29 April 2011

Carib Queen laid to rest.

Carib Queen laid to rest.
By Kimberly Castillo | Trinidad Express Newspapers | Apr 29, 2011 at 11:44 PM ECT

Friends and family came together at the funeral service of Carib Queen Valentina Medina yesterday to honour the woman whom many believed epitomised the values and traditions of indigenous people.

After four and a half years of a battle with breast cancer, Santa Rosa Carib Queen Valentina Medina died of the disease on April 23. She was 78.

Prior to the funeral service at the Santa Rosa Roman Catholic Church in Arima, friends of Medina donned colourful crocheted ponchos and beaded headbands and gathered at the Arima Town Hall to view Medina's body and sign a condolence book. A pink and white flag used in the Santa Rosa festival was draped over Medina's casket.

Medina spent much of her decade-long reign as Carib Queen fighting for greater recognition of indigenous people and petitioning the government of the day to give the Carib community more land to serve as a Carib reservation.

At Medina's funeral service at the Santa Rosa Roman Catholic Church in Arima yesterday, Chief of the Santa Rosa Carib Community Ricardo Bharath carried the mantle from where Medina left off and called for greater appreciation of Trinidad and Tobago's first indigenous inhabitants.

"I am willing to assist you in whatever way I can. I am willing to champion your cause," Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism Winston Gypsy Peters answered in response to Bharath's calls but said the Carib community must approach government with their concerns as a unified body.

In her eulogy, People's National Movement senator Pennelope Beckles-Robinson, who was a friend of Medina, described her as an industrious and hardworking woman.

Medina's activism on behalf of indigenous people and her devotion to the Carib community endeared her to many as attested to by acting Prime Minister Winston Dookeran who along with Beckles-Robinson urged all to adopt Medina's leadership skills.

"She was committed to bringing the first people together. We should adopt the personality and ideals of Valentina Medina. Whoever else should become queen of the Carib community next would have a hard task ahead because she (Medina) was truly a great queen," added Mayor of Arima, Ghassan Youseph.

Medina's funeral procession was accompanied with parang music and later concluded with a smoke ceremony at the Santa Rosa Cemetery.

28 April 2011

Trinidad Caribs Looking for New Queen

Caribs look for new queen
Published: Thu, 2011-04-28 in The Guardian
Brent Zephyrine

The process of selecting a new queen of the indigenous Carib community “will be a challenge” if adequate financial provisions are not allocated to the successor of the late Valentina Medina. So said president of the Carib community, Ricardo Hernandez Bharath, in an interview yesterday. Medina, 77, who had been ailing with cancer for three years, succumbed last Saturday, having served ten years as queen of the Carib community in Santa Rosa. Bharath said the queen, whose office was for life, acted as the official representative for the Carib community and made appearances at various events, fulfilled the duty of community consultant and functions as the chief public relations liaison for both visitors and students.

He said at present, the post did not come with a stipend and believed that something ought to be done to provide some relief in that regard. “If you want to give of that office a kind of respect and dignity, I believe that some sort of assistance from some government department must be afforded to that person,” Bharath said. He added that “it would be a challenge to appoint” a successor if stipends were not provided since it was necessary to assist the queen “in her day-to-day engagements, in preparation to attend functions and receive visitors” among other particulars. “We assist her with a little when we get our annual subventions,” he said.

“Apart from that, we depend on contributions from visitors, school children, the sale of art and craft and the little indigenous foods we do but it is not consistent, nor is it enough.” Asked to outline the procedure for the election of a new queen, Bharath said where the “queen did not name a successor,” the community would meet and nominate candidates who they felt were best suited to carry out her functions. “If there is just one nomination (which is unopposed) and it is accepted, that person will be made queen and where there is more than one nomination, then an election will take place and the majority will stand,” he said. Bharath said the requirements for the new queen “will need to be a bit more advanced” when compared to the past and more emphasis would need to be placed on “the qualities of the person.”

“In the past, you just had to look for someone knowledgeable of the Carib traditions, devoted to the Santa Rosa festival and committed to living a good life but today, it will require someone who can interact with the public,” he said. Medina’s funeral service will take place tomorrow from 2 pm at the Santa Rosa Roman Catholic Church, Woodford Street, Arima. Her body will lie in state at the Arima Town Hall from noon to 1.15 pm, after which there will be a procession through the streets of Arima. Medina will be laid to rest at the Santa Rosa Cemetery where Bharath will perform a special burial ceremony. Monsignor Christian Perreira of the Catholic Church will preside over the funeral service.

27 April 2011

Indigenous-African Relations Across the Americas

Our Legacy: Indigenous-African Relations Across the Americas, is a three-day conference about to start at York University, in Toronto, in which I am pleased to participate. It was organized by Canadian indigenous scholar, Bonita Lawrence. The noteworthy feature of this conference is that it also serves as a mini international gathering of indigenous representatives from across the Caribbean, primarily from Belize, Honduras, Dominica, St. Vincent, and Trinidad & Tobago. To begin the event, Joseph O. Palacio was to have been the keynote speaker, but no longer appears to be attending. 

