“The day we begin to be silent about the things that matter is the day we begin to die.”
Martin Luther King Jr.
I was born to be honest,
Not live between the lines,
Curse my saviour, God, and die.
My father knows me,
That I try,
To soar with him:
Born to fly.
I consider myself one of Barbados’ and the Caribbean’s most conciliatory, skilful and effective advocates of the dangers of both religious and secular fundamentalist thought systems – fundamentalist forms of Christianity, Rastafarianism, Pan Africanism, Capitalism, Communism, Feminism, Scientism, Scholasticism etc.
At the Thirty-second Regular Session of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States, June 2 to 4, 2002, I identified all fundamentalist thought systems – including fundamentalist strains of modern medical science – as the greatest threat to the world’s peace and security. Addressing a forum of Governmental and NGO representatives, I identified such fundamentalist thinking as part of a continuum of divisiveness and violence: a continuum linking the pettiest prejudicial thoughts to the most pernicious, terrifying acts – such as those of the terrorists of the 9/11 tragedy.
I was also one of the youngest contributors to York University’s “Caribbean Religions Project”. A summary of my book The Bible: Beauty and Terror Reconciled, addressing Christian fundamentalism, is to be published as part of that Project. In his foreword to this text, Barbadian historian Trevor Marshall recommends my research and conclusions as manifestations of my pursuit of “the quintessence of spirituality”.
As a poet-philosopher, free-lance journalist and publisher, deftly negotiating the minefield of intersecting (and one might add, incestuous) economic, political, religious and racial interests that dominate Caribbean life, I believe I have managed to establish my voice as an independent advocate of social reform, justice and progress. The independence I refer to here has not been easy to achieve. Those who have some sense of the pervasive, predatory, proprietorial and territorial character of Barbados’ political culture – and its academic politics in particular – will have an idea of the price I have had to pay for the “relative” independence I enjoy.
A catalyst of Barbados’ contemporary cultural renaissance, dating back to the 1990s, I have also distinguished myself (at least in the minds of some observers) as both a steadfast nationalist and an earnest internationalist.
On the nationalist front, I am known for, among other things, my work as a founding member of Voices: Barbados Writers’ Collective – possibly the Caribbean’s longest running, grass-roots initiated literary group.
I am careful to say “a founding member”. Unlike Charmaine “Nailah Imojah” Gill, I have never claimed to be the “Founder” of Voices. Imojah makes this claim in A Directory of Barbadian Writers 2000-2001 (National Cultural Foundation, Barbados, 2000) and elsewhere. I find it difficult to see how any of the few people who were involved in the founding of Voices (Margaret Gill, Umbali Imoja, Joy Workman, Nailah and I) could conscientiously claim to be the “Founder” of Voices.
Nailah certainly made an important contribution to the founding of Voices, but I don’t think her contribution justifies her claim to be “the founder”. She does seem to have a penchant for extraordinary justifications though. I elaborate on that in Intelek’s Barbados Horizontal History project.
Also on the nationalist front, I am pleased to say that I was one of the more outspoken supporters of the Barbados Government’s Commission for Pan African Affairs, when that initiative was in its infancy. Back then, the Commission and its first Director David Comissiong were assailed by reactionary, conservative interests across Barbados. I was also the first co-ordinator of Barbados’ National Poetry Month, introduced by the Commission.
On the other hand, my internationalist views led me to found the former Roots Academy – now called Intelek International – in 1992. Through Intelek I seek to promote the common origins (roots) and purposes of the human family.
This internationalist orientation was also the inspiration behind my “pilgrimages” in 2003 to Egypt and the Vatican.
Actually, travel plays a major role in my life. It has long been a goal of mine to visit every country in the world. Marrying a British travel agent who shares my passion for travel has helped me in the pursuit of this goal.
Some years ago, I initiated a travel lovers’ project I call Born To Fly (BTF). The title is taken from my poem “Honestly” above, and speaks to the freedom and transcendence that comes with openness to all the beauty and truth our humanity holds.
After an encouraging start, with fellow travel lovers from Europe, the Phillipines, Canada, the United States and South America showing keen interest, that project lost some momentum. I’ll be reviving it in the not too distant future though, merging it with Intelek’s Creole Complementarity Interactive Technology initiative (CCIT).
Essentially, BTF and CCIT represent a reconciliation of my nationalist and internationalist agendas. My Pan Humanist credo offers useful insights into what such a reconciliation means for me.
My literary and publishing career began in the mid 1980s with the publication of religious tracts, reflecting my views as a Pentecostal Christian. However, while religion is still a significant theme in my work, the evolution of my spirituality has led me to engage a much wider range of subject matters – including politics, education, sports, the arts and gender issues – and to do so in a more holistic manner than a typical, tongues-speaking Pentecostal believer would. (Yes, I still “speak in tongues”, occasionally. In fact, my BA Linguistics thesis was on glossolalia, the technical term for what is commonly call “speaking in tongues”).
To-date, of my own writing, I have published two collections of poems, a number of booklets, an audio book (on CD and Cassette) entitled Lewd Logic and two comic books. You can hear a calypso song I wrote, sang, arranged (with the able assistance of Barbadian musician Philip Reckord) and produced as part of the Lewd Logic project at this link (http://audioboo.fm/boos/165672-obscenity).
I have also published Barbadian “Mother Poet” Margret Gill’s first collection of poems “Lyric You” and the first edition of a work of literary criticism by feminist activist and educator Viola Jones-Davis, entitled The Creative Use of Schizophrenia In Caribbean Writing.
I believe I can also claim, with some justification, to have indirectly contributed to a number of other publications, through my catalytic contribution – along with Joy Workman, Dr. Mark McKwatt, James Carmichael, Nailah Imoja (Charmaine Gill), Margret Gill and others – to Barbados’ current literary and broader cultural renaissance.