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This is who I am

This is who I am

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by Dennis Ambrose

I have heard repeatedly over the past few weeks a call, by the ‘Boisterous Few, and the Pretentious Elite’, for me to “pack-up and go back to where I come from” and that “no Trinidadian should be running VINCY MAS.” This sounds like prejudice to me. If it is the spirit of the CSME to discredit persons in St. Vincent because of their nationality – we are not really ready to be part of the CSME. The Government of Jamaica has recently granted some 600 CARICOM Skills Certificates for professionals and performing artistes to travel and work in the CARICOM states. Are we going to condemn our fellow-Caribbean people who come to this country?{{more}} Or are we only satisfied for the performing artiste to come here to insult and degrade our women? Well, for that uninformed minority,

I wish to outline some pertinent facts.

• Fact 1: My mother was born and raised in Colonarie, St. Vincent. My father grew up in Layou. I was born in Maraval, Trinidad – not in the Beetham Estate. And even if I were from the Beetham – what’s wrong with that? Am I to be punished for my place of birth? I spent many of my childhood vacations in St. Vincent. I have a sibling who was born here and lived most of her life here.

Incidentally, one of Trinidad’s most famous local products – ANGOSTURA Bitters – sold all over the world, the National Petroleum Head Office, and many other proud industries are located in Beetham. Many proud and upstanding community figures were born in the Beetham and have made good from their origins there. So that for a morning radio talk show host in St. Vincent to incite negativism, to ridicule and put down the Beetham, and persons who originate from the Beetham is a really sad state of affairs. Are we going to do the same sort of putting down for persons from Layou or Paul’s Avenue or Walvaroo – Sion Hill or Colonarie? If so, it is downright distasteful and laced with prejudice. Some of the greatest mas men, calypsonians, professionals: – doctors, lawyers, politicians musicians were born and grew up in Paul’s Avenue, Layou, Walvaroo – Sion Hill and Colonarie. Are we to condemn and ridicule them for that? Many Vincentians hold top positions in Trinidad. Many Vincentian have and continue to contribute to Trinidad. The Trinidad National Anthem says, “Let every creed and race find an equal place and may God Bless our Nation”.

• Fact 2: I am lawfully married to a born Vincentian for 24 years and returned to live here 14 years ago. By the Constitution of this country, I am duly entitled to my citizenship. I am a trained and qualified Cartographic Draftsman who worked in the Lands and Surveys Department of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago for a number of years. I applied for, and was granted early retirement – with full benefits from the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to accompany my wife wherever she was posted in her professional work. All my life, I have traveled and lived in many different countries in the world and sampled Beer from New York, London, Canada, Germany, Holland, France, Trinidad, Hong Kong, China, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia. This is just so we understand that a can of “Budweiser Beer in New York” cannot excite me, so much that I would need to keep talking about it on the radio.

• Fact 3: As far back as 1975 when Alston ‘Becket’ Cyrus made his first album (“Raw Calypso”), I managed his promotion, bookings and sales of this and many other successful albums in Trinidad. I was responsible for his bookings in massive, reputable Calypso Tents there. When Becket toured with the band “Astericks” I was his manager in Trinidad.

• Fact 4: Throughout the 1980s – I facilitated bookings for several Vincentian Calypsonians – into the Tents in Trinidad including the Original Young Brigades Tent, (Queens Hall) and into other successful Calypso Tents – such as the SPECKTACULA FORUM – owned and operated by Mr. Frank Martino of Trinidad. My name was virtually an ‘Entrance Pass’ for Vincentian Calypsonians to get singing jobs in a good Tent in Trinidad. With ease, even today, I can book a number of artistes from Trinidad. So, it was ‘no shot in the dark,’ that when I relocated to St. Vincent in the 1990’s that, the then Minister of Culture – John Horne saw it fit to ask me to be part of the CDC and urged me to accept the responsibility as Technical Coordinator for VINCY MAS. I served during his tenure as Minister and the subsequent Minister – Mr. Alpian Allen – both of whom have made no secret of their satisfaction with my work and involvement in the CDC.

• Fact 5: When the administration changed in 2001, and I was recommended for this non-paying post as Chairman of CDC, I accepted it because I had the confidence that I can make a difference – rather than just TALKING about it and ducking-out when the going gets rough,

or by throwing a temper-tantrum like Rumpelstilskin – if people didn’t agree with me. I have been serving in this position for 5 years, in a post where a number of previous Executives had become so frustrated that they had resigned – even in the late stages of Carnival planning.

I can proudly say that Carnival HAS CHANGED POSITIVELY under my watch. As far as I am aware, the Committees and Subcommittees that work with me on the CDC and the current Minister of Culture are not dissatisfied with the discharge of my duty as Chairman of the CDC. Therefore, for the benefit of ‘Boisterous Few and Pretentious Elite’ – here are some points to document my claim, and joggle your memory back to reality: –

• Fact 6: From the introduction of Fireworks, and the now renowned ‘No Glass Bottle Policy’ (which originated from the CDC three years ago). The new stage, the new motorized stage canopy and professional lighting, to stage backdrop, and extended ramps, big screen projection which helps bring stage activity closer to the spectators and gives credit to corporate sponsors for their involvement, attracting more corporate sponsorships, street decorations, airport decorations, air conditioned pre-fabricated sponsorships, street decorations, airport decorations, air conditioned pre-fabricated portable dressing rooms for artistes and contestants, revival of the demised Miss SVG SHOW, and raising its standard to incorporate and reward young ladies with good intellectual stature, introduction of View Card advertising (now copied by other Corporations), television advertising on airlines and at cricket matches, establishing the website, launching of VINCY

