A Series of Literary Connections

Doing some ‘housecleaning’ (lol…not literally…but clearing out some files so I can get to some priority files…or something…anyway) the picture below popped up and before filing it away I thought I’d share it and share a bit of the connections not immediately obvious from the image.

The picture was taken at the Antigua Conference held last week (don’t blame me if you missed it, I urged and urged folks to go here and other places…seriously, I was a nag about it). This was the conference’s 10th anniversary. I remember the first one was 10 years ago and from that moment there have been so many ripples of personal significance.

I delivered (or attempted) an academic paper at that conference (I don’t do academic papers but there you have it) and that paper on media in Antigua after the change of government that had ended the 28 year run by the previous party was subsequently published in the CLR James Journal (yeah, me…yay, me). At that year’s conference, Edgar Lake delivered a presentation on Antigua and Barbuda’s literary tradition that sparked in part what would become the Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books. Paget Henry, professor and chair of Africana Studies at Brown University, with whom I’ve formed a friendship over these past 10 years (wow), has been the driving force behind both the Conference and the Review, on both points, and an advocate for the University of Antigua, unwavering and optimistic on all counts. He wants to fill the void in terms of national critical self-examination left by the passing of Leonard Tim Hector and, through both these projects, he continues to do just that, albeit that the audience is perhaps a bit more niche-y (by circumstance not by choice) than Hector’s popular Fan the Flame newspaper series. Incidentally, several of those Flames are re-published in the 2015 edition of the Review. Email Henry (paget_henry@brown.edu)to subscribe.

The conference has moved around over the years. This year, one of its locations was the Youth Enlightenment Academy at Lightfoot where I’ve held some of my writing workshops as of 2015 (more to come). The Academy is a project of Lawrence Jardine, working with Mali Olatunji to create a space beyond standardized test for engagement with young people in different ways (e.g. I write so I do literary projects, Mali is a photographer, aesthetician, and footballer so he engages in those ways etc.). There’s a Leonard Tim Hector lecture hall at the YEA campus – sidebar: Jardine is part of the Leonard Tim Hector Memorial Committee, in 2014, I received the Leonard Tim Hector Memorial Award…so many connections.

And so we come to the ones in the picture. Brenda Lee Browne, the one looking like she’s just back from vacation on the far left, is a writer and an event coordinator and worker known for her work with sporting events at home and way, way abroad. At this point, my overlaps with Brenda Lee are too numerous to mention – suffice to say, we support each others’ projects (which over the years have included the Independence Literary Arts Award, Wadadli Pen, Just Write Writers Retreat, her prison writing programme, the Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project, and numerous other workshops and activities formal and informal too numerous to mention including performing in the first local staging of the Vagina Monologues by Women of Antigua), we’re both passionate about the literary arts, and donate way more time than we’re paid for in service to these passions and the inevitable social activism that comes with it, and we’re friends.

In the middle is Althea Romeo Mark. I didn’t make it to any other conference activity this year, but I made it to this panel and she was a big part of the reason why. Hers was the panel with Lake, and he was another good reason to be there – his sessions are always don’t miss. In the case of Althea, we’ve been ‘knowing’ each other online for a long minute – a few years now, we’ve reviewed each others books, published each other in literary journal projects, conversed back and forth on literary issues, and been a part of a literary community born of the fact that though resident in Switzerland, she is, like me, from Antigua. This was a homecoming of sorts for her as she hasn’t been back since about two years before I was born. Wow.

with Althea Romeo Mark and Brenda Lee Browne

So all of those things are mixed up in this picture – the where, the why, the when, the who…the how…well judging by my windswept hair and tired eyes, the how was, with some effort; judging by the smile, happy nonetheless that we were able to link up…however briefly.


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