Posted in International Relations

Puerto Rico: A Country or a Colony?

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It appears that the legacy of colonialism has not been completely exorcised from Caribbean society. Puerto Rico has been under the rule of the United States (US) since 1898, and today, Puerto Ricans are rising up against what many consider a blatant attempt at neo-colonialism and furtherance of systemic inequalities through the continuation of total political and economic dependence. Struggling to assert sovereignty, even after having it denied of them, citizens are resisting the imposition of the “Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act,” or the PROMESA law.

What is the PROMESA law and why is it inciting such strong opposition?

The PROMESA law, which translates to ‘promise,’ is a plan by the Natural Resources Committee of the United States House of Representatives for the establishment of a Fiscal Control Board to manage Puerto Rico’s public finances. For Puerto Ricans however, one problem lies in the fact that PROMESA grants that board the powers of a super government over the Constitution of Puerto Rico, along with general authority to restructure public debt. It is forecasted that the board will work for a minimum of five years and would consist of seven members, all selected by the President of the United States.

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Posted in Music

Madman’s Rant – David Rudder

The Caribbean is well-known for its infectious music. Whether it’s the vibrant clinking of a bottle and spoon, the dramatic beat of the tassa drum, the calming strum of the erhu violin, or the thunderous vibration of the steel-pan, music is synonymous of a Caribbean experience. The diversity of the people is reflected in the diversity of the music found throughout the region; a fusion of African, Indian, Chinese, Middle Eastern, European, and Indigenous influences. Calypso music is one of the most symbolic genres, having gained international popularity since the early 1900s, after it was developed in Trinidad and Tobago in the 17th century, traced to the West African Kaiso music brought by enslaved Africans.

Overtime, there have been countless Calypsonians who have done the genre proud, by sharing positive or noteworthy messages about society and politics. One such person is David Rudder. Born in Belmont, Trinidad and Tobago, Rudder grew up surrounded by pannists at the nearby Belmont panyard, started singing at a young age, and even sang backup vocals for Lord Kitchener, who is known as the grandmaster of calypso. His music has been coloured by his various religious backgrounds – Spiritual Baptist, Anglican, and Catholic, and the authenticity of his reaching into the past and drawing on the deep African roots of the genre. With such tremendous influences around him, David Rudder became one of the most successful calypsonians in the world.

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Posted in International Relations

Brexit & the Caribbean: A case of Dependency

From Belize in the north to Trinidad and Tobago in the south, and the array of beautiful island nations between, Caribbean people share a crucial characteristic which has shaped the Caribbean identity existing today – a tumultuous history of slavery and indentureship. African slavery and European colonisation in the Caribbean are inseparable; it was the basis upon which our societies were developed. For centuries, human beings were imported in mass quantities, untold millions, across the Atlantic Ocean and made to work under inhumane conditions. For the English-speaking Caribbean, this reality entwined our countries with the economies and societies of the colonial master – Britain. These ties, although ostensibly cut, still hold a very real noose around the Caribbean economy today; understanding this idea is key to understanding the effects of Britain’s exit (Brexit) from the European Union (EU) on the Caribbean.

It brings to question whether Caribbean nations are truly free from colonisation or have fallen prey to neo-colonialism. According to the Caribbean Dependency Theory, an economic and socio-political review raises the belief that ‘freedom’ and ‘emancipation’ have been an illusion proliferated by the powerful metropolis in order to maintain domination instigated by colonisers. It suggests that even today the decisions of the neo-colonisers have major trickledown effects, depicting how the aforementioned ties still define and control the Caribbean reality. This leaves Caribbean economies highly vulnerable and ensnared in a cycle of debt and dependency.

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Posted in Music

Spirit Bird – Xavier Rudd

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Xavier Rudd has a sweet, soulful voice that carries with it the cries, hurts, and hopes of Aboriginal Australians.  Listening to one of his live recordings, Bob Marley’s No Woman No Cry,” one is transfixed. The purity of the emotion oozing from the singer is clear and his multi-instrumental skill is mesmerising; Xavier Rudd is one of those artistes to fall in love with, a  rare gem.

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Posted in gender

The Quandary of Child Marriage in the Caribbean

“If you educate your girls you will have everything in the future” were the words issued by Theresa Kachindamoto, senior chief in the Dedza District in Central Malawi. Theresa successfully annulled 850 child marriages in Malawi in the past three years, saving girls as young as twelve years old from a life of destitution and unfulfilled opportunities for advancement.  Indeed, a society needs educated, empowered women at its helm, involved in the running of the country’s affairs.

