The Palo’s Crew Emancipation Concert: An Evening of Culture
Mango Rose apartment block off Piccadilly Street, Port of Spain
By TriniView Reporters
Posted: August 17, 2014
On Saturday 2nd August, the Mango Rose, Port of Spain neighbourhood was a hub of activity for the hosting of the annual Emancipation Day Concert hosted by The Palo’s Crew. The event was billed “An Evening of Culture” and themed “To Educate is to Emancipate.” This concert seeks not only to entertain, but also serves as a platform for acknowledging and rewarding the efforts of individuals who have excelled from the community.
Mr. Gary George, a trustee of Palo’s Crew, discussed the evolution of the annual Emancipation concert. He commented that the Palo’s Crew had been organizing and hosting this concert, which has proliferated in size, for the last five years. It aims to not only celebrate the historical significance of Emancipation in the African community but also to motivate and uplift the youth in Mango Rose with awards for achievement. He went on to share that the event had actually ballooned into a three-day affair at one time. This timeframe was intended to cater for a number of community activities including medical tests by doctors who volunteered time to test for sugar and blood pressure, and HIV/AIDS and other blood disorders. However, after initial success, getting all on board thereafter has been a challenge. He went on to say, “We give little awards to the children for passing their exams, medals, bookbags, prizes, free eats and drinks. We plan this for the year and appeal for sponsorship from all quarters.”
Mr. Sheldon Johnson, secretary of The Palo’s Crew
Mr. Sheldon Johnson, secretary of The Palo’s Crew also took a short break to speak about the evening’s activity. He, too, indicated that this event was calculated to show appreciation for the children who wrote SEA and in so doing, offer them encouragement. Awards would also be given to the children who excelled in sport and culture. He shared, “We acknowledge their achievement as well as some of the older folks. Some of the forgotten heroes from Mango Rose, people who have excelled in life in different spheres . . . we have Elva Weekes and Allison Matthews who are both former National netballers; they will be here in the audience this evening. Both are from Mango Rose. We have students who play chess at a national level; we have a student who is representing Trinidad and Tobago at the upcoming Goodwill Games. We have people who excelled in arts and culture. We do this every year to showcase the positives coming out of Mango Rose every year.”
Members of Palo’s Crew drying off chairs after heavy rainfall
Seating was arranged in the open air commons between the tall buildings and two tents were erected on the greens to accommodate specially invited guests. A police patrol was parked nearby, according to Johnson, providing a “blanket of protection.” Heavy rainfall late in the afternoon did little to dampen the efforts of the Crew as they scurried about putting last minute touches to the staging area that was set up in front of Building 86, using brooms to sweep excess water away from the pathways and energetically polishing the white chairs with rags to dry them in time for the event.
President of The Palo’s Crew, Dane Gulston
The Crew’s commitment to the successful staging of this event was highly evident. A conversation with Dane Colin Troy Gulston, president of The Palo’s Crew yielded insight into this. He explained that the members of the Palo’s Crew, which comprised of thirteen people, grew up together and were all from Mango Rose. He shared, “The group comprises of some people who still live here and some who don’t live here anymore but they always here. We hang out and our clubhouse is here, in the community. We just trying to make sure positive vibes go through the community.” He added:
I think it’s always wise to show the talent that the community have and also bring it back into the community because some people don’t always get chance to go to some of the [cultural] shows. This is a serious time when it comes to our roots and this is our fifth year doing this. We’ve gone through some serious struggles to make sure it comes off. Because of our perseverance and because of the way we try to be united, like everything else it has its ups and downs but we try and we succeed. After five years, we’re still trying but we always bring it off and we work very hard. All members of the team work very hard to try and do what we have to do. Where we are, in Mango Rose, Picaddilly Street, it have its bad stigma and what we do is try and fight to keep the positive.
He compared this year’s preparations to their first year, musing:
The first year we were like fish out of water; we trying to do something but really and truly you ignorant at times about what you do. The first year we didn’t get total sponsorship and not a whole lot of support. Also, in the first year people didn’t really know anything about us so they might not have stretched their hands as far as they’d want to. We get more help now; it is a work in progress.
A pannist by profession, he is best recognized as a member of renowned steelband group Trinidad All Stars. He expressed his devotion stating, “I’ve performed in Madison Square Garden and Lincoln Centre but this is where I’m from and this is where I started. These roots is me. As artistes, it’s always good to give back especially where you [were] taught and what you achieve right in your area.”