During the morning of Saturday, 30 April 2011, two panels will be focusing on the Caribbean. Panel 2, Contemporary Indigenous Caribbean Identity, will feature: "Carib Identity, Racial Politics, and the Problem of Belonging" by Maximilian Forte"Good and Evil in the Garden: Indigenous and African Oppression and Solidarity in the Post-Contact Caribbean" by Leah Stewart; and, "Surviving as Garinagu in the 21st Century: Resisting and Transforming Colonial Categories of Race in Honduras" by Kimberly Palmer.

Panel 3: Historical Perspectives on the Colonial Project in the Caribbean and Circum-Caribbean Region will feature: "Caliban's Caribbean Voyage: Historicising Caribbean Discourses of Indigeneity and Indigenization" by Melanie Newton"The (Re)vision of Slavery: Bartolomé de Las Casas and Francisco José de Jaca's formulation of a counter-legal discourse in the Hispanic Caribbean" by Rebeca Moreno-Orama; and,  "Black Cultural Brokers on Spain's Indigenous Frontiers" by Jane Landers.

Unfortunately, the panels appear to be taking place simultaneously, which will hinder my own coverage of the Caribbean-related events.

In the afternoon on the same day, a very exciting panel:

Contemporary Indigenous-Black Relations in the Caribbean with:

Zoila Ellis Browne, Garifuna Cultural Foundation of St. Vincent,
Irvince Auguiste Kalinago Nation of Dominica,
Brendon Lacaille, Santa Rosa Carib Community, Trinidad

Adapted from the conference program, more about each of the above:

Zoila Ellis Browne, of the Garifuna Cultural Foundation of St. Vincent, lives in St. Vincent. She has an Masters Degree – Mphil in Development Studies from the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, U.K. and a Bachelor of Laws (Llb) ) Honours from the University of the West Indies, Barbados. From June 2006 to the present, she has been a Magistrate of District III, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in charge of adjudicating Civil and Criminal Cases in Seven (7) Magistrates Courts in the District. For many years she has worked to develop programs to guide the disbursement of European Union Grant Funds to support public and private sector projects in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominican Republic. She has been Senior Attorney-at-Law at legal firms in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Belize, and a consultant on human rights, anti-poverty, farmers and environmental concerns and efforts to promote biodiversity in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Belize. From 2001 to 2009 she was the founder and President of the Garifuna Heritage Foundation, a non- governmental organization dedicated to the promotion and development of the indigenous Garifuna Culture in St.Vincent and the Grenadines and the diaspora. She speaks English, Spanish, and some Garifuna.

Irvince Auguiste, Kalinago Nation of Dominica, is former Chief of the Kalinago (Carib) Territory of Dominica and remains a member of the Carib Council. The Carib Territory in Dominica is the Caribbean's largest remaining community of Caribs. This 3,700-acre reserve has approximately 4,000 people of Carib descent. Auguiste has been involved in numerous projects to promote Carib heritage, including being project manager of the Touna Village development project. This project aims to show visitors a living Kalinago village; all 70 villagers in Touna have a stake in the project and open their homes to visitors. They demonstrate traditional skills such as basket weaving, making cassava bread and extracting juice from sugar cane. Auguiste notes that the Kalinago have been working as guides in tourism for many years; however, with projects like the Touna Village, Caribs are beginning to control and benefit from tourism; moreover, this has stimulated an interested in revitalizing traditional Carib practices. Recently, Auguiste has also been involved in a project to develop a radio station for the Carib territory. He notes that an indigenous radio station for the Kalinago people would foster greater communication amongst the island's Caribs, as well as promoting cultural revival and education programs about Carib people in Dominica.

Brendon Lacaille, Santa Rosa Carib Community, Trinidad, is a member of the Santa Rosa Carib Community, Arima, Trinidad, where he addresses Afro-Carib identity within the membership. He has a BA in Liberal Arts from the St. Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies. Since 1999 he has been the Administrative Director as well as part-time lecturer at Arts-in-Action, Centre for Creative and Festival Arts, University of the West Indies in Trinidad, West Indies. Arts-in-Action utilizes the creative arts, specifically drama/theatre, including the carnival arts, festival performances and folklore (as is mandated by the mission of the Centre and Arts-in-Action's own emerging methodology called 'Legacy Theatre') in making theatre for educational purposes. In relation to its youth work portfolio, the group has completed projects that deal with violence, self-esteem, drug abuse, globalisation, consumerism, environmental literacy and conservation, curricula and its 'flagship' project "Jus' Once" which focuses on sexuality, STI's and HIV/AIDS.

Reports from the conference may appear on this site, and you can also check tweets from @1D4TW. Until later...

