Be Innovative, Be Deliberate, Be Happy (my TEDx Antigua Barbuda blog) – Part 2

Broken into a few parts due to length

Previous part

Speaking of energies, there was an anticipation in the room. So for those who scoff at any notion of us engaging in meaningful thoughtful dialogue – who propagate notions of us not being a reading, thinking public (and that includes those of us who sometimes despair at the racachacaracachaca) – (we need to to) think again. There is a lot of noise a lot of the time, but there is also clearly a hunger for mental and spiritual food as filling as fungi and pepperpot – not just the national dish, also the hashtag of the TEDx talk, so interpreted by three artists; Edison Liburd, Sonali Andrews, and Maritza Martin.

Art by Sonali Andrews. Images courtesy TEDx Antigua.

Art by Sonali Andrews. Images courtesy TEDx Antigua.

Art by Edison Liburd. Images courtesy TEDx Antigua.

Art by Edison Liburd. Images courtesy TEDx Antigua.

Art by Maritza Martin. Images courtesy TEDx Antigua.

Art by Maritza Martin. Images courtesy TEDx Antigua.

If we were hungry, we got lots of food for thought and we were thoughtful and engaged as we ate it up, and then scraped the bottom of the pot for the brawta.

Calypso Joe

Images courtesy TEDx Antigua.

Images courtesy TEDx Antigua.

The image of the man and his ever-present guitar reinforced the idea of the calypsonian, certainly the calypsonian of yester-year as the quintessential singer-songwriter, the Bob Dylans and Joni Mitchells of our world, steeped musically in the folk-acoustic tradition and fired by the internal imperative to respond to the world around them, not merely entertain it. Calypso Joe spoke of the racial tensions making headlines from Africa to America to right here in Antigua back in the 1960s, inspiring his ‘We shall overcome’. Calypso Joe said that when young Joe realized he could write, “the struggles in those countries came to my mind, those are the first things that came to my pen.” He spoke about his mother, a mother to 10 of them, only partially educated but preaching the gospel of education as the way out of poverty- a dynamic with which this blogger can definitely relate as my mother was much the same, though she didn’t have 10 of us with which to contend. And so, bolstered by his mother’s influence, he sang “a tree begins from the root, so it’s your duty to nurture and train the youth.” He spoke of another song, again driven by the racial inequities defining the black experience, that came to him on waking one night – “it took me 20 minutes to write…because it was already in my subconscious.” And it took little prompting for us to sing or hum along – knowing the melody if not always the words as these songs have long been part of the narrative of our Antiguan-Barbudan lives. None more so than ‘A Nation to Build, A Country to Mould’, a celebration of our independence and at the same time a chastisement re the petty politics we allowed to divide us – a song, unfortunately, relevant to this day, 34 years on from when we first heard it.

Lia Nicholson

I first came to know Lia as a Wadadli Pen finalist during my first year of launching that writing programme, but her family’s name, Nicholson, was well established in Antigua before then – as adventurers, historians, environmentalists, artists and artisans. Lia, a Yale graduate and current chair of the Environmental Awareness Group, continues in that fine tradition and had her local coming out as a thought-leader with her TEDx presentation on how creativity and innovation can help us combat the ravages of climate change which, as she pointed out, is already affecting us in ways we don’t even think about.

She began in an unlikely place, with the widdy widdy bush. Every Antiguan and Barbudan has heard about the widdy widdy bush, it is part of local lore, this weed that sustained our people during one of the longest national strikes in our history – so the legend goes, so Papa Bird said, and said, and said, on TV certainly during my childhood. It’s Antigua and Barbuda’s national weed (yes, that’s a thing!) but most of us couldn’t pick it out of a line up.

Lia opened with a shot of the widdy widdy and spoke about how it was an integral part of the earlier variations of the national dish –pepperpot, now made with mostly anything green. “We have a culture of innovation,” she reminded us. “We took a weed and turned it into a delicious meal.” And seriously how many times have we had to do that in our history, to, as we love to say, as our parents and their parents and their parents generations going back, “cut and contrive”. It was practically a national philosophy. How have we forgotten that?

