CREATIVE SPACE #16 of 2021 (uploaded August 4th 2021)
CREATIVE SPACE is a series spotlighting local (Antiguan and Barbudan/Caribbean) art and culture. As a brand, it dates back to 2009, published in LIAT’s inflight magazine. It was revamped in 2018 and ran to 2019 on Antiguanice.com. Its publishing partner, as of 2020, is the Daily Observer newspaper. It continues to expand across other media platforms (e.g. AntiguanWriter on YouTube). CREATIVE SPACE is created, owned, and written by Joanne C. Hillhouse – Antiguan-Barbudan/Caribbean author, journalist, producer, and freelance writer, editor, and trainer.
This week’s column is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. Also, respect copyright.
Here’s a link to the issue as it appeared on August 4th 2021 in the Daily Observer:
Below is the extended online edition (not a duplicate of the edition with publishing partner Observer Media) with extras.
If you would like to be featured in a future CREATIVE SPACE or to pay for a (web only) sponsored post (on jhohadli.wordpress.com exclusively), BOOSTing your BRAND while boosting Antigua-Barbuda Art and Culture, contact Joanne.
CREATIVE SPACE: Media Matters
Happy Emancipation Day (belatedly). Reflection on emancipation, our long and ongoing walk in to freedom generally, and the recent passing of local media veteran Milton Benjamin (RIP), has led me to this week’s reflection on media history and culture in Antigua and Barbuda. What does one have to do with the other, you ask?
It hinges on this centuries old idea of the media as the fourth estate – there’s a whole rabbit whole of origins and meanings but it is generally understood that a robust media is the fourth pillar of a healthily functioning democracy: accountable to the people, shining light in to the dark corners, questioning and recording – within varying paradigms as relates to bias/subjectivity/objectivity. There, with notepad, recorder, phone, whatever device the future will devise is the intrepid reporter seeking clarity on issues s/he must then communicate to the people.
Coming of age on cinema of the 80s, I remember how getting the brown envelope of secrets to the media was almost always the third act play, with the understanding that once that had been done, powerful and corrupt people would fall, and all would be well. But it is not the 80s anymore. And confidence in media is shaky, at best.
It bears reflecting though on the pivotal role media has played in our journey thus far – including how the obstacles to a free media positioned the fourth estate in our collective consciousness as integral to this freedom journey.
A tradition that dates back pre-Emancipation and very early on added its voice to the freedom struggle, Antigua’s media history dates back at least to the early 19th century; probably earlier, honestly, but we’ll start with Henry Loving and Nathaniel Hill’s Weekly Register, 1814, which pressed the cause of “free coloureds” and later enslaved people. Of course, among the “free coloureds” there was division on the latter point and a split happened, The Herald Gazette, 1831, coming out hard against Loving and the abolition cause – he was ultimately pressured in to giving up the editorship after losing many subscribers, in 1833.
But establishment and non-establishment voices, including freed Black people, continued to put out papers, the popular media of the time, through the 1800s in to the 1900s. Which is where we come to publications like The Workers Voice (part of what would become a tradition of union and/or party affiliated press), 1944, which counted as editors over the years Novelle Richards, George Walter, and Milton Benjamin; and The Progress newspaper, 1940, edited by Edward Mathurin and advocating for better working conditions on the sugar estates. We’re talking things ranging from better wages to an end to whipping, because, yes, slavery may have ended more than a century earlier but whipping was still a thing. The counterpoint newspaper of that period would have been The Antigua Star.
Also emerging in the 1940s was radio, a game changer if ever there was one. Not even TV, coming on stream in 1965 with ZAL, now ABS, nor Cable TV, 1983, made radio irrelevant – its impact and reach is still significant even in the internet age which has loosened and expanded the definition of media.
Press continued to be impactful as well, notably the late Tim Hector and the African Caribbean Liberation Movement’s The Outlet – widely read, for its investigative journalism, commentary and analysis fanning the flames. The Outlet, like calypso of the 1970s and 1980s, dared to voice a counter-narrative and paid a price for it. It was somewhere around this time that Latumba sang (in Culture Must be Free), “they won’t even play my song on none of them two radio station.”
The two radio stations he would have been referring to would have been ZDK and ABS.
