I was unable to attend the funeral of my colleague Allan Alexander SC, whom I held in the highest regard, owing to my commitment on that day to attend a meeting of a regional organisation—one on which he had also served.
However, I was privileged to attend the gathering at the family home on the Wednesday night before the funeral and was able then to speak of Allan in the presence of his family and friends.
Allan and I fought many cases against each other. Swords were mightily crossed in the courtroom but never outside of it. Our relationship was never poisoned by any rancour spilling over.
Allan’s word could be completely trusted. He was an advocate who would do his best for his clients, regardless of whether their personal views coincided with his. He was therefore a model of professional detachment dedicated to due process. As a result, he was in demand by clients whether highly or lowly placed.
David Abdulah delivered a masterful tribute to Allan, which was published in the Trinidad Express on Wednesday last. It is worth highlighting again David’s description of Allan’s use of his combination of legal acumen, political and cultural activism and his commitment to his fellow beings outside of the practice of law.
He used this combination to help restrain, in David’s words: “the natural tendency for many, if not most, of our West Indian political leaders to move from being demi-gods to despots.”
The tribute rightly lamented that today we see few examples of successful professionals being, as Allan was, “deeply committed to improving humanity and making the society in which he lived a better place.”
Regarding Allan’s commitment to our culture, I described to the Wednesday gathering the vibe when Allan entered a small courtroom—when the courts were still in the Red House—before a judge who could be stuffy, to apply for an injunction on behalf of Despers in Panorama season. His presence was commanding.
Good people also won at the Rosary church on Sunday last on the occasion of a concert put on by Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra as part of a fund raising for the restoration of the church. This concert did a great deal to remind patrons that performing arts’ success does not require audience attendance for endless hours.
Within 90 minutes, the orchestra criss-crossed the world of music, under the baton of Derek Nurse. As is now the norm, the orchestra worked with other performers. Youth was represented by the junior band and the Bishop Anstey choir, led by the supremely dedicated Lorraine Granderson.
A school choir like Bishop Anstey is an enduring legacy of the Trinidad and Tobago Music Festival. This festival, which began around 1948, has had difficulty in remaining a going concern because we lack appreciation of the contribution of performing arts to the discipline and self esteem of school age children.
Sitting in the Rosary Church in an area in the vicinity of so-called hotspots, there was wisdom in the choice of the concert director to have a recitation—accompanied by a guitarist—of Desiderata reminding us to “go placidly amid the noise and the haste” and “to speak your truth quietly and clearly and listen to others even to the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.”
The paradox continues: accomplished youthful performers emerging out of neighbourhoods routinely marginalised from mainstream cultural and social development, although those neighbourhoods have countless inspirational stories of success against odds.
Party politics as practised since Independence has kept the country’s social development mostly stagnant but imbued with violence, while the parties fight every election to get or keep their respective hands on the national cash register.
Despite the stagnation and violence, progress and dynamism are evident in the output of the performing arts, except of course Carnival from which all but the rich and the line their pockets operatives have been largely, but not completely, marginalised.
I say not completely because Trinidad All Stars is one of those groups keeping community, music, authentic mas and bonding alive. Yet who can forget the moneyed, elitist outcry when the good people of All Stars recently won Band of the Year?
The annual reading of the Budget is a high profile manifestation of the stagnant political water. Moreover, the stagnant political water has become stink. Consequential upon the stagnation and stink, political commentary has become a repetitive exercise, confined largely to comment and protest about the more egregious acts and expressions flowing from the now ingrained demi-god status.
At the Rosary Church, faithful to an evening of peace and harmony, the orchestra and a skilful saxophonist, Daniel Ryan, reminded us of John Lennon’s musical dream: “imagine nothing to kill or die for, imagine all the people living in peace.”
Somehow good people are still producing and winning despite the killing all around us. Do we have the will to support them?