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Taking to the streets
Posted: Wednesday, February 18, 2009

By Derren Joseph
February 18, 2009

Our French Caribbean neighbours, Martinique and Guadeloupe, have been having some challenges recently. Like many of us across the world, they have been feeling the sting of the rising cost of living. Their response has been to take to the streets in protest. In varying parts of these islands, the protests have been extensive. Schools and shops closed, no gas, no water, no electricity.

One of the great things about the Internet is that it enables us to access more details of an event than may be broadcast during the news headlines.
Have a look at my second favourite site these days, You Tube. A protest over the rising cost of living is clear enough. But the situation has got a bit more complicated. Apparently, a television station had broadcast a programme, which could be translated as The Last Masters of Martinique. In this documentary about the concentration of wealth on the island, a Martiniquan of European origin made some controversial remarks. Among them is a comment about "preserving the race." This documentary is also on You Tube, but in French. This documentary has made a sensitive situation worse. I wonder to myself about what responsibility, if any, the media holds.

Minshall moment

Back to Trinidad now. Last Tuesday evening, the National Library screened a documentary called Mas Man. This film is by Dalton Narine and edited by Benedict Joseph, who both financed it out of their own pockets. Danielle Dieffenthaller was a project consultant and the Trinidad and Tobago Film Company supported Narine and Joseph during the last month of production when their resources dried up. It was an excellent film. Kudos to all involved in bringing it to us. It struck me as ironic, while watching the film, how much of a contrast it was to the Last Masters of Martinique.

Mas Man celebrates a Trinidadian of European heritage and Guyanese birth who has contributed immeasurably to our beloved festival. For me, watching the film brought back so many memories of Carnival. My first Minshall experience was when I was eight years old, in 1982, when he came with Papillon. I remember watching The Sacred and The Profane on TV Dimanche Gras night with my mother and sister. It was an amazing thing to see as a child. It was so much more than a costume. It was more like a different creature. Of course, this was the first of many Minshall moments in my life.

I remember in 1986, when one of my favourite teachers from secondary school, Short Pants, brought out his Minshall calypso:

Allyson was announcing
Minshall coming
If you hear she describing
Minshall coming
"It's fantastic! It's hair-raising!"
Minshall coming
Dem was the words she was using
Minshall coming
She say: "I've seen red, blue and green
Like I never have seen
He using Berger Colour
Oh my God; he have two Queen!"
She bawl out, "Well...
All yuh... Oh hell!"
And she fell under the spell
Of the Master
Peter Minshall

Minshall has not only helped to shape Trinidad Carnival, but he has touched the world. We all felt that sense of incredible pride as we saw his influence, and therefore our own, in the ceremonies of the 1987 Pan American Games, the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, the 1994 Football World Cup and the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. I also heard a rumour from a friend in the UK, that he is being considered for the London 2012 Olympics, too! We are so blessed to live on an island that has given the world so much. So many races come together each year to celebrate what was once an Afro-Trinidadian street parade.

Here, every creed and race can find an equal place. As always, I end by saying that despite our challenges, we are so blessed to live in this beautiful country. We need to remember and acknowledge just how much uplifting work is being done all around us. Let us continue to have the audacity of hope in our country, as we move towards Vision 2020.

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