Next part…

Be Innovative, Be Deliberate, Be Happy (my TEDx Antigua Barbuda blog) – Part 1

Broken into a few parts due to length

The Speakers. Image courtesy TEDx Antigua.

The Speakers. Images courtesy TEDx Antigua.

The first ever TEDx Antigua Barbuda, reportedly first for the OECS as well, has wrapped and I am one of the lucky ones to have nabbed a ticket. From the time I walked in to the sight of the X crafted from fish pot material (courtesy of Cedars Pottery) on the stage

See me nar lie? Fish pot X in progress. Images courtesy TEDx Antigua.

See me nar lie? Fish pot X in progress. Images courtesy TEDx Antigua.

– on one side of the much more familiar version of the TEDx sign

TEDx Antigua sign under construction. Images courtesy TEDx Antigua.

TEDx Antigua sign under construction. Images courtesy TEDx Antigua.

Showtime! Images courtesy TEDx Antigua.

Showtime! Images courtesy TEDx Antigua.

with a coal pot and yabba on the other side, I knew I was at an event poised, as one of the organizers would later put it, to not only bring a quality TEDx event to Antigua but bring Antiguan energy to the world. Organizers, take a bow.

...or, you know, just do what you do. From left: Colin J. Jenkins, Yvelle Charles-Jenkins, Zahra Airall, co-chair Amaya Athill, and behind her giving the thumbs up Jon Whyte, founder and co-chair Julianne Jarvis, Linisa George, and Kyle Christian.

…or, you know, just do what you do. From left: Colin J. Jenkins, Yvelle Charles-Jenkins, Zahra Airall, co-chair Amaya Athill, and behind her giving the thumbs up Jon Whyte, founder and co-chair Julianne Jarvis, Linisa George, and Kyle Christian. Images courtesy TEDx Antigua.

And if anyone has anything ever again to say about Antiguan and Barbudan mediocrity being inevitable, take all the seats in the Sir Vivian Richards stadium and don’t get up ‘til we sen’ call you. Because this group – participants of which have been involved in several quality events from local stagings of the Vagina Monologues to our first ever national televised political debates – prove routinely that mediocrity is not in our DNA. To reference one of the TEDx speakers, Kai Davis, who likened the imperative to a heartbeat, we can “do good, do good” do better, do better. It takes will, it takes vision, it takes cooperation, it takes creativity and discipline (yes, those concepts can co-exist), and watching the pictures from the TEDx Antigua behind the scenes, there is no doubting that it takes a whole lot of energy as well.

hard work

On to the next part…

Wadadli Pen Turning 10

So my major non-profit activity is something I actually wouldn’t mind having the werewithal to do and develop full time; some days it already feels like a full time job. The Wadadli Youth Pen Prize (http://wadadlipen.wordpress.com) can be time-consuming but I’m grateful to all the patrons and partners for helping to lighten the load. I’m also grateful for notes like this facebook note from Lia Nicholson (the second placed writer in the first year of the annual Wadadli Pen Challenge for her story Tekin Ahn Dey!):

“Thank you Joanne for all your hard work over the years to inspire young writers and give confidence in creativity. The extent of my writing these days is limited to academic work as I study for my master’s, but I did get one blog up earlier this year: http://environment.yale.edu/envirocenter/wearing-two-hats-reflections-on-the-role-of-small-islands-at-cop-18-in/. Count me in for celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the Wadadli Pen Challenge next year! It is a great asset to Antigua & Barbuda.”

This is the photo call for the first season of Wadadli Pen. Lia's actually not in this picture (she was a high school student in Vermont at the time) but that's her mom standing second from right.

This is the photo call for the first season of Wadadli Pen. Lia’s actually not in this picture (she was a high school student in Vermont at the time) but that’s her mom standing second from right.

As I said in response, writing is writing, and I’m glad that Lia is still hitting it for six; I’m also thankful for her and all the young writers who shared their writing because as a writer myself I know it’s not easy. And you know I reached out to see how she could come celebrate with us, right?

If you want to support Wadadli Pen in anyway, contact wadadlipen@yahoo.com