Thursday, April 07, 2005

Kamau Brathwaite & "Cowpastor Vandal"

I'm posting an e-mail note I received via the Cave Canem list from poet Tara Betts that the Bajan poet (and one of my former professors) Kamau Brathwaite sent to Marina Taitt concerning his current plight in Barbados.

I believe it concerns a road-building project that is destroying the land and eco-system near where he lives there. He doesn't say exactly who is behind it (the Barbadian government? business interests?--probably a combination of both) and how those who are interested in helping him might do so, but his contact information is at the beginning of the missive. His final statements sound pretty dire; Brathwaite is one of the greatest living poets, and while I don't think this is the "lass" of him, this battle (one of many he's had to wage over the years) is certainly wearing him down (cf. Zea Mexican Diary, Trench Town Rock, etc.). An e-mail or letter of support would probably be welcome.

Dear All:


I have just received an email from Kamau Brathwaite via Marina Taitt
describing his plight in Barbados. This has been something that Kamau
has been talking about for a long time, and it seems now that it has
coming true. I pass this along in the hope that all is not lost.


Please circulate as wade as possible - let it wide in the water

Kamau Brathwaite
+ CowPastor, Wilcox Lands
Christ Church, Barbados
see also Hambone 17 (2004), 126-173

15 Mar 05/(!!) The Ides of March (!!)/CP 2:43am

The lass days of KB and CowPastor Vandal: My Emmerton 2005

Dear Andrea Nation and all Caribbean artists intellectuals cultural
workers & environmentalists w/in the sound of Marina

I sharing a letter i juss write to a wo at OUP who deals w/permissions payments to authors who want to quote yr
work etc. This wo and me - we don't kno each other - share a wonderful
sense of weather and the environment and at the end of my business
w/her this midnight, I describe and refer to (un)developments in my
life i thot you shd kno

w/the dust choking me from the destruction so that I can hardly eat -
the water that we drink returning to like its limestone white residual
- and have these DS(3s) and Beverley has already had to go the doc w/a
dreadful cough of corridor -

I've tried - in vain - to get an appointment w/the PS of the Housing &
Lands - a man i long respec & kno. . . and a letter of premonition &
desperation I senn in to yr NATION tho promise publication. . . has nvr
in fact appeared. . . I try contact Liz Thompson who when she was in
NYC sometime ago at an X/hibition of BaJam Wo artists, at which we
share both spoke, said yes i shd send her the details of my evident
concern. Nuffen of course followed from that. . . I tried lifelines to
Dame Billie and Mia - nuffen there neetha. And I note that whenever you
respond to me on this, you ask a whole series of Qs about 'what am I
doing' - as if I doin nothin!!

All I can in the end do - w/out community support - is set afire to
myself, as I've said before, on this very namsetoura pasture become the
criminal. and I don't really want to do dat, because my spirit flies so
high - so many dreamstories and ideas seem to flow & flow - altho of
course who's to kno if they gods not punishing mwe But I don't think
so, or lets say I arrogant enuff to think that I don't think so - which
of course is whe the danger lies. . .

I write to you now as I write earlier to that stranger. but w/the
difference that I have faith that as a wo of soul, there is something I
sure you can do, if is nothing more than persuade one of yr colleagues
who's still free and fearless - is there any such? - to come out to CP
and see whats happening. . . is there no voices in BaJam that can raise
can rise? It will be a shame if i hear people saying AFTER I GONE -
that Kamau use to talk about these things and no one lissen not a soul
do a ting. trapped - SURELY NOT FOR EVER - in our Mental Slavery

The plight of one person. the flight of one sparrow . is worth more
than all the kingdooms of this world. But very frew people can live this

What I saying is that my micro case here, is the macro case of us all.
The little done unto mwe, is the burden down upon us all upon us all

All night long, the trucks trundle & boom. Two mornings ago, to
destroy more duncks trees, so they cd swathe more space for the
tractors, they set fire to the slope under Thyme Bottom. if the Fire
Beegrade didn't come, that fire might have swept down into our yard and
run all the way down west to Parish Lands. It was a clear day and a
high wind

The destruction of CowPasture to put in an unnecessary and unethical
road - when there are two perfectly good xisting road in this quadrant
- for some new unxplained access to the airport, involves -

(1) the death of the three dozen cows and flocks of blackbelly sheep
that use to ruminate CowPasture

(2) the loss of rumination marks the end of peace & serengetti
beauty here and marks the arrival of vandalism. Abandoned houses
further pillage, and w/the blood up, even the duncks trees on the
pasture under pressure - their limbs & branches torn down this
harmattan for their plunder, not picked picked picked between the
thorns, as happily traditional