MAS at the Labor Day Parade in New York and giving Vincentian artistes and bands performance exposure to the New York circuit, introduction of the Dynamite Calypso Tent in NY, introduction of the local launching of Carnival, reclaiming the Soca Monarch Show, the invitation of the franchised and successful Show called GLOW; introducing the Soca Monarch Semi Finals, the New Song Competition, the Super Jamz Fete, the midday street concerts at Heritage Square, wide overseas marketing, invitation of international press – CMC, WLIB, CHIN-Radio (Vancouver, Canada) CBS Television USA, NBC-Radio Trinidad and TTT-Television of Trinidad, moving VINCY MAS into the hi-tech world of live video streaming of shows, the introduction of international judges for several aspects of VINCY MAS to eliminate the common accusation of bias in judging the competitions and giving international credibility for those shows involving non-local participants; expanding Miss Carival Show to such an extent that now it is over-subscribed with contestants; the establishment of Pan, Calypso and Mas Workshops, and the revival of pan for Panorama is equally commendable.

• Fact 7: From 2001 to now, the carnival components have enjoyed a 35% increase in prizes under my watch as Chairman and under this administration. Much more financial assistance has been provided to VINCY MAS and rural activities than in any other time in the history of this country. We manage with a budget of EC$1.2 million even though in other islands, the sum of money is much greater. The Barbados CROP OVER runs with BDS$5.2 million, and Antigua Carnival which had EC$1.3 million, is now asking for EC$2.6 million ADDITIONALLY. So, compare our standard and end product to those two islands’ and we are CLEARLY at the forefront, running on a comparatively meager $1.2 million EC dollars.

• FACT 8: The THREE-FOLD increase in visitors for VINCY MAS from 2001 to now is a bold confirmation that the product of VINCY MAS is a worthy one, and that the marketing of VINCY MAS by this CDC in conjunction with the appropriate Government Ministries, is effective. From 2001 to now, there has been a steady increase in the number of mas bands, and masqueraders. Surely, they must see some measure of confidence and encouragement by this CDC for more mas-men to come forward and exercise their talents. There is ample credit to my tenure. The facts are clear, with no need to be patronized.

I challenge anyone to name another organization in this country, which has experienced such growth, transformation and advancement of its production, with a similar list of merit and vision to its credit. Like any other developing system, the CDC recognizes it has some areas of weaknesses and will certainly keep working to rectify those. We are all aware that no one is perfect.

• Fact 9: Many of the persons who CLAIM to have ‘innovative’ ideas say this every year, but fail to come forward – every year. Some have been selected to work with the CDC in the past, but had conflict resolution problems and could not work harmoniously and effectively with other persons. And there is the ever-present ‘political posse’ who can’t take politics out of their every day lives. And of course, there are those manipulative ones who wish to force their personal agendas down the throat of the CDC. They cannot and will not get their ‘personal’ way because of the democratic conduct of the members of the CDC.

• Fact 10: The CDC has never failed to evaluate and embrace new ideas. Everyone’s ideas cannot be implemented for various reasons, including the limitations of the working base of the CDC. Yet the ready-mix solution to this, is to say that the CDC is “old fashioned, with old people and does not listen.” This venomous bashing of the CDC is really disproportionate, and sometimes comical. How could an activity in Barrouallie or Georgetown have any bearing on an activity occurring in Kingstown?

• Fact 11: And the nonsense of “the CDC changing the date”. What benefit could THAT be to the CDC when we have already launched the Festival in NY on the heels of 2005 VINCY MAS, with banners stating the date? Besides, the correct dates were already announced at the Prize Giving Ceremony in July of 2005. It is a most ludicrous assertion particularly AFTER the CDC discovered that some calendars had published incorrect information, and went to great length to rectify this error on calendars produced by publishers who obviously failed to consult before printing. The CDC makes a good scapegoat for some.

So, of course, the CDC is blamed for the rains which fell and soaked the electronic equipment at the Miss SVG Show which experienced technical difficulties and delay; chastised for the difficulty of the high winds which blew down the large costumes on stage, thrashed for the Police who stopped the music and street activity prematurely on Carnival Monday evening, and the CDC is responsible for the Mas Bands which did not enter the Victoria Park on time, and even for the personal feelings of those persons who say “they didn’t FEEL the Carnival”! One wonders where does it stop. By chance, who takes the blame for those persons who “don’t feel the Christmas”?

Finally, I make no apologies now, nor at any other time – for my nationality nor for my presence in St. Vincent. I am absolutely and equally proud to have served in Trinidad and in St. Vincent, in the realm of the Cultural Arts. I have done so competently, positively, and effectively. I do not have a marriage of convenience, nor am I here for economic survival, and the CDC does not reward me with a regular income as other Statutory Boards do their chair persons.

The CDC – under my watch – continues to present a visible, highly acclaimed product for all to enjoy – home and abroad, and its product is one that stimulates economic activity in this country, bringing a steady growth of visitors here for VINCY MAS. I am proud to be ‘Trini to the Bone, with Vincy in my Veins’ – serving my adopted country of St. Vincent & the Grenadines, and I make NO apology for THAT. Be assured that I have no immediate plans to leave St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Anyone else who wishes to ‘pack-up and go’ – you’re free to do so. This is WHO I AM.

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