As I proceed with this “expose” of sorts, I want to ensure that my reason for going public with the issues I address here are clear.
This is not a vendetta: it is not about getting even with Margaret Gill, Edward “Kamau” Brathwaite or anyone else who labours in Barbados’ cultural industries.
It is about clearing the air: about asserting my right to speak, write or otherwise express myself freely with regard to matters that directly or otherwise affect me.
It is about safeguarding my part of the legacy that my son and daughter will inherit. I believe the good name of their father is one key resource by which my children stand to benefit by me.
The sullying of my good name (the misrepresentation of my thoughts, words and deeds) by Margaret Gill, Edward “Kamau” Brathwaite and others, whether done intentionally or unintentionally, puts this key inheritance of my offspring in jeopardy.
It would be irresponsible of me - indeed, reckless in the extreme – not to seek to correct such misrepresentation expeditiously.
And I have been attempting to do just that for some time now, both publicly and privately. From about 2002 (the year I was married) at least, I have been entreating Ms. Gill to reconsider the deeply disrespectful course on which she seems set in her interaction with me.
Since that year, at least, I have been entreating Margaret to engage with me more authentically and circumspectly than she previously had been.
Margaret had gotten into the habit of calling me a fool to my face. “You is a idiot!” she would say (employing the Bajan dialect), half laughingly.
For a long time I regarded such affronts as the good-natured jibes of a friend. I believed she was saying such things as well meaning rebukes, chastising me, for example, for my failure to capitalize upon the contribution I had been making to Barbados burgeoning cultural industries since the early to mid-1990s.
Prior to 2002, although Gill had defended fellow writer Nailah’s unethical behaviour (in the Poeticjazztice-Interludes affair), I had not questioned Margaret’s integrity.
I assumed the authenticity of her liberal, socialist claims about universal or collective ownership of and entitlement to use intellectual property.
While not advocating such views myself, I respected Margaret’s, Brathwaite’s, and other Barbadian cultural activists’ rights to do so.
More than that, I could see the logic of their socialist position on intellectual property rights – just as I appreciate the logic of capitalist thinking on this matter.
For my own part thouh, I had resolved that whether one took a socialist or capitalist stand on intellectual property rights, one should have at least a minimal regard for the persons who introduce or promulgate the ideas for which intellectual property rights could be claimed.
I had resolved that whatever Marxist matrix Margaret, Nailah, Brathwaite and others measured creativity by, they should appreciate that ideas do not emerge out of thin air.
What then would be the point of Margaret saying to me “You are a truly original thinker.”, as she once did?
Presumably, if she had no appreciation for the origin of ideas in human experience and reflection, she would not have linked my thoughts with my capacity to think in this way.
What would be the point of placing a Barbados National Trust plaque on Brathwaite’s “Cow Pasture” residence, if the Afrocentric ideas and advocacy for which he is known could have emanated from any dung hill?
Coincidentally, I recently had a discussion with British musician Kasia Sikora-Black, a free-lance “Arranger/Transcriber/Copyist&rdqu
Ms. Sikora-Black has made a key contribution to my evolving “Eden Song” music project, impressing upon me the wisdom of departing from the relatively private strategy I had been employing to develop this project (restricting participation to a select group of artistes, academics, talent managers and other persons I have invited to join a Facebook group created for the project) and open it up to contributions from anyone in the global, music loving community – as I did this past week (http://www.intelek.net/Eden_Song.html).
Thanks to Kasia anyone with access to the internet can now make a contribution to the Eden Song project and share in the simultaneously individual and collective creative experience that is its origin and will be its legacy, hopefully.
So I have no difficulty with socialist or collectivist arguments about intellectual property rights in principle.
My argument is with people who use socialist and collectivist rhetoric deceitfully – that is, as a cover to advance their self-serving interests or needs.
And if you use such arguments and rhetoric to unjustly undermine, belittle and slander me personally, you should not expect my socialist or collectivist solidarity or sympathy.
This is not to say that I hold a grudge against Gill, Brathwaite or anyone else with whom I may disagree over issues of intellectual property.
I can’t remember the last time I had an exchange of words with Mr. Brathwaite. In the normal scheme of things – unless I am thinking specifically about his contribution to Barbados’ cultural evolution - he crosses my mind very rarely, as the infrequent mention of him in my Allvoices articles should attest.
The last time I would have had anything resembling a significant personal contact with this literary icon (or iconoclast) is when I participated in the 2000 celebration of his seventieth birthday – when I published “Lyric You”, a small, limited edition (70 copies) literary tribute that Margaret had compiled to honour his legacy. (It was my idea to limit the publication to 70 copies, incidentally.)
I possibly came close to sharing a performance space with the Barbadian bard around that time, when the retiring Brazilian ambassador to Barbados, Her Excellency Dinah Flusser invited me to perform at a farewell function she was hosting at her home.
She and I had met at a function held in honour of Brathwaite at the University of the West Indies, if I remember correctly.
Unfortunately, some mischievous mouth intervened, bad-talking me to the Brazilian diplomat so ferociously that she felt obliged to call my home, in a panic, begging me not to attend the event and apologizing frantically for the error of having invited me.
Even then it was the loss of the opportunity to meet again with the demure and delightfully dignified Madam Flusser and a visiting German or Austrian nephew(?) of hers who was in the publishing industry - and who was accompanied by a blindingly beautiful female – that most annoyed me.
Sharing a stage with Brathwaite was not my priority.
I was happy to work measured comments on Brathwaite’s anti-imperialist criticisms into a meta-mimetic analysis of “Real Street Smarts”, a Fareed Zakaria article I deconstructed in an essay assignment for a course in Literary Criticism (E23F) at UWI in 2004.
By then I had been “infected” by the contagion of cultural schizophrenia that apparently afflicts and retards the reasoning of Brathwaite, Gill and other Caribbean writers: the cultural schizophrenia that is mastered and creatively redeemed or regenerated by Nobel laureate Derek Walcott in his poems and plays.
Yet I had not become so taken in by Brathwaite’s and others Pan Africanist rhetoric that I blindly regurgitated his socialist criticisms of “The Islands In between”, one of the first critical commentaries on West Indian literary works.
While citing and affirming Brathwaite’s critique of that text, I also noted that his analysis “has its dichotomies and contextual limitations and simplifications.”
And over the years – and especially since 2002 – I have come to moderate my admiration for Margaret in a similar way.
So that when “on a whim” I responded somewhat enthusiastically to an email she sent me this past February (accidentally I presume, given the frigid state of our friendship) with a poem I was obliged to be somewhat guarded.
In my email, under the subject “Our fraught and fateful friendship”, I wrote:
Would you believe that just today - on a whim
Some kind of vim
Vaporizing my inhibitions
I dance down de stairs
O my bedsit
Heart full o de sweet music of
A quick kiss stolen somewhere in the gardens o Divi
When u and I were something
Since treated cheaply -
I danced to the phone and dialed
Numbers that came to me as in a dream:
Just today - your time!
Cause over here it is tomorrow;
But just yesterday
There was no sorrow;
Not even when the recording
Tell me that you was on another lead:
I din't grumble; I din't grieve.
I just hung the fool phone up.
Now to come home to your email:
It may not have been intended for me
De Lord ordain that I receive it:
Just like she ordain our fraught and fateful friendship.
To be continued...