According the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), across the world, as many as 14.2 million girls will marry before becoming adults annually. In developing countries, one in every three girls is married before reaching the age of 18. In Latin America and the Caribbean Region, 18 per cent of girls 15-19 were married or in an informal union. Here, young boys and girls are still being subjected to marriage, accepted by marriage laws bound in archaic religious principles.

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Posted in climate change

Dare To Disobey In The Name of Climate Action

We are living in what is known as the anthropocene. Human activity is altering Earth’s natural cycles and spurring on climate change at unprecedented rates.

The islands of the Caribbean are home to over 40 million people, who are all directly vulnerable to climate change

The biggest culprits?

Dirty energy companies

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Burning of oil, coal, and gas is the primary cause of the increased concentrations of toxic gases in the atmosphere. It is estimated that about 3 million people die each year because of toxic particles and 87  percent of all human-produced carbon dioxide emissions come from the burning of fossil fuels. Small Island Developing States are facing increasing temperatures, sea-level rise, and increased hurricane intensity; climate change effects that threaten lives, property, and livelihoods.

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Posted in climate change

A Climate Promise is a Comfort to a Fool

“Don’t give something and then take it back, otherwise, you’ll get a boil on your eye,” is a very common saying in Trinidad and Tobago. It speaks to the practice of keeping one’s promises and being true and genuine in all giving.

On Earth Day 2016, 177 countries officially made a climate promise by signing the Paris Agreement. Signatories now need to make the move to ratify the agreement without delay and set their countries on the pathway toward 100 per cent decarbonised economies. Contrary to local belief, failure to ratify and live up to this particular promise will not disfigure those responsible for making it. Instead, it will further render Earth and all living things that call this place home exposed to the devastating effects of climate change.

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Posted in climate change

Stop Melting My Ice-Cream and Taking Lives

It is three minutes to midnight and we are losing all chances of redeeming ourselves from the atrocities we have inflicted upon the Earth.

Stepping out of the house and onto the street is now akin to moving from the pot and into the fire. As the maxi zips along the Priority Bus Route, I notice something. During my 30-minute air conditioned commute from Tunapuna to Port-of-Spain, I count eleven persons in the same stance; arms crossed over their chest, visibly using the palms of their hands to protect their arms from the heat of the sun. This stood out because I too have found myself attempting this futile coping mechanism.  If you listen carefully, you may hear your epidermis being scorched.

Why?

Progressively, each month is being recorded as the hottest month on record. Data released from Nasa confirmed that February 2016 was the most ‘unusually warm month’ ever measured globally. Global surface temperatures across land and ocean were 1.35 degrees Celsius above the February average — based on a 1951-1980 baseline.  This crushed January 2016’s heat levels and not surprisingly, 2016 is already set to be the hottest year on record.

This is no coincidence, this is climate change. 

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Posted in climate change

Sharks: The Dark Knights of the Sea

Written by – La Tisha Parkinson

Sharks are often considered to be the terrifying beasts of the sea, ready to attack without a moment’s notice. As such, the idea that sharks can be beneficial is often difficult to grasp. However, in the past four hundred and thirty-six years, there have only been seventy-six confirmed, unprovoked shark attacks in the Caribbean, that averages to be much less than one attack per year. Therefore, it is fair to say that sharks inhabiting Caribbean waters do not pose a threat to humans. Now, we must ask ourselves, how are sharks beneficial to the Caribbean? In this piece we will examine the important role sharks play in coral reefs in the Caribbean.

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Caribbean reef with healthy corals, Bermuda, 2013 © Catlin Seaview Survey

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Posted in gender

Cleansing rape culture from society

How can we address a society where sexual abuse has become routine?

Some might think that the phrase “rape culture,” is simply an exaggerated myth made up by angry, man-hating, bra-burning feminists to push their own agenda.

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However, they could not be more wrong. It is real and it is prevalent in Caribbean society.

Trinidad and Tobago is known all around the world for its Carnival, often touted as “the greatest show on Earth.” As true as this may be, Carnival 2016 was marred by the tragic death of Asami Nagakiya. For people from the Caribbean, right after Carnival Tuesday 2016, scrolling down their Facebook newsfeed, ‘rape culture’ had become the most popular phrase.

Why?

The ludicrous response by the then Port-of-Spain Mayor, Raymond Tim Kee that “Women have the responsibility to ensure they are not abused during the Carnival season,” incensed women and some men all over Trinidad and Tobago and the wider Caribbean.

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