey. He plays every instrument and he can produce a record for you.’ I had ever embarked on being studio producer or produced something for someone. But I did the record – produced, wrote it, and they sung it. Basically they paid me cash and I thought, WOW! This is cool and this is not drug money. And that made me want to make music as a profession.

Do you remember when you came to the United States from Haiti.

It was the first time I saw New York. I was never on a plane ever in my entire life, and I never saw big lights like that. And I remember looking out the airplane window and seeing all of these lights and I saw two towers. There were so many lights. I told my brother, ‘look, we’ve arrived in the city of diamonds.’ That was just the best way I could express it. The skyline looked like a crystal city of diamonds.

What do you adore about Bono?

I’ve known Bono for years. I call him a spiritual brother. One of the things that I love about him is that he’s all about how can everyone work together without fighting. Bono is going to do what’s right, not popular. He’s always going to do Bono and be innovative. That’s what he teaches me. If Bono says ‘I like Bill Clinton. He’s dope.’ I’m going to rock with Bill Clinton. And he’s the same guy who says, ‘I’m going to go talk to George Bush about this. This needs to change, that needs to change, I’m going to ride with him on certain things.’ This is what you call a real policy maker. So I think Bono is one of the coolest dudes.

What might surprise people about you?

People say that I’m the energy God when I perform. I’m inspired by people like James Brown, Michael Jackson, P-Funk. I go crazy. I’m always challenging people to push-up competitions. Believe it or not, people, I just learned how to swim. My fear for the water was the most insane thing. They say if you’re from the islands you’re supposed to swim. But now I know how.

Do you think, you would run for some kind of political office again?

When I ran it was in the urgency of what Martin Luther King talked about. In that moment of history, I could not be just a singer. I had to step up. But now I want to take the next couple of years to be part of inspiring people through music and through my humanitarian work. What will I do in 10 years? I don’t know. But I believe in the idea of service for my country and the world.

But one thing I did learn from Bono is, maybe sometimes you’re more powerful not running for an office position. It’s about using all of your energy, your music, your social media, to basically still be in a position to help.

But in saying that, I want to speak for the record. The reason why I ran is because I learned that things are bigger than the music sometimes. To actually change the movement of different politicians, you have to challenge them. And the only way you can do that is through legislation and policy. And I always want to be part of influencing that side of it. You have to go to Congress and talk about it. You have to understand policy. That’s the most important thing.

So you’re saying you don’t rule out running, but there are other ways to affect change?

Definitely. There are so many different ways to affect change. I’ve looked up to musicians like Bob Marley and John Lennon. They moved the world.

Your daughter is 9 now. Do you like to sing to her?

It’s best thing in the world. The song she always wants me to sing over and over is Fast Car, the version with me and Paul Simon.

Do you ever see the Fugees doing a reunion?

I remember Bono said, ‘You know what the Fugees are, right?’ I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘You’re the hip hop Beatles. Do you understand that?’ It took a minute for that to resonate. It’s not something that I rule out in the future. Different bands get together. Why not? But I suggest not to wait until I can’t move my arms and my legs. Get me while I still look young and I’m flying through the stage.

To learn more about the experiences that Share the Sound of an AIDS Free Generation is offering (which includes a backstage visit with Bono, a meeting with Magic Johnson at an NBA All-Star Game and going on stage with Queen and Adam Lambert), go to  And to download “Divine Sorrow” and the other songs visit,

For the original report go to

Posted by: lisaparavisini | November 24, 2014

The dark side of sunny St Vincent and the Grenadines


Sabrina was 7 when her stepfather raped her. She was in high school when a boy she had turned down threatened to kill her. In her early 20s, she caught a man crawling through her bedroom window — the same neighbour who tried to rape her years earlier.

Sabrina’s stepfather was jailed, but only for a month; over the next 17 years, he continued to emotionally and physically abuse her. She reported the boy to police, too, but they just told her to go home. By the time she discovered her neighbour climbing in her window, Sabrina had lost faith in the local authorities.

She attempted suicide but ultimately chose to live — and her only chance at safety, she decided, was to flee. “I had my mind made up,” said Sabrina, who asked that her surname not be published. “I was going to try anything just to get out of here.”

