CARNIVAL MOMENTS: Calypso In Kalinago!

Mythologically, certainly historically, their ancestors read stars and currents to and beyond the Orinoco Delta. They could glide from Venezuela northward to Portsmouth, Dominica, in the summer during those days of vancy, choppy, windy waters when fishermen stringed their nets and hammocks on the beach, when women took their babies to the shore and fell asleep with them at their breasts, when cotton pollens flying south and west, filled blue skies.

Those Kalinago riding on currents into Douglas or Prince Rupert’s bays—whoever these two thieves were—did not have a mechanical compass. Today they are a humbled people succeeding still in talking to hurricanes and skinning sheep to drum percussion. Their voices, when chanted, sound like sharp not having melody together.

In the 1970s, when the city struggled with its identity becoming, they dealt with real social justice issues. They had no potable water and in 2011, still no individual ownership of landed property.

Dr. Hilroy Thomas, a Black Kalinago trained at Harvard, would call on governments of the 1970s, and by implication those to come, to be careful not to perpetrate acts of racism against Kalinago peoples. It is the narrative of native peoples all over this world, isn’t it? If we are to continue to speak of them as first peoples, then we should grant them rights and privileges due them as originators of sorts.

Trinidad and Tobago’s Shadow sang “Columbus lie / he never tell nobody / that he had to run from Apache.” They named and defended lands. Kalinago peoples—Waitukubuli’s historic defense force—should not be so economically desperate to be forced to sell their children!

In modern metaphysical thought, practitioners speak of the law of attraction. One has to wonder whether native peoples all over the world from Australia to Canada and Dominica to Tibet intuitively attract this sort of alienation. These habits of discrimination have proven to be particularly contagious, weaving through Europe’s encounter with native peoples right down the line to twenty-first-century governments who govern lands native peoples call home.

Nevertheless, I am hopeful for Dominica’s Kalinago. Who knows, they may well have a female chief in this twenty-first century and a democratic government eager to advance their housing stock, health care, access to potable water, banking, and indigenous history lessons in schools.

As I write, people of Bolivia are out again. There’s violence too following Ethiopia’s May 2005 elections—the third democratic election in Ethiopia under its current constitution.

The Carter Center of Atlanta in a May 16, 2005, postelection statement as observers pointed out that the most notable irregularity during that election was that ID cards were not always checked, and in one district, large numbers of underaged voters voted. Carter Center observers reported election officials failed to be diligent about the presentation of ID documents.

In Bolivia, protestors seized gas factories owned by foreign companies. People are protesting privatization of their gas industry in a demonstration raging for four weeks. According to one commentator, Inca, among others, do not want gas to disappear as tin and nitrate. Those are their resources. They want to earn at least a respectable percentage of the royalties, of their blood, of their ancient rivers courses. Calypso, I think about Dominica’s water resources!

The news commentator went on to say that the US administration then was recommending privatization. Talking about privatization. Dominica’s minister for Kalinago affairs, the Kalinago chief and council, should ask the island’s Catholic administration to print seventy thousand copies of their dictionary, which the church keeps as property and sell them to the people of Dominica and the region, particularly those of St. Vincent and the Garinagus or Black Caribs of Belize. That hardcover dictionary is the only one of its kind in the world.

Dominica’s UNESCO office directed in 2012 by Sonia Williams, one-time minister for education, may well be able to facilitate publishing of such a magnificent chunk of global linguistic anthropology. This is, among others, Kalinagos gift to national and global village culture.

It’s bewildering, you know. They didn’t write it, but without them living and speaking, it would not have existed, would not have come into being, would not have been written, would not have taken form in between covers to be wholly claimed as church property, though it is, in part.

Wild yams, river fish, fish pots, ajoupa, mabrika, bamboo, dormay. Waitukubuli? Cool, fresh water. From a basket lined with leaves, skins of goats, sheep, boa, release their text. Release what the American girl of Vietnamese origin calls their vocabulary words.

Somebody wants to utter these words in a Dominican Sunday morning mass while walking, evening driving, or just waiting for the first full moon of the year. Strangely, miraculous things happen, used to happen when we spoke in Latin in a crescent moon. What would happen when we uttered the word for transformation or vibrated calls for compassion and justice? Let us, with one gesture, bring prominence, integrity to a people, setting aside class, race, color, or pure obsession with bureaucracy, snobbery, secrecy, and threat.

It will be the grandest paradox in the history of Dominica if we should continue in this millennium to speak of our indigenous people while keeping private their linguistic contribution to that island’s very topography being sold today as attraction product. Didn’t Rome think them once a treasure? Doesn’t Rome, like UNESCO, believe the disappearance of native languages to be signs of ravaged diversity?

As I write this lyric, television reports that tuberculosis devastates a third of the world’s population. Think of what can happen in Bolivia, described in 2005 as Latin America’s poorest.

Calypso needs to define poverty all over again, all over again. A woman in Brooklyn gives birth, wraps the innocent in a garbage bag, and dumps it for sanitary engineers. A La Paz woman breast-feeds hers. So much for poverty!

Internationally, one billion people continue to drink contaminated water. It’s a wicked cycle—you know, this old disease coming around again, annihilating, decimating. “Annihilate,” “decimate” were the words used when referencing Bartolome de las Casas’s fifteenth-century intervention to represent, allegedly to mitigate against destruction of (ab)originals in the Americas and the Antilles. Haven’t we, in some measure, returned to semblances of an Arawak and Kalinago experience known too well in the lamentations of Bartolome de Las Casas?

Is Las Casas too far distant to reconstitute a symbolic entrance to social commentary in song touching his bones and conditions of our island’s Kalinago? Wouldn’t Las Casas’s bones be restricted to verse one and reappear again in the final unchained? Would there be any displacement of subject matter if a composer/songwriter passed by way of the Incas or just a city like La Paz, the mud hills of Caracas, the black populations of Sao Paulo, Brazil, or those of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to lyricize touching bay oil producers of Petite Savanne in Southeastern Dominica chanting, “Woy, Las Casas viwé.”

Must be an unchained slave melody delivering a winged change rustling this purple forest of thought. Transcend, leap bèlè dancers!



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