Noble: Voices from the Ghetto—calypso warnings about T&T’s uneven society

“[…] We don’t see here as part of Trinidad. We see here [as] a diseased part that we wish would go away. I tell people if your left kidney is cancerous and you ignore it, it will kill you.

“If you focus on the parts of your body that are healthy and you say that the left kidney is just a pain and a bother, you’re going to die—and the nation is dying because we’re treating a part of us as though it will go away and dry up one day…”

Hal Greaves, community activist, Vice News, 20 May 2014.

Police officers square off with Morvant/Laventille residents after protests against the police killings of Joel Jacobs, Israel Clinton and Noel Diamond on 27 June 2020.
(Copyright Trinidad Express)

We turn our eyes away from a problem that will not go away. What did we expect will happen?

We are scared at the emboldened assaults on us all, but did we not expect that this was going to happen? Our calypsonians told us repeatedly. But we blocked our ears.

Luta was the first off the blocks in 1991.

“[…] And if you think the future is in the school bag of the children of Port of Spain/ When the schoolbag pack up with gun, knife and chain/ Ah beg you to think again…”

Late former Calypso Monarch Luta.

In 1995, the imitable David Rudder warned us:

“[…] But then forged is the first word of the anthem/ You see we so damn corrupt, that is the problem/ But then them thieves you ignore so now you are working/

“For your children’s sake, man you ain’t joking/the future, God bless them, look in their schoolbags/ Future knife, future gun, future jail yard/ Future pain for you, your wife or your mama/

“Before you give up brother, just remember/ It’s just another day in paradise/ Look how this town nice! […]”

Iconic former Calypso Monarch, Road March champion and Young King David Rudder OCC.

Maybe we did not like the corruption he described. However, there is a connection between corruption and the future.

Then, Singing Sandra stepped up.

She pointed to the dank future that is inherent in some neighbourhoods. We praised the song and gave her the Dimanche Gras plaudits. But what else did we do? Did we learn anything from her lyrics?

Late former Calypso Monarch Singing Sandra.

“[…] The sun rises slowly over the hills,/ Everywhere is golden sunlight but still/ Most nights with sad tales are crowded/ Their days with dark clouds are shrouded/ They don’t smile and they never will/ Only vultures get their fill./

“Empty promises is what they hear/ No running water from year to year/ Hearts that know one desire -/ That if there is a Messiah,/ Someday He’d hear their whispered prayer…”

She identified the lack of employment as a root cause of despair.

A fiery protest in the Beetham Gardens on 4 July 2022.
(via TTPS)

“[…] Cupboard always bare and scanty/ Ten people in a one-bedroom shanty/ Forced to sell on the pavement/ No vacancies, no employment…”

Ten persons in a one-bedroom shanty? The cycle starts over. It cannot stop.

“[…] She little girl child belly start to swell/ Some say life is a cycle/ But don’t draw she no circle.
“Where will it all end,/ only time could tell…”

Children at Rose Hill RC Primary School in Laventille react to the sounds of gun shots.

The uneven hand of justice was fingered. Death stalks the lives of these Unfortunates.

“[…] Son in jail for manslaughter/ Too bad for he, he ain’t named Brad Boyce,/ No bail, that’s the black man’s choice/

“Police raid very often,/ Simpson’s measuring a coffin/ One night in bed you sleeping,/ Next night is a wake that you keeping…”

But the residents are always to be used. Throw a few trinkets and try to fool them. But will this last forever?

Soldiers and police officers try to quell protests after the police killing of Morvant residents Joel Jacob, Israel Clinton and Noel Diamond on 27 June 2020.
(via CNC3)

“[…] With dented pride they soldier on/ Revolutions’ base, politicians’ pawn/ And often their tragic story brings a journalist glory/ No wonder they view the world with scorn…”

Where did we expect the bitterness to go? What can they do when they wake, see their hungry children, and have no food?

“[…] Opportunities, well them always closed/ Can’t get work once it white collar/ So if you can’t stretch your dollar/ Is later for you, crapaud smoke yuh pipe…”

he Morvant community comes out to watch a rare Pro League match at the Morvant Recreation Ground, as Morvant Caledonia United host San Juan Jabloteh on 16 October 2016.
Photo: Sean Morrison/ Wired868

Remember Gypsy and The Soul of the Nation (1999)?

“[…] Work ethics keep on going down the drain/ Young people today say they ent working again/
“They tell you blatantly they ent working no more/ They tired work and can’t see what they working for…”

How much clearer do we want it to be? When one loses their dignity, then what remains?

Former Calypso Monarch Winston ‘Gypsy’ Peters.

“[…] You sure to dead from gripe/ Life does rape dignity and pride/ ‘Til there’s only bitterness left inside/ And every day is a hustle,/ Arguments are settled with muscle/ ‘Til you six feet deep by three feet wide/

“As parents struggle to provide/ Children are neglected and deprived,/ Illiteracy on the rampage.

“Some parents never reach college/ So —- the child must —-/ If he want to stay alive…”

Iconic late calypsonian and former Calypso Monarch Shadow.

How does this life give hope? When will they see the proverbial corner? As Shadow said, Poverty is Hell!

“[…] Every day garbage truck they hopping/ Is old junk and metal they scrapping/ To get a jump start on them corbeaux/ Some does get squash like mosquito…”

Penguin (1987) puts his finger on the thinking of some:

Late ex-Calypso Monarch Penguin.
(via Newsday)

“[…] I know dat some big pappy really have to go/ All dey money in Miami, New York, Toronto/
“And some want to go back to London/But we people know and accustom/ How to struggle and how to survive…”

Like stick break in we ears or what? When will it end?

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