“Here” is St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a Caribbean country of white-sand beaches and turquoise waters — a vacationer’s paradise. But according to a new report spearheaded by Quebec researchers, the sun-dappled island has a dark side: a “cultural epidemic” of violence against girls and women.

In 2007, St. Vincent had the third-highest rate of recorded rapes after the Bahamas and Swaziland, according to a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime document cited by the report. More recent UN statistics showed that in 2011, St. Vincent was the fourth-worst country worldwide when it came to its rate of recorded rapes.

Domestic abuse and incest are common. Between 2000 and 2011, 60 women died from gender-based violence or at the hands of their partner — a staggering figure considering the under-reporting of cases and St. Vincent’s tiny population of 109,400, roughly the size of Thunder Bay.

“Cultural prejudices against women and the trivialization of violence within relationships have a devastating effect on women’s rights, particularly their right to be free from violence,” reads the report, published by the Université du Québec à Montréal’s International Clinic for the Defence of Human Rights and the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Human Rights Association. “In response to this cultural epidemic, the state of St. Vincent and the Grenadines does not provide adequate protection to women.”

This “climate of impunity” for perpetrators of gender-based violence has caused many women to flee the country, a phenomenon revealed by the Torstar News Service in 2011. Over the past decade, more than 4,490 Vincentians — four per cent of the current population — have sought asylum in Canada, the majority being women. While there are no official statistics on why Vincentian women are seeking asylum, court documents suggest that many are fleeing violence.

Sabrina’s refugee claim was accepted in 2009 and she eventually shared her story with UQAM’s human rights clinic, which began investigating gender-based violence in St. Vincent after a local charity called La Maison Bleue alerted them to the issue. After a year of research, the clinic published its findings earlier this month in a 28-page report, which it submitted to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.

The document is a response to St. Vincent’s official report under a 1979 convention to end discrimination against women, which CEDAW is tasked with monitoring. The treaty requires that states contribute periodic reports on the status of women in their country, which St. Vincent submitted last year.

“(This) gave us a great opportunity to reply and submit a shadow report showing that the situation is much more dire in reality than comes across in the state report,” explains law professor Mirja Trilsch, the director of UQAM’s human rights clinic.

Trilsch’s team, comprised of seven UQAM students and two case managers, found that Vincentian women face enormous hurdles when it comes to seeking protection or justice for gender-based crimes.

“It was very shocking, actually,” says Emilie Guimond-Bélanger, a master’s student of international law and one of the report’s authors who travelled to St. Vincent this summer. “There’s no system, there’s no protection for women, to make this violence stop.”

Discrimination against women is rooted in the “patriarchal structure” of St. Vincent and many women are particularly vulnerable because they depend on their husbands or partners for financial support, the report found. The country’s constitution also lacks a specific provision stating that men and women are equal before the law.

When abuse does occur, the woman’s quest for justice often ends at the police station. Under St. Vincent’s Domestic Violence Act — which considers domestic abuse a civil matter, not a criminal one — police are not even legally obligated to investigate. Although officers receive gender-sensitivity training, victims are often met with “gross, disrespectful, chauvinistic, young male officers who feel that the victim asked for what she received,” according to a report by the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board.

On this tiny island, which is about half the geographical size of Toronto, there is also nowhere for a hunted woman to hide — and the country’s only shelter can only be accessed by victims who file an application through the courts. And even if a woman obtains a protection order against her abuser, she still remains at risk.

And many women aren’t even covered by the country’s Domestic Violence Act. For example, a woman who doesn’t live with her attacker is not protected because the act only covers “members of the household.”

While incest is a major problem, St. Vincent’s criminal code only defines the crime as applying to men who have sex with a “granddaughter, daughter, sister or mother.” Girls raped by uncles or cousins are not considered victims of incest.

But the most “flagrant” problem when it comes to documenting gender-based violence in St. Vincent is the lack of statistics, the report found. Under the 1979 convention, countries are required to compile information on violence against women but in St. Vincent, statistics are nearly impossible to obtain. The best source of information is the local newspapers, which frequently feature stories of Vincentian women being murdered or attacked.