(3) the loss of pasture - here and all over Barbados and all over
the CARICOM Caribbean = also the closing down of the last sugar
production in St Kitts, and the verge of ditto in Barabados

(4) the loss of pasture - here and all over the island and all over
the CARICOM Caribbean = the decline of cricket. Sir Viv and Gary S come
from BayLands not from roundabouts, hotels and clogged up death-mark

(5) the road here is unethical because of this and because it is an
offence not only to the people who choose to live here, who are/were so
fortunate to live here to love here - and dispossessed of pristine
coral; thru no fault of their own, but via a willful remote control
decision by Authorities too arrogant & high & mighty to discuss plans
that involve all our futures fortunes w/us 'out here', who are still
seen - MENTAL PLANTATION MENTAL SLAVERY - as chattel anti-heroes have
no voice - cannot afford to be admitted to out voice

(6) even as I write this, therefore, destruction going on - this old
plantation well, the little Lake (or Pond) of Thorns - the natural
water catchment for this area - filled in and flattened - hence future
floods. And near the well, a fledgling BEARDED FIG-TREE (shrine of
ancient African & Amerindian spirits) its cinnamon beards just showing.
a dear endangered species. cruelly unethically soon to gone . i cd go
on an gone . like all the people of Thyme Bottom already gone gone
gone. . .

(7) at 3 pm today, tractors break thru the last line of bush &
duncks between them and our house my yard. A noise as of bombing and a
great cloud of dust - FALOUJA - and now there's nothing left between
ourselves and them - the slave well nxt, the bearded fig- tree nxt -
today if not tomorrow. My eyes are full of grit and helpless scars, as
if I am the last person in the world the lost poet, really, in the
world. Rosina say this morning I shd write it down. But write it down
for who for what. . .

I walked out there towards the cloud of dust - the grit - my tears
- and my heart as if rebelled inside me, fit to burst w/grief & loss &
helplessness & pain

(8) I had also hoped, when we found this place, to found my nation
here - my maroon town, resistance palenque. Bring in my archives from
their shattered world - shattered in Jamaica since the Gilbert
Hurricane of 1988 - an archive stretching back now almost 100 years and
covering from Bay Street/Browns Beach/Harrson College days, thru
Cambridge, Ghana, SL, 30 years at Mona, the Caribbean Artists Movement
(London), Bim, BBC Caribbean Voices, Savacou, Carifestas, paintings,
sculpture (inc early postcolonial W Af, early Rastafari), Colly, Timmy
Callender, Broodhagen, jazz records, tape recordings from almost
ancient Ghana, from nearly every Caribbean voice of say or song

and all this a lament - the loss & dislocation of so much of
this in Gilbert (see SHAR.
see Carolivia Herron's 'SAVING THE WORD' hear ARK - these are
our documents
for our last our lost millennium - and still more loss from worm
and Ivan (2004) and a
terrible break-in (5 March 05) - VANDALL INVASION of our hopes
and consciousness

(9) The dream the vision was to in-gather the scatta archives (Ja &
NYC) here, try heal them and from this wound of miracle, set up a BUSSA
CENTRE for us all - enough peace & space & beauty surpassing any other
in the world - in a small sacred bless - to build a place to live to
love, a place for the LIBRARY OF ALEXANDRIA, a conference room,
performance outdoor places, chalets for writers, artists - that kind of
possible dream - because we had the dream we had the space we had the
means - destroyed by my own Govt - w/out DISCUSSION - and digging us
down and STRANGLING the holy past & constellation flute & future of
this place - the egrets gone because the cattle gone. the woo doves
mourn. I itch from deconstruction cement dust

I cannot even die here now. no strength to even burn myself upon
this pasture as I want to do. As I still may. Because my love, whe else
is there to go, to try to build again at 75? tho I not beggin for your
sympathy - tho that good too - I askin you to LISSEN . one mo Emmerton.
xcep unlike the Mighty Gabby song which sing & say far more than any
prose I prose can say, me na give up. me nvva will accept
unrighteousness, If this was SandlyLane wd we be treated so? again
today the tractors wheel an thump. I can't accept to so unfairly go

p/s I'm being told that all this is too late - that time & the
tide has pass me by - not enuff effort too late! if that be so, let me
then at least hope that you will allow at least my faint words -
faintly heard now on the pasture - be at least a verbal memorial to
mark the graveyard of this place

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