Cedric Burke was a father, a son, a husband and a friend to many. And his passing yesterday, allegedly due to Covid-19, will be mourned by those close to him.
‘Godfather Burkie’, though, belonged to everybody—the fluffy, scruffy, artful dodger who strode into President’s House, allegedly uninvited, and entered the hearts of Trinidad and Tobago citizens forever. Or at least their WhatsApp chats.
It is hard to account for Burkie’s fame. Like Iwer George. And just as difficult not to root for him.
Iwer was proof that talent is not everything. You too—with hard work, perseverance and, allegedly, a cut-price fuel racket—could become a star. It is the quintessential Trini (smart man) success story.
(Sure, you might scoff now. But watch yuh begging Iwer for the ‘hook-up’ when next allyuh bounce up.)
Burkie never asked people to raise their hands in the air for uncomfortably long periods in soca parties. He never got Nicki Minaj’s man vex. Or Machel. Or Sunny Bling. Or Super Blue. Or Rachel Price.
He never called anyone a ‘cockroach’, snubbed a poor youth man and ‘drove off highly energised’, showed up uninvited on anyone’s Facebook wall to criticise their wig or ‘Rattans shoes’, or insulted anyone’s intelligence with an ‘all lives matter’ sermon.
In fact, Burkie never said anything remotely interesting about himself, or anyone else. He just went about trying to live his best life—for himself and those he cared about.
‘Tong say’ Burkie was a pretty fierce-some fellah if you ran into him in the wrong place at the wrong time. A real ‘malandros’. But then more than a few police officers might also match that description.
There was talk of him living a little too well off the treasury. But then he probably cost a snippet of what taxpayers pay to mind the families of the Al Rawis, Youngs, Moonilals and Warners—with a negligible difference in returns.
Burkie is remembered for two images: one sporting over-sized gold chains, the other in an unflattering tie and shirt, standing a bit too stiffly next to President Anthony Carmona. Perhaps it says something that the latter snap is the one that endures.
Burkie is the man that didn’t fit in. Trinidad’s answer to the ‘Beverly Hillbillies’—the guy who wants to be ‘above his station’ but can’t quite pull it off. Hilarious right? No?
Up to his last breath, he was still a free man; not facing extradition, or being trolled by Mark Bassant for skullduggery—guilty of little more than perhaps failing to adhere to physical distancing.
The TTPS didn’t ketch him in anything untoward when he was alive, so don’t waste your breath washing your mouth on him in the afterlife.
Former Port of Spain South MP and alleged fraudster Marlene McDonald described Burkie as a ‘patriot’, which might be ridiculous in the manner she intended it; but true in an entirely differently way.
If chief medical officer Dr Roshan Parasram is guilty of anything besides not having a funny-bone, it is his failure to humanise a virus that thrives on complacency.
It is impossible for people to get excited about numbers, once it crosses a certain threshold. Is 2,033 positives scarier than 1,472? Would you behave any differently if you heard Trinidad and Tobago had 2,033 active cases rather than just 1,397?
A battle weary population needs emotional connectivity to this invisible threat—not maths lessons.
Tonight, though, Burkie put a face on Covid-19. He is not ‘an elderly man with co-morbidities’. He is the unsinkable fellah from Sea Lots whose picture is in everybody’s WhatsApp feed.
And now he is sunk.
His friends and loved ones mourn the man. The country will remember the meme; but also the virus.