“It’s undeniable that there’s a problem in St. Vincent,” Trilsch said. “So for the state not to offer statistics … and not to have a specific plan on how to fight against this problem, it is a violation to its international obligations.”

The UQAM researchers made several recommendations in their report, which they hope CEDAW will endorse when it issues its own recommendations next July.

The committee’s recommendations are not binding. But they will pressure St. Vincent to start taking the necessary steps to ensure that girls and women live their lives without fear and violence — and the urge to flee.

“It’s the naming and shaming principle,” Trilsch said. “It becomes more difficult for the state to maintain its position: That everything’s glorious, the sun is shining and nobody is getting hurt.”

Posted by: lisaparavisini | November 24, 2014

The Rose Slip: Timeless Trini classic returns in style


This review by Easley Gibbings appeared in Trinidad’s Guardian.

Belinda Barnes’ interpretation of Douglas Archibald’s timeless 1962 play The Rose Slip would not have stood a chance against top-billed Jab Molassie across at Little Carib and The Wiz at Queen’s Hall on the weekend of November 8 and 9, had not the UTT Academy for the Performing Arts already had a growing following interested in some of the younger, brighter stars of the local stage.

Nobel laureate Derek Walcott once labelled the Archibald play “minor-key drama,” but it’s clearly more than an everyday backyard farce. The play’s pace and flavour resonated with the Central Bank audience just as easily as it would have more than 50 years ago, and its uncanny reminders of contemporary alienation and despair are pervasive.

The strength of the play has always been its brutal honesty—its unfettered portrayal of the lives of some everyday poor folks back in the late 50s, portraying a reality that has endured through the decades in popular parlance, style and tone. Little wonder The Rose Slip returns to the Caribbean stage again and again.

The young UTT thespians appeared comfortable with their roles and the dialogue flowed effortlessly. In more cases than not, comedic timing was spot on.

“She was so dead,” says one Mr Bucket, “that we had to bury her fast and have the wake after.”

There is no modern-day app for that.

Flossie (Eugenio Lemo) and Susanna (Andrea Codrington) are tenement-yard neighbours confronting the reality of poverty and official neglect.

There is as much tragedy as there are laughs. Susanna is a single parent of two in a suburb of Port-of-Spain. Flossie is her single neighbour who sometimes invites the jittery scamp and neighbour Gus (Tyler Peloi) to her bed but who also wouldn’t mind a child of her own.

In fact, when young neighbour Eva (Charissa Sealey), who is egged on by Gus to do so, decides she has had enough of job-hunting and decides to take up a lucrative position at “the club,” Flossie tries to talk her out of it and invites her to move in if she loses her flat for lack of money. Eva walks away not only from Flossie, but from a future that appears just as perilous and as hopeless as her life in a new role as a prostitute.

Then there’s Mr Bucket, masterfully played by Jovon Browne, who eventually succumbs to an unwilling bath administered by Susanna and Flossie, who use Gus as a decoy before they grab the old, smelly Mr Bucket and cart him off behind the shacks for a bath.

Near the yard, there’s a busy highway to which the neighbourhood rushes each time there is a crash—measured in intensity by the number of casualties and vehicles involved and the quality of bounty left momentarily strewn across the road before a curious, needy crowd emerges. Perhaps there’s political commentary in this. That’s for the audience to work out.

Flossie, the main character, anchors the storyline throughout. It is a difficult task for Lemo, last seen by this writer in Elspeth Duncan’s absurdist play The Perfect Place, and in Christine Menzies’ interpretation of As You Like It —however challenging the latter two roles. Hers is an exceptional talent developing well through difficult roles transcending different theatrical genres.

Celeste Fortune, in her role as Arabella, the cranky, incapacitated old mother of Susanna, also achieves some of the comedic highs of the play: plain old-fashioned slapstick and double-entendre. But that’s fine.

The play opens with a good old-time whipping administered to Abel (Levee Rodriguez) by Susanna. This is minor-key theatre. Santimanitay!

Now that the other more fashionable and grand dramatic fare is out of the way, there’s perhaps scope for an encore.

Hopefully, as well, the UTT programme makes provision for continuous mentoring beyond undergraduate study. Lemo, Fortune, Codrington, Browne, Sealey et al cannot be lost to the Caribbean stage.

