{Part 2} Professor Kamau Brathwaite: no Justice at Cow Pasture nor NYC, Literary icon of Barbados lists MORE “stolen” items

{Bajan Reporter’s QueryWe’d like to know, are these items really stolen or just mis-placed? Can another Family member be holding them to store for safety?}


KamauPlease read the email below. On May 11th 2010 our greatest living poet Kamau Brathwaite will be 80 years old. He is one of the greatest living poets in the English language. He is a lecturer at New York University living in university accomodation. Since 2004 over 1000 pieces (tapes, notes, texts) of Kamau’s priceless archive of interviews dating back to the 1940’s, documents related to his work and that of other Caribbean Masters have been stolen from his apartment. There is no visible signs of forced entry. The thefts are not conducted by disturbing the surroundings, but a book is taken from a shelf today and a tape tomorrow. The missing items are only discovered when the poet goes to use them for reference.

The Brathwaites have reported this breech of security to the university and to the police. They have installed security cameras… all to no avail. As creative people need there reference material around them to donate this archive to a university or similar institution so that it can be safe is no solution unless he is never to write again. I have never made an inventory of all the books in my collection nor has he. This fact has been used against Kamau in his dealings with the university and the police. How do you know the items have been stolen if you don’t have a list?

As we all claim to respect the intellectual and creative genius of Kamau Brathwaite, how can we show that respect in practical terms? The Brathwaites have longed to return to Barbados and live at their home at Cow Pastor, but they are constrained by Planning issues as a road is to be constructed, which relates to the development of the Airport. They wish to expand their home and house their Archive in the extension, but this issue has been pending for approximately 15 years.

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 (incl. 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”(Kamau Brathwaite 2005
Mrs Brathwaite visited Barbados in January in an effort to seek clarification on the location of the road (indeed if it is still to be constructed after 15 years), so that they might proceed with a submission to Town and Country Planning regarding their extension.

If Kamau could relocate with his archive, this would be a great asset for Barbados, as he has always given encouragement and help to other creatives. What is taking place in Washington Square (his NY home) we cannot control, but surely no one can think it right that anyone should suffer in this way between the proverbial rock and a hard place? The Cow Pastor situation needs a resolution with speed.

This Native Son has brought so much honour to Barbados through his writing and the many awards he has won, such as the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, which is second only to the Nobel Prize. This year he will be awarded the W. E. B. Du Bois Award in the United States. Doubtless there will be numerous events organized internationally to honour Kamau, but his dearest wish is to live in peace at Cow Pastor with his reference material in easy access. To retire from his position at New York University, he will certainly have to continue to publish to earn a living quite apart from his desire.

Barbados has always boasted of how important Education is to us as a People; how much we admire the intellectually gifted. Can anyone remember the last writer or artist who received a car or a plot of land or an Airport reception on their significant international achievements? Musicians are artists too so I guess that is not an entirely fair statement, as Rhianna was so honoured for her achievements. I am writing this letter in the home that Kamau Brathwaite does not have to die from the considerable stress he is under before we truly show our love and appreciation.


Date: Wed, 10 Mar 2010 21:35:46 -0800
Subject: Uttar Insult! Disgrace!!
From: kamaubrathwaite@gmail.com

Tonight 10 March 10 just before midnight, in the miggle preparing for Thursday’s class and going to get it to show to the class, discover the theft (one more of thousands) of my Jamaica MUSGRAVE (MUSCRADLE) GOLD MEDAL FOR LITERARY ACHIEVEMENT 2006

Clearly the intention is to deprive me of all i own. The Muscradle, for instance, was to have been handed down to my son. When i have passed – and that is clearly being processed! – i will have nothing to show that i was here. xcept rumour. certainly no archive or estate. which after almost 80 years of labour, one wd xpect to have

I’m urging you to spread this bitter weed of word – for Xha sake let the world now KNOW about this cultural lynching


