I got a call on my cell about this article, the caller made some accusations that I do not agree with. I list them not in the order they were presented… Further in the item I suggest for two poets to adopt African names, it was a suggestion and not ‘a personal attack‘ – still trying to figure out how that could be construed as a ‘personal attack‘? The piece “Mirror Image” indeed tapped several themes but I examined the ones which caught my attention – I am not doing a college thesis where I look at each and every point. As for the final paragraph in this article, I am only making a suggestion towards interaction based on how it appeared that night, ok? Let’s get this straight – as Mr Nielands pointed out further on herein, words are powerful things and if I as an older viewer had certain thoughts after the show then what might younger listeners think, feel and possibly act based on the poetry told?


Many Bajans tend to feel if you have nothing nice to say, say it behind a person’s back. This News-Blog has put a Bull’s Eye on itself more than one occasion for NOT doing that… I went to a cultural extravaganza over the weekend and there were bits I did not agree with and I state why. Before I do, let’s examine what was positive, ok?

Like Mark Jason Welch interpreting Bruce St John’s poem on the sea, where you feel he’s comparing two women. Until you hear the very end of it, masterful! Well delivered!

Another piece of eloquence came from the Main Sponsor’s representative, David Nielands: the Managing Director of Super Centre, who was very prophetic in his scrutiny of words themselves as arbiters of change. He started with a humourous rambling anecdote of himself and his wife at a wedding at the Savannah hotel in Hastings, then he ended up by almost giving a soliloquy on the power of words. Mr Nielands said how words could heal or start wars, little did he know…


I felt it was a necessary touch to allow small business persons to flash their wares at this venue, since it not only showed people there are some who look at combatting the global downturn as a job best done by hauling yourself up by one’s own flip-flop straps, It afforded a unique method of passing time as other patrons gathered. In this case, it was FAST, the place was packed by 8:00 pm and they were fairly punctual.

The emcee that night was Na’ilah I-moja (Many moons ago she was Charmaine Gill, I have my reasons for stating that) and I wondered why she read the entire DRAMATIS PERSONAE of “Under The Flamboya Tree“? It was not until the show went underway that I realised – they let the performers appear one after the other on-stage without the usual patter, they had to, it was a lengthy production. Probably could have shaved even more time if the performers were listed on a pamphlet and let them fly, but that’s just me…


You could tell when poets hit nerves of the audience since they would go quiet very abruptly. This happened with Indra Rudder (Author ofThe Human Bean“) when her poem mostly looked at being a “hybrid chameleon,” where she made no apology for being neither black nor white nor even daring to stop and choose a side! Excellent content which received a polite smattering of barely accepted applause.

Kenneth “Jack” Lewis almost got a standing ovation on the other hand for his near-cussing and clever use of Bajan slang and taking a very wry & askew look at Crop Over. Yet the part where he boldly stated no one person in Barbados is fully white nor black only got applause from me and I was stared at for doing so. He spoke the truth and it hurt. Tough!

His other observations are how can we look at sugar harvesting when we barely have enough sugar to make for ourselves far less to export it. The little sugar there is goes towards rum which creates diabetics, alcoholics or both. He also attacked beach erosion, dumping in gullies and interspersed with a chorus from an old Bajan folk tune – precision comedic timing and a wild outfit totally appropriate for his metered tale.

Dorhonda Smith sang and talked about being a seamstress to make money to get a meal for her son who kept her up even later in the night asking about the contradictions of Barbadian life. Winston Farrell made two rythm-poetry appearances (His 1st poem was a tribute to the late Ricky Parris) and Aja wrapped up the night with a rousing band-performance.


I can understand why Linda Deane did well in the “Celebrity Calypso Tent” five years ago, pity she has not re-entered… She had so much fun that night singing and chanting about “Rain” with two energetic female dancers gyrating like random splashings of sky-juice.

Linda looked at the different aspects of that form of weather – be it the typical reason a Caribbean person calls in sick or if couples feel randy when there’s a pitter-patter on the roof. She did not take herself seriously like one time when I recall her delivering a reading of her “Cutting Road Blues,” yet I could sort of feel a vague soup?on of self-consciousness in her appearance – pretend the audience is naked, Linda, and let it rip!

Beny Blaq was hilarious in his between poem chat, reliving his childhood in the USA with 2 Bajan parents, doing his own therapy on father-son relations and his Rustem-Sorab dynamics with his own father who tries to make amends with Brooks Brother shirts.

Selfish Lover” is not romantic in the least, it refers to his clashes with his dad… “Imus Speak” quite correctly shows if a Don Imus is reprimanded for his comment on Rutgers U. B-ball gals, then why are not rappers on BET dealt with the same way?

The man is good, he actually developed haikus (Usually Japanese poems which have 5 syllables first line, 7 on the second and five again for the last) on his way to Tyrol Cot! Whether it was on “First Love” or about the uses of his grandmother’s cou-cou stick, he had the crowd totally – especially moving was his “Homeless” haiku…

There is no place
like Home, too bad,
it’s broken

Beny spoke of racism and racial people in the USA, but he did not specify perpetrators, just reviewed the circumstances or the lack of insight these so-called adults tried to pass on…


I am now changing gears and looking at what could have been better in the show – if you are thin-skinned or have a hair-trigger temper? My advice is to skip this part of the review.