People like Barnes, Menzies, Michael Cherrie, Errol Sitahal and others can advise on how extremely difficult and costly but possible it has been.

George Bovell’s column Reflections off the Water will return next week.

For the original report go to


This article by Maggie Galehouse appeared in The Houston Chronicle.

Gabriel García Márquez’s lyrical novels brim with romance, politics and magical realism. Students and scholars from around the world will be able to “see the work behind the scenes” now that the Nobel Prize-winning author’s archives have been acquired by the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin.

“For the study of literary art, these drafts are really outstanding,” said José Montelongo, who specializes in Latin American literature at UT. “Seeing the struggles, the parts where he’s changing his mind and crossing things out … .”

García Márquez’s archive is another huge literary “get” for the Ransom Center, known for having one of the strongest collections of 20th- and 21st-century British and American literature in the world.

The humanities research library holds 42 million manuscripts and a wealth of papers from writers including James Joyce, Washington Irving, Phyllis Wheatley, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe and William Faulkner.

“This acquisition marks an important extension of the center’s literary holdings,” Ransom Center director Stephen Enniss said. “García Márquez has had as important an influence on the novel of the second half of the 20th century as James Joyce had on the first half.”

Written mostly in Spanish, García Márquez’s papers include original manuscripts of his well-known novels – among them “One Hundred Years of Solitude” (1967), “Chronicle of a Death Foretold” (1981), “Love in the Time of Cholera” (1985) and “Memories of My Melancholy Whores” (2004). The archive also contains drafts of the Colombian-born author’s 1982 Nobel Prize acceptance speech, correspondence and photographs taken over the course of his life, and some of his computers and Smith Corona typewriters.

The university was approached in 2013 by a representative of the family, Ennis said Monday. “García Márquez was alive then, of course, but we remained in contact with the family about trying to work out an agreement. It was important to see the archive first-hand and form a judgment about how it would be used by students and scholars.”

García Márquez died in Mexico City at age 87 in April.

In July, Enniss and Montelongo, interim Latin American bibliographer at UT’s Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, traveled to García Márquez’s home in Mexico City to look over the author’s papers. The acquisition of the writer’s archives prompted the collaboration between the two UT facilities, Ennis said; the Benson Collection is one of the premier libraries in the world for Latin America and Latin Studies.

“His widow, Mercedes Barcha, was there,” Montelongo said. “He has two sons, one in California and the other in Paris. The one in France, Gonzalo García Barcha, received us with his mother. It was a one-day visit, but we had lunch with them and got to talk to them about Gabriel García Márquez’s life and the material we were examining.

“Márquez built a studio in the back yard at some point, so we could see where he used to write.”

The Ransom Center purchased the archive from Márquez’s estate, but will not be disclosing the price, Enniss said. The collection is in transit now and should arrive soon.

“It will take some months to catalog the collection,” Enniss said, “and if all goes well we hope to open the archive for research use in time for a public celebration of Gabriel García Márquez and his work in the fall of 2015.”

UT President Bill Powers said the university, “with expertise in both Latin America and the preservation and study of the writing process” was the natural home for the collection. “Our students, our faculty and the state of Texas will benefit from it for years to come,” Powers said.

Mexican poet and novelist Homero Aridjis said Monday it was an “ideological irony” that García Márquez’s papers would now rest on American soil. The Colombian was outspoken in his opposition to U.S. policy in Latin America.

But Aridjis said it was likely a practical decision based on money, quality of care for the collection and better accessibility.

“The University of Texas, they catalog, take good care of the archives … and make them available to researchers,” Aridjis said.

There was disappointment in Colombia, where the National Library said Monday it had been negotiating for the collection since late last year.

In addition to García Márquez, the Ransom Center is home to the papers of several other Nobel laureates, including Samuel Beckett, J.M. Coetzee, T.S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, Doris Lessing, George Bernard Shaw, Isaac Bashevis Singer, John Steinbeck and W.B. Yeats.

“The literary world of Márquez’s creation is so unique, so particular,” Montelongo said. “People feel connected to it in many different ways. He was known worldwide, translated into many languages.