Mek dem kno – pass it on


since Jan 2008 while in Bdos
1 vial of VALIUM
2 Uncle Tom’s Cabin
3 Sab – first blk novel in Sp
4 Sankofa icon (kb5 for MR) – from off the wall
5 African vodoun (book)
6 i-ching (book)
7 Haitian postcard collection – Hippolyte, Benoit’s La Trinité Cathedral, P-au-P paintings
8 Mandela VHF
9 Empty REEL in orij green box, on table in ‘passage” before we went to Bdos in Jan 08. i.e gone
since the University’s new lock to which we don’t have the THIRD KEY
10 BOX of PO BIB – BOOKS – all the books gone – inc Inkle & Yarico Album, Pres Af Index,
BIM Index – can’t recall any more yet, but at
least c+15 items
11 GHANA PHOTOGRAPHS – my pics 1955-1962
12 all my Zora Neale Hurstons – twice now stolen!! the orij eds + the recent reprints
13 Regina Carter – Paganini CD cover stolen (they must have thot the CD was also in, but might have fallen for the COVER itself)
14 Martin Carter dvd – THE TERROR & THE TIME
15 Caribbean Culture: Soundings on Kamau Brathwaite
16 Gordon Rohlehr, A scuffling of islands
17-30 all my (14) XCP(s) : journal of cross-cultural poetics, inc the DS in no 17 (2007)
31-100+ nearly all the items in the BOX containing my work published in books & journals etc dur 2006 and 2007. Many of these items are annotated and contain teaching notes, ideas
. Sable /intrv w/Kadija George
. Black Scholar/interv & b/review Opal Palmer Adisa
. Caribbean Rev of Books (CRB)
inc rev Kwame Dawes on KB’s
. Toronto Lecture CD
. Namsetoura Pics & docs from the Tobago 07 Mas
. 5CDs – some 1000 digital photos – mainly my pictorial archive & research Bdos 1996-2007
. my 2007 40th anniv reading of ROP for NB at S Bank, London/CD/priceless
. John LaRose Tribute (Horace Ove film)
. MLA MaQuette ed Elaine Savory of KB5 work
101 small mkissi from its box in the sitting room
102 my box of high quality typing paper (!!)
103 Anthology of Negro Poets (Folkways) inc 3 poems by Claude McK
104-106 Dict of the History of Ideas Vols 1,3, 4

106 my Zamora Magical Realism – not now here 11 March 08, bt here a week ago

March 13-22 in Barbados
107 locked study entered (door + lock inserted by the university Feb 08), books in disarray on floor; books missing from poertry shelf

108 bedroom security system disabled for 2nd time each time dur absence – is on this occasion that the most TEEFIN so far prob took place – showing us that DESPITE the new Security Measures, we remain open fools

109 TV stations guide GONE – is is a common MO of thee thefts – lists of books, library book, Amazon orders and now my TV Guide w/my handwritten prefs written in for ease of ref +

110 from the same area – the DVD player guide book which wd show us how to burn DVDs from VHS etc

111 ditto – all my addresses kept i envelopes on a small bookshelf nr the tv – a whole set a things in the area relenless GONE – this persn does not intenmd to stop until we have nothing – after whivch i supoose he/she/they will MURDER us in this place

112-125 ALL 25 of my early DREAM STORIES, kept in a box in a cupboard – GONE

126 DChad reports missing SPOONS . I’ve noticed this too

127 DW’s GREEN NIGHT – going on Amazon (March 30/2008) for $1000

128 tss of GOLOKWATI (2) – stolen while we in Bdos March 08 – picked clean from where it was!

129 Revloutionary Freedoms – a large hardcover,. with essays by Haitian scholars in the US, with Intro by Kb5, and the work of the Haitian artist, Ulrick Jean-Pierre on the Haiti Rev moment. There were two copies of this. One GONE

130John Mason – Orin Òrìsà – 550 Yorùbá songs from Cuba
131-140 EATON Paper – BOX of. Now WHO wd teref a ting like this. In fact, ALL my special paper gone
141-150 The set entero of congrat letters inc one from the President, NYU, on winning the NEUSTADT INTERNATIONAL:****date of Neus. these prob gone LONG AGO
151-250THE ANTHOLOGY OF SAVACOU-NORTH NEW CARIBB LIT to be ed by June Bobb & Chris Winks
251-270 – nearly all the files to do w/my relations w/NYU inc the FILES on the DISPUTE w/Jennifer Wicke (COMP LIT HOD) who tried to tarnish my name & work & reputation and the correspondence with the FACULTY GRIEVANCE CTTE and their REPORT on the matter

271 Shange/ For coloured girls DVD gone – jewel case left. There are some SIX like this in the apt now

272 Beautiful art book on Indian culture purchased at Virgin Records. I guess they felt, as w/tje Kara Walker, that this too good for us

