Makandal Daaga’s funeral took place yesterday. The 1970 Black Power movement may have frightened many but it was a necessary part of our evolution and a shake up of those values that still make us think less of ourselves and keep us indifferent to our indigenous movements, like the pan movement and its new flowerings in music academies resident in panyards.
Sadly, even as some blindly refused at the moment of his passing to acknowledge Daaga as a game changer and to see that his work is unfinished, an indigenous enterprise is under pressure.
As indicated in its press release last week: “Currently in its 12th year, under the auspices of birdsong, a registered non-profit organization with charitable status, birdsong Academy is a free music education programme targeting teenaged youth, many of whom may be described as at risk.
“It is a year-round programme, including a 5-week July/August Vacation Camp, accommodating 110 children in the East-West Corridor.”
I described the birdsong model in a column in July 2012 as follows in the next three paragraphs:
“Charlie and Mandy stress the importance of running a programme rather than an event or accelerated or crash course through which youths just pass through. An ongoing programme permits the youth to put down roots in the birdsong family, which provides extra support such as transitioning youth at risk from an abusive home to a calmer one.
“The programme begins with a musical camp during the August holidays. Seventy-five of the youths who attend the camp are invited to join the music school on the basis of potential, competence and enthusiasm. The music school is held every Saturday, commencing September, and a school year runs from September to July. Every Saturday, the pan, woodwind instruments, brass, guitar, drums and voice are taught, the classrooms being the shed in the panyard and four 40-foot containers.
“It is obvious that the musical and sport empowerment exercise is a soul-saving mission which requires all hands on a coordinated deck. It ought not to be contaminated by tuneless political gallery.”
I more recently described the blindness of the politicians, the self-proclaimed elites and their respective satellites to the value of models like that of birdsong.
“The St Margaret’s panyard teaching model, just as the birdsong model does year round, was proving for all to see its massive social engineering potential, a potential that cannot be discerned through the blackened windows of the ubiquitous Prados and similar VVIP environments, to the seduction of which persons in public life readily surrender.
“If the occupants of these environments would step outside and look at the real Trinidad and Tobago they might discern that when our youth take up music instead of guns we all win.”
This is the background against which birdsong is scheduled to be evicted from its yard tomorrow pursuant to a Court order.
The landlord has observed due process and has no doubt been somewhat patient but probably has commercial reasons for wanting back his land. There are however other issues surrounding birdsong’s predicament that must be taken very seriously.
The organisation has been making a solid contribution to education, culture and social development, but doing so on a budget partially drawn from the constant wearying rounds of ad hoc solicitation of funds and sponsorship.
Is this to be the permanent condition of birdsong and many other groups who run academies as well as become surrogate parents in many cases? Will track record ever become an established basis for a subvention policy for these priceless institutions?
The issue of subvention policy arises again at a time when GATE (Government Assisted Tertiary Education) is now being reviewed and all of its lack of checks and balances is being revealed.
All the money put into the hands of unaccredited institutions, institutions abroad and into fields of study that are saturated could take care of organisations on the ground such as birdsong and many others like them who are doing the important work of social and cultural development allied with music education.
It is also particularly troubling that birdsong has been attempting to make alternative arrangements for a location nearby but cannot progress the transaction because of the reported absence of the appointment of a Registrar of Friendly Societies, a situation described as “a bureaucratic black hole”.
Endless GATE to turn out graduates in saturated fields not only reflects a lack of appreciation of what the country needs—like forensic scientists, as bodies yet again pile up at the dysfunctional Forensic Centre and crimes cannot be solved by forensic methods.
Birdsong has put this question: “Even as we tout the income earning potential of the creative sector, does the existing policy framework establish an appropriate platform to fully explore native talent?”