“I studied in Canada for a couple years. I used to ask my friends – people studying science or law or business, from Japan or South Africa or Europe – what they read. It wasn’t Hemingway. It wasn’t Proust. It was Márquez they had all read and they all had an opinion and personal responses to the books. In the archive, you can see the work behind the scenes to create those great novels.”

For the original report go to

Posted by: lisaparavisini | November 23, 2014

Ian McDonald: Caribbean man

Dr Ian McDonald

This article by Kenneth Ramchand appeared in Trinidad’s Guardian. 

Dr Ian McDonald, author of the novel The Humming–Bird Tree, is to be inducted as a Distinguished Friend of Mr Biswas at a ceremony to be held at the National Library on November 28.

Distinguished Friends of Mr Biswas are elected from among West Indian artists, particularly writers, and from international scholars working on West Indian writing or any related aspect of Caribbean culture.

McDonald (born in 1933) grew up in St Augustine and received a sound education at Queen’s Royal College before taking an honours degree in history at Cambridge University. In 1955 he began a long career in the sugar industry in Guyana, holding key positions with Bookers, later GuySuCo, till 1999, after which he served as CEO of the Sugar Association of the Caribbean.

Early poems like Jaffo the Calypsonian, ‘e Four Knives of Freeman the Cane-Cutter, and The Seine–Pullers are steeped in the popular culture of Trinidad, as is The Humming-Bird Tree. This novel of childhood is at once a loving celebration of the landscape of his native island, an evocation of life and society in Trinidad from the 1930s to the 1950s, and a sad confessional depiction of how social and ethnic bias are implicated in the loss of innocence and harmony.

He became an important part of the Guyanese literary scene as poet, short-story writer, newspaper columnist, editor of Kyk-over-Al, and as chairman of Guyana Publishers Inc, publishers of the Stabroek News. He co-edited the Collected Poems of AJ Seymour, the Heinemann Book of Caribbean Poetry in English, The Bowling Was Superfine (WI cricket writing), and They Came in Ships (an anthology of Guyanese East Indian writing).
He is also a performer. McDonald played tennis for Cambridge University and captained both Guyana and West Indies in the Davis Cup. He is a passionate cricket fan and commentator, and was chosen to deliver the inaugural lecture in the Sir Frank Worrell Lecture Series at London Metropolitan University. His chosen topic was, Cricket: A Hunger in the West Indian Soul.

His syntactically uncomplicated poetry is enriched by pockets of fine description, humour and moving lyicism, and it abounds with ennobling and compassionate portraits of the people of Trinidad, Guyana, and the whole region.

The portraits include Massa Day Done, in which the Master Blaster struts onto the page: “You see how he coming in, how he shoulder relax, how he spin the bat, how he look up at the sun, how he seem to breathe deep , how he swing the bat, how he look around like a lord, how he chest expan’. You ever see the man wear helmet, tell me the bowler should wear helmet, not he.”
The poem ends with a reading of the historical and political forces driving our Viv “as if he alone could end we slavery.”

McDonald’s later poems are a little more serene than the earlier ones as they contemplate ageing, death and the ultimate value/meaning of being here. The mood may be sombre in these later poems but this is one positive man. Nearly everything he writes, early or late, celebrates life, energy, love, and the pleasures of living.

Guyana claims him and has honoured him, and T&T owns him too. But he is a Caribbean man boasting strong family connections with Antigua, Montserrat and Jamaica.

Just as intimate to him is his kinship with the great writers of our region and the world. His great-grandfather translated Ovid and wrote poems including Childe Harold in the Shades, his great-uncle published Songs of an Islander, and his grandmother launched Sunflakes and Stardust, and corresponded with two great West Indian editors and poets, AJ Seymour (Kyk-over-Al) and Frank Collymore (Bim).

Poetry is in Ian McDonald’s genes. He has been writing poems for more than 50 years. His first published one (leaving out his childhood scribblings) is Jaffo the Calypsonian (1955), which had a long run in the CXC syllabus.

McDonald’s experience, versatility, wisdom, and wide-embracing love of poems are in rich evidence in his recently published A Love of Poetry, articles selected from his writings over the last 25 years, mainly from Ian on Sunday’ his column in the Stabroek News.

