For the first time, the twin island Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago has a woman president. After an electoral college win in January, Paula Mae Weekes, a retired Court of Appeal judge was sworn in on Monday, Latin American network TeleSUR reported. Weekes’ inauguration makes Trinidad the only nation in the region to have a woman as head of state after Chile’s Michelle Bachelet vacated her position on March 11.
Obstacles still remain
Despite making history, Weekes is taking office at a challenging time for the nation, known best for its Carnival and for robust oil and natural gas exports. She replaces Anthony Carmona who leaves behind an extremely high murder rate — nearly 400 people in Trinidad have been victims of homicide in in 2017, according to the Trinidad Guardian. She’ll also have to take on an increasing unemployment rate, which rose to 5.3 percent in the second quarter of 2017, Trading Economics reported.
In her inaugural speech, she pledged to take on these and other problems head on. “None of us is blind or foolish enough to deny that Trinidad and Tobago is going through dark times, but I echo the words of C.S. Lewis when I say: ‘this a good world gone wrong but it still retains the memory of what ought to have been’.”
Weekes, 59, worked in both the public and private sectors after graduating law school. Beginning in 1982 she worked in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for 11 years before going into private practice. In 1996, she became a judge at the Criminal Division of Trinidad’s High Court, and in 2005 she was promoted to the Court of Appeal. She also served as Justice of Appeal in Turks and Caicos for three years. She was also Chancellor of the Anglican Church, where she oversaw all finances.
Scholars at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, have debuted an interactive website that chronicles what is believed to be among the earliest examples of the music of the African diaspora. The website Musical Passage tells the story of an important, but little known record of early African diasporic music.
The project focuses on two pages of sheet music from Hans Sloane’s 1707 Voyage to the Islands of Madera, Barbados, Nieves, S. Christophers and Jamaica It is believed to be the first transcription of African music in the Caribbean, and possibly, in the Americas.
The project was created by Mary Caton Lingold, a doctoral candidate in English at Duke, Laurent Dubois, a professor of Romance studies and history at Duke, and David K. Garner, a composer with Ph.D. from Duke who has been hired as an assistant professor of music at the University of South Carolina.
Lingold says that “you’d be hard pressed to name a living genre of music that enslaved musicians didn’t help to create or transform. Jazz, country, rock, blues, reggae and the list goes on. Turn on the radio and you are hearing these musicians’ story. But we don’t know a lot about their early music because it was not preserved in conventional ways. And that is why a little artifact like this is so important, because it helps us to know more about what their performances may have sounded like.”
Jussie Smollett will host the eighth season of the public television show AfroPoP: The Ultimate Exchange.The star of the hit FOX TV showEmpirewill emcee the popular show about contemporary art, life and culture across the African Diaspora as it premieres on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Monday, January 18, at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT onWORLD Channel.
Smollett will also be seen in the new WGN thriller Undergroundin 2016. The acclaimed entertainer is also involved in numerous humanitarian pursuits, sitting on the boards of the Black AIDS Institute, Artists for a New South Africa and the RuJohn Foundation.
Previous hosts of AfroPoP include Idris Elba, Anika Noni Rose, Wyatt Cenac, Gabourey Sidibe, Anthony Mackie and Yaya DaCosta.
“AfroPoP’s engaging, real-life tales add to the collection of rich Black stories that audiences are clamoring for and I wanted to be a part of bringing them to national attention,” said Smollett.
Reisha Maynard-Holder meticulously cut patterns for a collar out of foam rubber as a fan whirred in the sweltering heat. Next, she turned her attention to feathers, attaching them to the collars one at a time with a glue gun. It was another grueling evening in a monthslong effort to create some of the most elaborate and spectacular costumes seen on the streets of New York.
“These are our summers,” said Mrs. Maynard-Holder, one of hundreds of people who prepare the costumes worn in the West Indian American Day Parade, scheduled for Monday morning. More than 5,000 people were expected to take part in the parade, a tradition known as “playing mas.” And, over a million people are expected to gather on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn for the event, which celebrates Caribbean culture with food and music. But the real stars of the parade are the bright array of costumes, visually stunning concoctions of feathers and beads, with headdresses often rising several feet in the air.
“The costumes are a symbol of the flair and vibrancy of the culture and demonstrate the pride of the Caribbean,” Jamell Henderson, spokesman for Karma Carnival NYC Band, said. “They are the centerpiece and main attraction.”
Making the costumes often begins a year in advance, shortly after the parade ends, with the bands — as the groups that participate are called — selecting themes in the fall and fabric samples in the spring. Fashion shows displaying prototypes are held in early summer, followed by production until Labor Day.
Jamaica is set to hold its first gay pride celebration next week. Security concerns prevent a parade, but organizers have planned a full week of events. This is monumental because Jamaica is a country that is known for extreme homophobia. According to the Human Rights Watch, Jam Rock’s LGBT population lives in constant fear, and anyone who listens to (and understands) dancehall may be familiar with anti-gay sentiment in a lot of the music where many artists make references to “burning the chi chi man,” etc. Marriage between men is is also illegal in the country, which is a holdover from British Colonial law.
However, the festivities will commence from August 1-8 in the nation’s capital city, Kingston. This is also concurrent with Jamaica’s Emancipation and Independence celebration. Festivities will include a flash mob, an opening ceremony, an art exhibition, an open mic night, a flag raising ceremony, and a coming out symposium that will feature allies to the community, reports the Advocate.
“We will pause the negative vibrations from anti-gay lobby groups and focus on the strides we have made as a community. More importantly, we will recommit to initiatives that see us moving forward as one community,” said Latoya Nugent, the associate director of the Jamaica Forum of Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG).
Visitors to the United Nations headquarters in New York will get a powerful reminder of the brutality of the transatlantic slave trade and its enormous impact on world history through a visually stunning new memorial that was unveiled last week in a solemn ceremony.
There were speeches intended to touch the emotionality of a system that operated for hundreds of years, killing an estimated 15 million African men, women and children and sending millions more into the jaws of a vicious system of plantation slavery in the Americas.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called slavery “a stain on human history.”
U.N. General Assembly President Sam Kutesa said slavery remained one of the “darkest and most abhorrent chapters” in world history.
It was only fitting that the ceremony take place at a site surrounded by the looming skyscrapers of New York. Slavery was the economic engine upon which American capitalism was built, providing the seed money for United States businesses to create the most vibrant economic system in the world. The enslaved Black person (whose gender is purposely vague to represent men, women and children) lying inside the dramatically shaped marble memorial, which is called The Ark of Return, is a symbol of the millions whose deaths led to the building of those skyscrapers, the visual emblems of American capitalism’s enormous financial windfall for the white beneficiaries of slavery and their descendants.
During his speech unveiling the memorial, Ban Ki-moon spoke directly to Black people in the Americas and the Caribbean who are descended from the enslaved Black people who were sacrificed.