I have questions based on some of the performances that night… If a body looks white or is Caucasian are they a villain by force of nature? Without judge, jury or bailiff – all pale-skinned have been decreed Persona Non Grata? Because of what ancestors are in your tree, one must forever be shamed? Where does healing begin? When does enlightenment ensue from either or both sides? What happens if you have both sides residing in yourself – do you commit seppuku?

What about Malcolm X’ statement that interracial relationships are a personal choice or how his view of white people as villain changed once he went to Mecca and saw blond, blue-eyed men hailing for the same Allah as he? These same men inviting him for meals and eating from the same bowl as he?


Yvonne Weekes mentioned Malcolm X as one of her father’s heroes yet she seemed to have lost the lesson. She was writhing – almost in painful convulsions, as opposed to Linda Deane’s sinuous undulations, Yvonne was strident as opposed to making a point like how Beny Blaq did.

In sum, I was not impressed, I know there is a refrain or Call & Response in some forms of poetry… But she fell from her mother’s womb so many times I began to fear for her being severely concussed. She claims she tore the blonde hair off her dolly hoping locks would grow back, she was attacked in schoolyards for her skin. Then she eventually steps into the audience to ask them who their ancestors are, and at one point she actually holds the mike in front of David Nielands! He cheekily answers his ancestors were likely Vikings who sailed the fjords of Norway, good for him! Did she expect him to say ‘Woe is me, I’m one o’them evil pale folk‘??

Adrian Green was not so far off the mark either… He kept asking the audience what is their mirror image? He was upholding black over white – unlike his more humble “Rebel Diva” poem two years ago which simply praises black women who choose to remain natural in their appearance.

He chose Beyonce as a black woman who seems white to the degree he’s expecting seven dwarfs trailing behind her, honestly, if he dissed Michael Jackson – however accurate he may be on the late icon’s appearance over the decades – I would have booed him off the stage!

From a rant on on black women Europeanising their looks, it became a diatribe on anything Caucasian including the historical Nelson…

Mike Richards

Charmaine Gill

Wayne Wells (who was present that night)…

Who are they? Wayne became Onkphra, while Charmaine evolved to Na’ilah I-moja… As for Mr Richards, he became Adisa Andwele – now, Aja! Who concluded the night at Tyrol Cot.

Why do I bring them up? If whites are so bad, and all Africa is up for praise, then why do Adrian and Yvonne keep their ‘plantation‘ names? It seems they give one way and take another… Even Na’ilah, Aja and Onkphra while celebrating their African ancestry can show enough open-mindedness to interact with everybody, maybe they need to offer some advice for Ms Weekes and Mr Green? In fact, why not take a leaf from the late Gloved One gone too soon? “It don’t matter if you’re {Blaq} or White!

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9 Responses

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  1. well well.

    some interesting points to consider.

    maybe while we look back to ancestry for guidance we ought to look forward to humanity for insight and wisdom.

    bless up ian.


  2. How can you look forward to humanity for insight and wisdom? I don't understand that statement. Seems to me I either need to look, inside, around me or to the past for wisdom. And since most black people don't know about or appreciate their past… there's a whole lotta wisdom being wasted.

  3. Ian thank you for your positive response. I am glad that you enjoyed the performances. I think that Adrian and Yvonne are simply qualifying and affirming blackness and by no means negating other races but as is the creative lisence of the artist to use personal experiences to illustrate the dire nature of situations which do exist but which we choose to politley ignore or conveneiently crawl under the rug while the rooves of our great grands, grands, mothers, fathers and children and childrens children fall down around our heads. I think there were many people there who needed that message of affirmation and self love who struggle daily with identity and perception and who would applau that message much like you felt great creedence in Indra's words. And this is by no means negating anyone or anything, demonising anyone or anything but AFFIRMING!!! It's ok to be who you are, no matter who you are.

    I am very proud to have been at the helm of such talent. I guess that is how the astronauts feel before lifit off when they are sitting above the millions of gallons of fuel that powers them into space.

    I love what Beny said about the literary arts being an interactive sport. That really sums it all up.

    stay tuned

    Mark jason Welch

  4. I am beginning to wonder if Mr. Bourne was at the same show as I. Adrian Green's poem was a well thought out and articulated look at the effects of the negative effects of our often times poor self image. He dealt with several very real issues. And not once did I here him say black was better than white or denegrate another race. And Yvonne Weekes spoke about her intense and personal struggle to affirm her identity. How dare we minimise or judge that! I do not find this critique fair and balanced.

  5. Did we read the same review? Or did you choose to ignore the comments about Malcolm X' history as a counterpoint?

    As for witnesses and perception you probably need to look at Japanese director Akira Kurosawa's watershed movie "RASHOMON" where many people see one event and what happened thereafter…

    I have my own perspective and I stand by it, in the same way as Adrian, Yvonne or "you" stand by 'yours'.