For the original report go to

Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 11.45.39 PM

This article by Jared McCallister appeared in The New York Daily News.

Since coming to New York in the mid-1970s, photographer Gerard Gaskin has amassed an impressive portfolio including work for magazines, newspapers, record companies, photo exhibitions and his book, “Legendary: Inside the House Ballroom Scene.”

Published in 2013 for Duke University Press, the publication is an intimate look at the artistry, innovation and flair of “house balls” — nighttime shows by African-American and Latino gay and transgender men and women in New York, Washington, Philadelphia and Richmond, Va.

“I started this project and a senior project at Hunter College here in New York City under Roy DeCarava,” said Gaskin, who studied with the pioneering master photographer and expanded the college work into “Legendary.”

“Women and men become fluid, interchangeable points of departure and reference, disrupting the notion of a fixed and rigid gender and sexual self” said Gaskin of the subjects in the book.

“My images try to show a more personal and intimate beauty, pride, dignity, courage, and grace that have been painfully challenged by mainstream society. All of this happens at night in small halls in cities all over the country. These photographs show us different views of these spaces as they are reflected in the eyes of house and ball members who perform what they wish these cities could be.”

“The balls are a celebration of black and Latino urban gay life. They were born in Harlem out of a need for black and Latino gays to have a safe space to express themselves. Balls are constructed like beauty and talent pageants, the author/photographer said.

The publication won the Center for Documentary Studies /Honickman First Book Prize in Photography open to American and Canadian photographers who have never published a book-length work. Gaskin beat out 200 entrants to win the honor.

Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 11.45.05 PM

To order from Duke University Press, send email to or call (888) 651-0122 in the U.S. or (919) 688-5134 (outside the U.S.). Or visit

For the original report go to

Posted by: lisaparavisini | November 23, 2014

The 1733 Slave Revolt that Liberated an Island


For six months the island of St. John came under the control of rebels who rose up against their owners, TeleSur reports.
In 1999 the Legislature of the U.S. Virgin Islands declared November 23 as Freedom Fighters Day, marking Sunday as the 15th anniversary of the establishment of this commemorative day. Freedom Fighters Day celebrates the 1733 St. John slave revolt, one of the earliest and longest lasting slave revolts in the Americas. A revolt that predated the Haitian Revolution by over 50 years.

After the genocide of the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean, there emerged a need for cheap labor to work the white-owned plantations. Slavery emerged as the solution to the labor deficit and by the early 18th century was well-established, with most slaves coming from western coast of the African continent, in the area now known as Ghana.

By 1733, the year of the rebellion, slaves constituted a vast majority of the population of the island of St. John, then ruled by the Danish West India and Guinea Company, with slaves greatly outnumbering the whites.

Conditions for slaves were, unsurprisingly, unbearable and in an effort to dissuade slaves from escaping, a serves of very punitive slaves codes were established, with punishments ranging from flogging to amputations and hangings. The situation of slaves on the island was exacerbated by a series of natural disasters that led to the starvation deaths of many.

A group of enslaved people who had previously held a privileged position back on the African continent and were members of the aristocracy, were brought to St. John. It was this group who conspired to organize the revolt, planning their action months in advance. And on the morning of November 23, they initiated their plan.

Approximately a dozen slaves entered the St. John fortification at Coral Bay in order to deliver wood. Inside the wood they had hidden sugar cane knives that they used to subdue and kill the soldiers stationed at the fort. The rebels then fired that canon as a signal to other slaves on the island to commence the wider revolt. Eventually a force of approximately 100 formed and moved across the island, liberating plantations and killing the white overseers.

The rebels eventually took control of the entire island, save for one plantation. Many whites fled to neighboring St. Thomas. The plantation owners enlisted the help of the English but they were unsuccessful at defeating the rebellion, though they did succeed in recapturing the fort and scattering the rebels.

Eventually the plantation owners were able to secure a 200-person strong military force from the French from the island of Martinique. Exhausted and low on supplies and ammunition, the rebels were defeated by the French forces who captured, tortured and killed most. The plantation system was re-established soon after.