25 April 2011

Carib Queen Valentina Medina Passes On

By Leiselle Maraj Monday, April 25 2011
Published in Newsday

Carib Queen Valentina Medina passed away at her home on Saturday after battling cancer for the past three years. She was 77 years old.

She has been the Carib Queen of the community in Santa Rosa for the past ten years. May 6 this year would have been her 78th birthday and marked her 11th year as Queen.

Medina’s daughter, Lauretta Grant told Newsday yesterday the Queen passed away at her home at Mt Pleasant, Arima, at about 3.20pm on Saturday surrounded by her children and close family who lived nearby.

She said her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago and although she removed the cancerous growth, the disease spread to the rest of her body. A few days ago, Grant said, her mother visited the doctor who informed her that the cancer spread to her bones.

The queen was unable to attend several functions within the past year due to her illness. Grant said her mother was ashamed to be seen looking so frail after she lost so much weight due to illness.

Her last appearance was at a function for the feast of Santa Rosa last August.

“She was in a lot of pain then. My mother suffered a lot with her illness but she died peacefully and we were all with her,” she said.

The family is currently making funeral arrangements but Grant said there may not be a service before Thursday.

“She was very close with Senator Pennelope Beckles and my mother asked her to read her eulogy but she would not be in the country until Wednesday,” Grant explained.

The community now has to choose a new Queen. Grant said while she was not sure of the exact process, the community will have to hold a meeting and choose three women who meet the requirements to be Queen. The community then votes and the person with the most votes is declared the new Queen.

Medina leaves to mourn Grant and her three sons, grandchildren and great grandchildren. According to a media release from the office of Arima Mayor, Ghassan Youseph, she was the mother of five children, one daughter and four sons.

“On behalf of all Arimians, as well as the executive and staff of the Arima Borough Corporation, the Mayor and Council extend heartfelt sympathies to the Carib community on their loss,” the release stated.

Also sending condolences is the political party, the Congress of the People. In a separate media release, COP noted Medina’s passing is a great loss to the members of the Carib community and the wider citizenry.

“Queen Medina, queen for the past 11 years, represented the purity and soul of our First People. She worked assiduously to promote the philosophy and history of the great Carib community. Even though she was soft spoken she always made her passionate views heard. She epitomised the concept of religious and cultural diversity in Trinidad and Tobago, a feature for which she was well known,” the release stated.

COP called on Government to work with the new Carib leadership and honour her so she will be known by future generations.

President of the Santa Rosa community, Ricardo Bharath Hernandez could not be reached for comment.

24 April 2011

Carib Queen Medina dies.

Carib Queen Medina dies.
By Renuka Singh
Trinidad Express Newspapers | Story Created: Apr 24, 2011 at 10:55 PM ECT

Carib Queen Valentina Medina passed away yesterday.

After years of battling breast cancer, Medina succumbed to complications of the disease at her Arima home.

At 78, Medina stood as Carib Queen for almost 11 years, her daughter, Loretta Grant, 56, said in a brief telephone interview yesterday.

"As it was Easter, we were either praying for a miracle or for her suffering to end," she said.

"She had suffered enough," she said.

Grant said her mother and grandmother were involved in the Carib Community most of their lives, so her mother's ascension to the royal title was no surprise.

"You had to either be a virgin or someone who was living a clean married life," Grant explained.

Grant said she was not a member of the community, so the line ended with her mother.

She said Medina's doctors warned them that she would take a turn for the worse and asked them to spend time with her.

"That is why when she passed away all her family and close friends were there in the house with her. During her last days, though, very few people from the Carib Community visited her. I know it hurt her and it hurt me too, but the Arima Mayor (Ghassan Youseph) visited the family to pay his respects," she said.

The family is hoping to have the funeral for Medina on Thursday, but Grant said they were still working out the logistics before they could formally fix a date.

Chief of the Santa Rosa Carib Community Ricardo Hernandez-Bharath, who saw Medina just before her passing, said she had served her community well.

"Once the funeral date is announced, we will be able to work out the details but there will definitely be an indigenous service on the day of the funeral," Hernandez-Bharath said in a telephone interview yesterday.

In one month the Carib Council will also meet to discuss the appointment of a new Queen, as Medina did not name her successor, as is the tradition.

The funeral ritual will include a smoke ceremony with special incense and which includes the use of particular herbs woven into fans.

A pink and white flag, one of the flags used during the Santa Rosa Festival and typically used when a female dies, will be draped on Medina's grave, symbolising the continuation of all that she held up in victory during her life.

Political leader of the Congress of the People Winston Dookeran described Medina's death as" a great loss to the members of the Carib Community, and the wider citizenry of our beloved country Trinidad and Tobago".

"Queen Medina, queen for the past 11 years, represented the purity and soul of our First People. She worked assiduously to promote the philosophy and history of the great Carib community. Even though she was soft spoken she always made her passionate views heard. She epitomised the concept of religious and cultural diversity in Trinidad and Tobago, a feature for which she was well known," a release from the party stated.