  6. Have just read your blog and think you did an excellent job of reviewing and critiquing the night.

    That's pretty much how I'd have called it if I were reviewing the show. Found your comments fair and constructive, as well as entertaining. Did not at all "read" a personal attack in what you wrote. Name change is a very personal/spiritual (rather than political) matter so I won't comment further on that.

    Will say that, as a writer and listener, would like to see more of this new generation of performance poets focus more on the future and a bit less on that aspect of our past. But then, poetry (writing of) is a very personal thing too, so won't comment further.

    To be honest, felt uncomfy with some of what I heard that night. "Reverse" racism, anyone?

    The irony of the situation was not lost on me either: The evil white man has put us in this situation/made us who we are – and now he (or at least the company he heads) is paying thousands of dollars so I can stand here – in all my finery!; not looking at all beaten or downtrodden and certainly not having dropped from anyone's womb (what an absolutely nauseating image to have burned on the retina of your mind's eye!!!) – and tell everyone how evil he/his kind and/or his ancestors are/were.

    I am a proud Black Queen and, while I'm well aware of our past, I do feel the need for us (as a people!) to move on and recognise that just as all black people aren't "good", all white people aren't "bad". The poets in question may not have said the opposite overtly, but that's the "vibe" they sent me (and others) home with. Poets have been doing this theme to death for the last 40+ years. Isn't it time to move on yet?

    You weren't the only one who applauded Jack's line about there being no pure blacks or whites – but perhaps you didn't hear me at the back of the tent over your own applause.

    After reading the fishwrap masquerading as a review which appeared in the Nation I was so glad to see this event handled critically. Objective criticism is vital if the arts/artists/artistes are to progress.

    Good review, Ian!

    p.s. Having said all of this, want to add that I grew up in the UK and experienced much of what Yvonne spoke of, i.e. the playground bullying etc, not the dropping from the womb part!

  7. Not sure how to respond to Mr. Bourne's comments. What's in a name Mr. Bourne? What's in a colour? But I am pretty certain that the experience I chose to share and that Mr. Bourne chose to minimise and negate is experienced by many dark skin people in Barbados at school, at work etc Guess no racism in Barbados… and of course only the privileged white – light skin people would have us dust it away… rock again…Mr. Bourne you have inspired me to write even more……keeping the name my parents gave….African in soul and spirit.

  8. Thanks Ian for sharing your honest opinion, knowing as you do that it could ruffle a few feathers. However as writers we understand this comes with the territory. As you also mentioned in one of the comments two people can see or hear the same thing and interpret it very differently. So with a poem that is six pages long as my "Mirror Image," is, it is expected that misunderstandings and misinterpretations may occur, especially after only one hearing.

    Therefore I would like to shed some light on some possible false impressions that some may get.

    1)Asking the question what is your mirror image, is no more upholding black over white than it was when Errol Walton Barrow asked it. And no where in the poem is the suggestion made that black is better than white. The suggestion is made however that many blacks see white as better than black.

    2)The poem which the review describes as a rant against black women europeanising their looks and a diatribe against anything caucasion, does deal with hair straightening and skin bleaching, but also deals with youth violence, globalisation, the importance of faith in god, the effects of tv on our children and other issues. The only thing caucasion I criticise is Horatio Nelson who is to a black person what a nazi is to a jew. I understand though you are not a journalist and you are not writing a college thesis so you chose to deal only with what you percieve and what you think is important. Fair enough. I guess that is why you allow comments so these things can be cleared up.

    3)Yvonne Weekes' poem was a very personal account of a struggle that many of us have gone through even if you may not be able to relate. The fact that she chose to go into the audience and solicit a response from an obviously white man about his heritage suggest to me that she is affirming the right of all people not just black, to acknowledge where they come from. Unfortunately it is blacks who seem most uncomfortable doing this. Why? Because when we do we are often labeled racist. Hopefully poems like mine and Yvonne's will help blacks to feel more comfortable in proclaiming proudly their heritage just as Mr. Neilands was.

    4)The last paragraph of the article shifts its attention away from the poetry and takes aim at the personal lives of the poets. Not that it is anybodies' business, but take comfort in knowing Ian, that I will change my name legally eventually. But the insinuation that I and Yvonne have a problem interacting with "everybody" is dangerous and slanderous. That is a personal attack. But as you said, it is your opinion and you stand by it. So I give you that respect no matter how erroneous it is. (And I know it is, because it is about me.)

    Adrian Green

  9. @ AG – Per point 4; Did you read the Update/Clarification at the top of this item? I have not engaged in any personal attack, I offered an observation which you have chosen to view as a personal attack. A personal attack is correctly attributed if I should say a person is a pedophile or an alcoholic and not substantiate the claim. I may think your poem was racial but in no way do I think you're racist, I was also using historical facts to back the reasoning for my summation – please read 1st part again and thanks for stopping by!


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