September 3, 2008

After the Screening at the BWU

After the screening at the BWU, Peter Wickham acted as Discussant and Moderator.
Peter pointed to the very frank, and in some cases, blunt interviews, which some might have found to be offensive. He said he was struck by the image of a young man who ‘had papers’ but insisted on telling his story in silhouette because he did not see himself as being a legitimate part of Barbadian society.

Actor/Lawyer, Andrew Pilgrim noted the value of culture in making us feel connected as a region and that we would enjoy each other more through cultural expression.

A young woman noted that Barbadians are vexed by the issue of “East Indian – Negro relationships in Guyana, how that functions and how it permeates Barbadian society”.

Well known TV personality, Jewel Forde said that she is concerned as a Barbadian, and afraid of being marginalized because CBC might be bought over by Trinidad and she might lose her job….she added that dismissing her fears won’t make them go away. Interestingly, although she expressed concern about Guyanese, Trinis or Jamaicans coming to Barbados, she spoke about visiting London to see her aunt who has migrated there, and referred to the concern the English have about migration into the UK. She confirmed that her fears are real and that they resonate deep within her and that they need to be addressed.

Peter responded by saying that Jewel’s perspective was important but fortunately he did not share her views. He felt that people cannot look into a booklet and see the value of the CSME, which is the fault of the framework.

Sydney Simmons suggested that the problem is the undocumented people the issues in the Barbados/Guyana relationship and with the Indo-African relationship.

Another speaker felt that we need to ask why someone would leave their home and live in another country in tragic circumstances, that the governments needs to address the issues of tension, injustice and inequity in our various countries.

A young lawyer from Trinidad said that his Skilled Certificate application process was very difficult and it might have been easier for him to have got a work permit than to use the CSME skill certificate procedure. He suggested that the legal framework be examined to understand why and how it excludes certain people and why people come through the back door.

Rickey Singh suggested that the media has failed the people of this region by simply failing to educate the public about the CSME in general and Article 45 as it relates to the freedom of movement. He said that whether or not we like it, we are all part of the Caribbean family.

A young woman said she feels saddened when she hears her people sound so vengeful and negative towards people coming from different contries…and that the migrant process is a misunderstood process.

Lawyer, Sally Commissiong felt that the video tried to capture too many issues – (i) Caribbean identity (ii) migration (iii) and trafficking…and that they are three separate issues.

She asked to what extent the CSME has increased or changed the complexion of illegal migration. She spoke about the increased use of the term “pretty haired” babies being born to Black mothers and Indian fathers and that this is creating tension. She pointed to the need of reporting crimes against migrants so we can have statistics. She asked about the value of a CARICOM passport at the socio-economic level and at the larger level of international affairs.

Another speaker pointed out that we have failed to implement consistency at the simplest level, for example, we might have a single CARICOM arrival/departure form used at all CSME airports. He pointed out that we are struggling in a way we have never struggled before and yet we are eager to sign the Economic Partnership Agreement, suggesting that we Caribbean countries can have a reciprocal arrangement and be on equal footing with very powerful countries in the world. He noted that unless we look at the reasons why Guyanese flee Guyana, why Trinidad is such a highly unsustainable and insecure country and why Jamaica and other countries are in a state of collapse, that we will never be Caribbean in the sense that we can function as one unit on the world stage.

Dr. Keith Nurse noted that the discussions in Barbados are not dissimilar to what is being discussed in the Cayman Islands with regards the Jamaicans, or the Bahamians complaining about the Haitians or the Trinis complaining about the Chinese & Nigerian workers in the construction sector. He said that it is convenient to select groups that are less powerful and to target them; and we need to be careful because if we look at the history of a place like the DR and Haiti, we must know that this can descend into genocide.

 He said that migration generates a number of mythologies, like the myth of Barbados being a homogenous black space…and that every country generates a mythology abut the space which is often accepted and not interrogated and that On the Map helps to raise these issues, and put them on the map!

The final comment was from Juliette Went who suggested that mingling with people from different cultures opens our minds and is a good learning experience; socially, economically and politically.

The well-attended event was supported by the press and by Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation who recorded the discussion. CBC is keen to build a documentary out of this discussion, along with other regional discussions in response to On the Map.

I continue to be interested in seeing how visual artists can attend to the issues surrounding regional integration in ways which might create platforms for discussion and debate.

The voice of the artist might be seen as a register of the social and political spaces we inhabit. Artists are positioned to cross over into many disciplines and offer alternate visions that might contrast some of the more toxic views, while suggesting more meaningful images and ideas about intra-regional identities.

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