273-277 FOUR Stepehn Alexis novels from Amazon just before we go Bdos in March 08 – STOLEN dur our absence : Les arbres musiciens, The musician trees, Flicker of an eyelid, General Sun my Brother, Heights of Macchu Picchu all these books came in the
same package from Amazon – SAME TIME as TERROR & THE TIME and ALL my work for 2007
278-279 – both copies of book on AFRICAN Washington, DC (Egypt on the Potomac) now out of Print

2 Jn 08/10:30pm we had plulled a large heavy book catacorner up against the apart door as we left together at 9:30pm We come back to find the book pushed away from the door and up against the wall

also an eM lett from Grad Asst Cristina Garcia who eventually said – after evident reluctance – I WONDER WHY – that she wd write letter to the NYU Provost, but not before she come back from a week vacation. She write the letter and ask the CLASS to ditto. One student did, it seems. I suggested that instead of single letts, that she shd have a meet with those still in town (cause all this left to Summer time now) + a few others i suggest – and develop a collective strategy. After a suitable LULL, she reply that she will be TOO busy over the Summer to do anything about the Situation

280 /9 Jn 08 – MY BANK (cheque) Book
281-288 – 16 Jn 08 – disc all my books on Ja music gone – to ‘add’ to the NDTC Nettlefords
289 John Cowley – Canboulay & Calypso
290 Red Plastic Bag (RPB) – ‘Master Stroke’ a CD that contains RPB’s Middle Passage – they take the CD leave the heavy CD case

291 21 June 08/MR Cosmos poem
On Sat morning 21 Jn 08 i go the computer to run off my MR/Cosmos po (pp227-229) from the MR file, to use in my forthcoming presentation at the Mona CROSSROADS Conf/July 08. The MR file is not there – neither on the SE or the back-up. Earlier MR files there but not the final from which MR/MR (2002) is printed. OK, I go to the returned pages from the printer in two envelopes, the Vol 1 of which Bev found TORN OPEN on 26 Nov 07. She had put them away in tacto in a filing cabinet when they were returned from the printer in Jan 03 – all our filing cabinet LOCKS, by the way, were long ago disabled/broken, so cd not be locked. The replacement locks don’t look any more resistant. . .! But when I go into that torn env to retrieve my Cosmos Poem GUESS WHAT – it gone!! thats the kind of TEEF we (not) dealin with. (We think the ret pages for BP and GOLO are also totally taken and prob all the pages from ND as well. What puzzles is WHY the xtraction of only that poem when its avail in the BOOK and also on the STOLEN computer file!! And yet another terror attack on my concentration and Q of work – in thuis case my prep from the Mona Conf in a few weeks’ toime

292 on the morning of 14 aug 08, i realize that my mini wireless TV, kept on my study table, is now GONE

293 13 Sept 08 – after my FALL & PASSOVER & HOSPITAL- IZATION from this TRAUMA. As usual, a book that i need – in this case JOSEPH CAMPBELL, The Power of Myth – always readily available to me all these years – all these years readily available my use. Now i come to get it to ck of TREE OF LIFE. is gone STOLEN. And this is the cruel pattern, which NObody seems to understand or care about. Hence the FALL OF the FRUIT OF my TREE OF LIFE into my POISON scrotum. And now we see how this, as it happens, can happen again.

294 7 oct 08 – the CDs of the Ellington SACRED CONCERTS
my precious – my goodness! – mss of the ‘M/Q Songs 1945 to forever’ etc etc etc

295 8 oct 08 – for THIRD time VCR machine (which i use esp for copying material for classes, lectures, archives) sabotage


7 Responses

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  1. No family member is holding these documents in safe keeping for Kamau. His wife Beverley has witnessed items left on a desk before they left the apartment on a rare outing together as recently as December 23rd 2009 to have disappeared by the time they returned.

    I have spoken quite often by phone to Kamau over the past year and I assure you he is in possession of all his faculties and as brilliant as ever! It is less disturbing to think he has misplaced them himself than to contemplate the possible danger in the alternative.

  2. Professor Brathwaite has an extraordinary memory, he remembers everything in the finest details especially because he values everything and everyone. Someone is taking his valuable assets. Family members would not have the know how to steal with hidden cameras, moreover they would not need to take his valuable possessions for safekeeping. I am hoping and praying that whoever is taking his possessions will desist from doing so and return it them to him. And just to let them know that whatever s/he is doing to Kamau, s/he cannot keep him down…. he is inscribed in the memory, hearts and minds of so many of us. .



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