Driving east on Friday afternoon to El Dorado, the traffic jam extended from the lighthouse, that falling symbol of Port-of-Spain superiority, into the first traffic light near Valsayn.
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Teaching my child about life
At Pan on the D Avenue on Saturday night, there were people of all kinds and ages. There were few bars selling alcohol, none lining the pavements. I appreciated that, while there was drinking, it was not to excess or defining of the space, making it more inclusive.
There was chipping and sweetness without the wining and adult sexuality associated with Carnival and fetes, so I felt more comfortable being there with my three-year-old daughter who I want to protect from the world of hyper-sexuality for as long as I can.
The pan sides from across the nation were filled with children lifting all our spirits. It was like a panyard stretched for miles, bringing together very different friends and strangers, in an atmosphere of melodic harmonies, safety and community. Too few activities for families are planned for such beautiful nights, freed from cars, traffic, and overwhelming amplified sound which is too often too loud for still developing ear .
The sense of open space alone turned the frenetic urban energy we are so used to into a chance to exhale. Growing up in a musical household, Ziya was clapping, dancing, pointing to the players, and listening deeply while we explained the songs. How wonderful to see pan get such public visibility on just a random day in August, the way a national instrument should.
The protesters in front of Parliament also deserve special mention. On Monday, Zi walked the pavement with them. We drive home together every evening and she usually falls asleep, so I haven’t been able to take her to support the women and men whose presence outside of the walls of power is something she should see for herself.
There were concerned citizens of all creeds, brought together by a critique of what political parties will do if people don’t stop them by coming together. We spent little more than an hour, but she got a chance to ask about the placards, what it means to protest, and why people thought Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and the government were being naughty.
She asked why the police wouldn’t let protesters go into the large building and later told her dad that it was because the government was afraid. I explained that protest is when people tell them the rules they are making are unfair, and she kept asking me, what will the government do? I introduced her to Nikki Johnson and Merle Hodge, knowing the best place to learn about Caribbean feminists was to see that they take to the streets too.
Now that she’s almost four, I want to take her everywhere, to enable her to begin to understand that everything from music to protest breathes life into belonging to a place, because both are founded on citizens coming together, in solidarity and in ways that build connection and trust.
Along with her Carib-descended godmother, I want to take her to the sites where sovereign nations of indigenous people once forged community and committed to resistance to forces of domination, for this is the legacy left for a half-Indian, half-African smallie who should understand that history, as remembered through music, protests and place names, tell more than the victors’ story.
There is the bitter. Heartbreak at garbage in our clear rivers. Criminals targeting nearby neighbourhoods. Political elites to whom we respond with peace rather than violence. May Zi also learn to be protective of the sweet, those days and nights of coming together in families, on pavements and streets, with others of all creeds, and feeling both the angers and joys of loving freedom.