Monday, July 23, 2007


Born: 23 rd July 1892
Cross over: 27 th August 1975

"A house built on granite and strong foundations, not even the onslaught of pouring rain, gushing torrents and strong winds will be able to pull down. Some people have written the story of my life representing as truth what in fact derives from ignorance, error or envy; but they cannot shake the truth from its place, even if they attempt to make others believe it."

Sunday, July 22, 2007

1974-2007: 33 years of excellence in Advocacy

to publish is a right not a privilege

In July of 1974, literary critics of Trinidad and Tobago were astounded by the bold step into print by an eighteen year old poet with an anthology entitled "LAMENT OF THE SOUL". At the launch of this slim volume, Roi Ankhkara Kwabena announced that the returns from the sale of his book would be used to address problems faced by many writers.
At that time in Trinidad & Tobago access to publication was a preserve of a few. As a result many aspiring and young writers suffered. This initiative was given the name AFROETS PRESS. Support in the main came from the small circle of poets and friends who gathered that night for the launch. Many of them volunteered on the condition that they be only allowed to work behind the scenes.
The mission was to focus attention on the written works of aspiring writers. But while the original ambition was to include all genres, Poetry was decided to be the most practical choice. Thus sessions of Poetry Reading featuring new local poets were staged around Port of Spain to introduce these new voices and also raised the profile of AP as a cultural body.
Venues were unusual, ranging from open parks, playgrounds, warehouses, Trade Union offices, Libraries, Schools, Discos, Church Halls, a Supermarket and even a suburban branch of a Commercial Bank. These activities were generally well supported by the general public. Estimated audiences numbered from ten and sixty patrons with even three hundred plus at one event.
The local press (including Television and Radio ) were at times at generous with their coverage via sporadic interviews, reviews and feature stories. In fact two programmes were worthy enough to warrant contemplative Editorial comment in the local leading daily newspapers. Thus several events presented by AP benefited from national exposure.
Admission fees were always minimal, though overheads were sometimes very daunting to say the least. Yet solicited support from the private sector especially corporate and small business advertising revenues critically assisted with costs towards promotion of such events.
Though pamphlets of poetry were printed and distributed at these readings, many members expressed dissatisfaction over the fact that not enough energy was put towards publication. For the only other major work at that time from AP was "INSIGHT" a collection of poetry and socio-political commentary edited by ROI KWABENA.
It was decided after some serious self examination by then serving members, to promote both- POETRY (on the page) and the performance based Oral tradition supported by percussion. However, to satisfy the needs of members and wider audiences required the establishment of a performance based production department with its own mandate. This is saga behind the little understood roots of the internationally famed cultural collective - BEMBE PRODUCTIONS.
Since then over two hundred aspiring poets ( with ages ranging 12-76 yrs ) have been presented. Eight of them are today very well known, being published locally and internationally . AP has published over seventeen titles in Trinidad & Tobago (1974-1994). These works included collections of poetry, a Health journal, posters, post cards, pamphlets, paper-backs on Anthropology and History plus a cultural magazine. These titles have been widely distributed in the Caribbean, Americas , Afrika and Europe.
In the spirit of renewal AP appointed CHRISTOPHER GREY , a young poet to head the imprint: AWARE Publications in 1984. This outfit independently published seven titles over a period of five years (1985-1993). Among these the most prominent was "BUSH RUM " : a sociological study of the impact of this locally brewed form of alcoholic. While other works were mainly collections of poetry and notably a handbook on the Acquired Indefiency Syndrome: "THE SCOURGE OF THIS MODERN AGE" - Christopher Grey.
However Grey did not confine himself to readings and book launchings but more so to active community work. This was his original vocation in a volunteer capacity. Scores of young people across Trinidad & Tobago benefited from his lectures and other group activities that were centred on Health Education. His Anti Drug campaign were successful enough to command the attention of several regional and international governments and organisations. As a result, our young editor is a recipient of several prestigious international community awards. He has lectured and performed his work across the Caribbean, USA and even Japan.
AP has been served by five editors and twenty plus writers. Collaborative efforts over the past two decades included the publication of the socio-geographic text- "ABOUT THE CARIBBEAN" for adults and young readers. AP was represented on the board of the Coventry ( UK ) based cultural collective : TAMARA Productions. This book is now in its' sixth edition and is widely distributed across the world since publication in the Caribbean, England, Germany and Sudan.
In fact our founder also extensively toured and worked with artistes and cultural groups across the Caribbean, Europe and Afrika. While other recent efforts include a publication of selected poetry: "MANIFESTATIONS" with the FACHSHAFT ANGLISTIK -the English Department of the University of Augsburg, Bavaria.
Our publications over the years 1994-2007 from: "A JOB FOR THE HANGMAN " & " NUBIAN SAINTS OF CHRISTIANITY" to "Dialogue-Journal for cultural literacy " & " Five Birmingham Poets" among our other titles in the U.K. would not have be possible without such shared expertise and resources. In 2006, several translations of our works have been produced to reach wider audiences.