The radio proliferation of today, and “talk as you like” media culture, is possible because the Derrick brothers’ Observer, which began printing in 1993 and broadcasting in 2001, fought all the way to the final court for the right and freedom to broadcast.
For more re Antigua and Barbuda’s media history and culture, I will encourage you to read The Antigua and Barbuda Media: an Abridged Record and add to and correct the record if needed. That post which I have been updating over time has as a core source a paper (Antigua’s Media: Now and Then) Milton Benjamin presented at the first Antigua Conference (produced by the Antigua and Barbuda Studies Association) in 2005 – a panel on which I presented on Contemporary Media Trends in Antigua and Barbuda. Both papers were later published in the CLR James Journal, Volume 13 Issue 1 2007 for anyone looking to read them in full.
When I have done media training workshops with young people, I have emphasized as an addendum to “talk as you like”, be prepared to back up yuh chat. Meaning, do your best to make sure what is said and written is underpinned by provable/verifiable research from trusted sources so that you, too, can be a trusted source and accountable for what you write/say. We are imperfect but we can try.
If there’s a takeaway, it is perhaps that free media and freedom itself have not come easy, and like us all remain works in progress and comes with responsibility. When I have done media training workshops with young people, which I hope to do again in future, I have emphasized as an addendum to “talk as you like”, be prepared to back up yuh chat. Meaning, do your best to make sure what is said and written is underpinned by provable/verifiable research from trusted sources so that you, too, can be a trusted source and accountable for what you write/say. We are imperfect but we can try.
Link to digital library version of Milton Benjamin’s ‘Antigua’s Media: Now and Then’.
Link to digital library version of Joanne C. Hillhouse’s (my) ‘Perspectives on Contemporary Media Trends in Antigua and Barbuda‘.
My media history is long but, quickly, I was a student at the Antigua State College when I started working in the ABS Radio-TV newsroom on weekends, mostly pulling regional and, I think, international news for the broadcast and then during the summer writing for the state newspaper, The Nation. After College, I worked for a year in a department in the Ministry of Information in which we produced press releases and documentaries before going off to the University of the West Indies, and studying at Caribbean Institute of Mass Communications, and earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communications. On return, I worked at ABS TV as an on air news reporter and interviewer, and writer and producer (Tourism Insider etc.) behind the scenes, before moving on to the Antigua Sun newspaper where I worked as a staff reporter and columnist (Sister to Sister). While at the Sun I started freelancing, I joined with a team of media people to produce Antigua and Barbuda’s first regular online news service Sourceab.com (the Antigua and Barbuda News Source). I left full time media employment after the Sun, working in public education with the Antigua and Barbuda Solid Waste Management Authority for three years (producing public service announcements, newsletter, columns, and other media products, including original drafts of the NSWMA website, mascot, and children’s book, among other activities – research, workshops, school and community projects etc.), but never left media. Over the years, while still employed full time, I freelanced on various projects including as a columnist, features writer, and reporter with the Daily Observer and other publications, work in TV and film production with HAMA (Community Billboard, Pet Playhouse, The Sweetest Mango, No Seed, regional TV magazine reports etc.), Homegrown Publications (Essential magazine, various commemorative magazines as a writer and core team member), and more. I have worked freelance/independently for many years and a partial portfolio, including regional and international publications and productions, can be viewed here and here. CREATIVE SPACE is my most ambitious independent media project to date as I have leased (or syndicated) print rights to the Daily Observer, publish online (here), and have begun development of an audio-visual component via my Antiguan Writer YouTube channel. It is the perfect hybrid of my media training and passion for the arts. And yes I am hoping for the injection of capital that will allow this project to flower as I imagine it but, until then, it continues to grow incrementally with my injection of personal capital. I have won awards for environmental and health journalism (the former re the conservation efforts related to the Hawksbill turtle, the latter for features on HIV/AIDS and breast cancer from a human interest standpoint). I also conduct media training (mostly in the areas of media criticism and feature writing, and written communication). I share all of this to underscore that media matters to me and that’s why I’ve done projects like the abridged media history posted to the Wadadli Pen blog.
All Rights Reserved. Sharing or excerpting with link and credit is okay. But for re-publication of CREATIVE SPACE or any other content on this site contact Joanne – also use this link to contact Joanne for appearances (reading, speaking, discussions), workshops/courses, writing, editing, or other offered service.