Although ultimately defeated the island of St. John was effectively liberated for six months, setting an important example. It would take another 114 years for slavery to be abolished in the Danish West Indies.

For the original report go to

Posted by: lisaparavisini | November 23, 2014

Robert Downey Jr. to star in Yucatan


This article by Zaharia Bogdan appeared in

Robert Downey Jr.’s production company Team Downey and Warner Bros. have approached Oscar nominated writer Terry Rossio(Pirates of the Caribbean) to pen Yucatan. But what is Yucatan? Well the story behind the story may be as enticing as the movie itself as the idea of the script comes from none other than legendary American actor Steve McQueen. The script for the modern Yucatan will be based on a 1700-page project written by the famous actor in the late 1960s. The original script was McQueen’s brainchild as it was supposed to be another film in which he would star but now it seems that Robert Downey Jr. will take over the reins.

According to Deadline, the script was found in two leather-bound trunks after Steve McQueen’s death. The plot revolves around a renegade salvage expert as he searches the Yucatan Peninsula for Mayan treasure. Think about this. Robert Downey Jr. already is Hollywood’s sweetheart thanks to his portrayal of Tony Stark aka Iron Man.Mix that up with an already great script tweaked a bit by Rossio and you could have the next Indiana Jones or Pirates of the Carribean. The project was originally an action-adventure but now it will be re-envisioned as a “mind-bending adventure story.”

Robert Downey Jr. had only praise for the Oscar nominated writer as he thinks Rossio is exactly what he’s looking for. ” To imbue a McQueen project with a sense of how he might have made it nowadays is a challenge and a thrill. Rossio is more than a great writer. He’s the perfect fit to embrace the existential nature of the project with the action, story and characters that drive Yucatan.” The project is still in development as no director is currently attached to Yucatan at the moment.Steve McQueen’s son, Chad McQueen will executive produce alongside with Lance Sloane(Act of Valor).Jon Berg and Jon Gonda from Warner Bros. will be overseeing the project. It’s not easy making a movie with a distinct atmosphere nowadays and yet there is always one that breaks the rule over and over again. If Robert Downey Jr. is involved then a fun ride we will surely get.

For the original report go to

downloadKate Williams recently published a biography of Josephine Bonaparte that Library Journal calls “not just a scholarly work, but a page-turner” and The Telegraph calls “A whirlwind tour of French history.” Ambition and Desire: The Dangerous Life of Josephine Bonaparte seems like the perfect reading material for a winter vacation.

Description: Their love was legendary, their ambition flagrant and unashamed. Napoleon Bonaparte and his wife, Josephine, came to power during one of the most turbulent periods in the history of France. The story of the Corsican soldier’s incredible rise has been well documented. Now, in this spellbinding, luminous account, Kate Williams draws back the curtain on the woman who beguiled him: her humble origins, her exorbitant appetites, and the tragic turn of events that led to her undoing.

Born Marie-Josèphe-Rose de Tascher de La Pagerie on the Caribbean island of Martinique, the woman Napoleon would later call Josephine was the ultimate survivor. She endured a loveless marriage to a French aristocrat—executed during the Reign of Terror—then barely escaped the guillotine blade herself. Her near-death experience only fueled Josephine’s ambition and heightened her determination to find a man who could finance and sustain her. Though no classic beauty, she quickly developed a reputation as one of the most desirable women on the continent.

In 1795, she met Napoleon. The attraction was mutual, immediate, and intense. Theirs was an often-tumultuous union, roiled by their pursuit of other lovers but intensely focused on power and success. Josephine was Napoleon’s perfect consort and the object of national fascination. Together they conquered Europe. Their extravagance was unprecedented, even by the standards of Versailles. But she could not produce an heir. Sexual obsession brought them together, but cold biological truth tore them apart.

Gripping in its immediacy, captivating in its detail, Ambition and Desire is a true tale of desire, heartbreak, and revolutionary turmoil, engagingly written by one of England’s most praised young historians. Kate Williams’s searing portrait of this alluring and complex woman will finally elevate Josephine Bonaparte to the historical prominence she deserves.

For purchasing information, see

See review at

Older Posts »



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,928 other followers

%d bloggers like this: