Dinah Washington was an artiste at the very top of more than one genre. In one of her classics, she sang: ‘What a difference a day makes/Twenty four little hours/Brought the sun and the flowers/Where there used to be rain…’
Listening to songs pitching hope of rainbows and brightness ahead was my chosen means of lightening up before writing this column. I was downbeat in mood, as, for a second successive Easter, we are wearing the pandemic corona of thorns.
My column for Easter Sunday 2020 reflected the desolation of Mayaro beach and community. This year—despite many days of unseasonal rain, accompanied by an uncomfortably chilling breeze, and persistence of those conditions—there is no desolation. There is a sweet vibe among the families out and about on Mayaro beach and environs.
But where are we a year later into the pandemic, with the beaches now open, instead of being firmly closed as part of a bigger lockdown? Can we say that the passage of a year between these Easters has made a difference?
Truthfully, are we yet poised to be able to lessen economic deprivation? Or are we facing the worsening of cruel inequality of opportunity in education? Can we mitigate the multi-faceted traumas consequent upon the lash of the pandemic?
The answer to these questions is in the negative, at least until we have a consistent vaccination programme. Meanwhile, we are in the midst of a likely spike of the virus, for which the admirably plain-speaking Dr Avery Hinds recently warned us.
Hopefully the presence of vaccines at health centre sites will not be as rare as a working fire brigade in Mayaro. The Mayaro Fire Station was opened with fanfare by then Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar in August 2015, a few days before the general election which brought her dismissal from office.
A so-called advertorial for the new Mayaro Fire Station in August 2015 misleadingly proclaimed ‘Safety and Peace of Mind Delivered’. That claim remains mostly mamaguy, six years later.
By way of another example, my interviewer on Radio Tambrin last week mentioned a rash of opening ceremonies in Tobago, which is currently without a House of Assembly but has a hold of its executive council with our money to spend, while a fresh election remains a distant speck on the horizon.
At Easter 2020 I had only memories of Mayaro. Now, in person, Mayaro is assisting me to suspend my disbelief of what seems like big gambage by the minister of health over vaccines. (For my younger readers, ‘gambage’ means theatrics or showing off.)
Without a reliable supply of vaccines in sufficient numbers to make a significant dent in the risk of disease, we will continue to be chained up by the pandemic. The government has been naive, but I accept that we have been scorned by the hoarding powers.
Meanwhile, continuing care should be taken not to encourage a feeling that the crisis is over and thereby fuel even more reckless Easter weekend behaviour and compound the anticipated spike.
My Trinidad All Stars and jazz compere informed me of an Etta James version of What A Difference A Day Makes and reminded me of President Barack Obama’s choice of music for his first dance at his first inauguration, which was Etta James’ At Last.
That conversation led me to a piece in the New York Times, published in January 2009, entitled ‘Many Music First at Obama’s Inauguration Events’.
In that piece the writer observed: ‘Music had long anticipated this moment. African-Americans repaid the historical injustice of slavery with generous and profound cultural gifts, making American music a free-for-all where fertile, powerful ideas—like swing, call-and-response, the modes and phrasing of the blues, the drive and dynamics of gospel and the immediacy of hip-hop—could triumph in the marketplace and on the dance floor.’
We have similar profound cultural gifts twice over because of the equal richness of our heritages from Africa and the Indian sub-continent.
Can we awaken the authorities to the place these gifts should properly have in our socio-economic development? We are still inexplicably awaiting that moment of awakening.