Mr. Victor Hamid, resident of Rose Hill, East Dry River, Port-of-Spain
Longtime resident of neighbouring Rose Hill, Victor Hamid, arrived at 4 p.m. and sat quietly in the stands waiting for the concert to start. A member of the Duke Street Pentecostal Church, also known as the Pentecostal Cathedral of Duke Street, Hamid indicated that he lived in the cream house perched atop Rose Hill all his life. He admitted that while his children had scattered to live in Maraval and St. James, he would never leave the place where was born. As a member of the Duke Street Pentecostal Church, he was looking forward to the Church’s contribution to the evening’s concert. Having spent the last eighty years in the same spot, he had the advantage of experience in observing the changes in the area. He lamented that there are some youths who were responsible for the bad reputation in the community but also shared that the church was making strong efforts to reach out to the neighbourhood’s children in the hopes of providing positive support.
Cross-section of SEA awards recipients
As evening fell, the little ones began to arrive in ones and twos. Jonathon Thomas was one of the children to arrive early and find seating in an advantageous point. At aged thirteen, he disclosed that he had recently sat the SEA examination and had passed for his first choice, South East Secondary school. He was excited about the concert because he was getting an award and looked forward to hearing the music. Maya Queeley was another child who was eager about the concert because she was also to receive an award. At aged thirteen, she had passed for Morvant Secondary School. Even though it wasn’t her first choice, she looked forward to her first day of school in September. Young Jada Willis was also carded to receive an award for academic achievement. At twelve years of age, she had passed the SEA examination and was assigned to the South East Secondary School. She too was greatly delighted about receiving an award from The Palo’s Crew for her achievement. A scattering of adults began arriving with infants in hand. One such individual was Shamlyn Letren who attended the concert for the first time. She remarked that she was looking forward to the cultural entertainment and enjoying a wonderful evening. She praised the efforts of The Palo’s Crew in giving back to the community and particularly to the children.
Due to the evening’s earlier rainfall, the show started much later than anticipated, giving members of the audience the opportunity to socialise as scores of children scampered about competing for seats in front of the stage. Powerful African rhythms flowed into the night, enervating the atmosphere and rousing anticipation from the growing crowd for the entertainment in store.
(L) Minister, the Honourable Rodger Samuel, presents a token of appreciation to Pastor Rondan
The show started shortly before eight, with a member of the Desperadoes Steelband Orchestra, Mr. Morris, playing the national anthem. This was followed by a prayer from Pastor Rondan. Shortly after this benediction, Pastor Rondan was presented with a token of appreciation by visiting Government Minister, The Honourable Rodger Samuel on behalf of The Palo’s Crew for his efforts in the community. Thereafter, Minister Samuel addressed the audience, sharing that he too, like his father and grandfather, had been born and raised in Mango Rose. He confessed that Mango Rose has always been a part of his existence and continues to exert its influence to this day. He noted that only the people living in Mango Rose, or those who had a passion for the community would be able to uplift the area. He praised the community presence at the event, saying, “There are no bad places, there are no bad people. You and I are here and this says that there are good things happening in Mango Rose.” He pledged continued support for ventures such as this since their purpose was not only about building communities but also about protecting and preserving the rich heritage of the district as embodied by the people who were able to build and develop the musical instruments that are available today. He fervently offered a prayer that the concert would continue to grow from strength to strength every year. With this wish, he handed the floor to the Master of Ceremonies for the evening, Mr. Carlyle Babb.
Mr. Carlyle Babb, member of Palo’s Crew
Mr. Babb is a well-known figure in the district and he engaged the audience with warm familiarity. Throughout the evening he peppered his dialogue with anecdotes of Mango Rose history in the Trinidadian cultural landscape. He discussed the unique geography of Mango Rose, with its rich historical heritage and surrounded by the cultural currents from the nearby steelbands.
Brother Book performs two rapso pieces, “Living with Aids” and “The Little Boy In the Shack.”
Babb, steeped in the oral traditions of the community was followed by other performers who spoke on their involvement in art and culture via storytelling in song and verse. The first performer to take the stage was Mr. Sheldon Reid. He opened with a spirited rendition of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” and Mighty Sparrow’s “The Slave” to which the audience sang along. Brother Book performed next and the flowing ease with which he commanded the audience in sharing his message was reminiscent of the tradition of the village griot. During the course of his performance, he presented two distinctive rapso pieces; one was called “Living with AIDS” and the other was called “The Little Boy In the Shack.” Both pieces were used as a part of his discourse to illustrate some of the challenges faced in the community today. The children responded well to his presentation and he encouraged them to be aware of their cultural lineage as Africans and Trinidadians.
Minister, the Honourable Rodger Samuel presents an award to a SEA student
At this juncture, The Palo’s Crew paused the entertainment aspect of the show to commence the conferring of awards on some of the recent SEA students. The awards comprised of a RightStart bank account (sponsored by Republic Bank) for each child and a trophy. Children giggled and smiled appreciatively as they were called one by one to the stage to proudly collect their prizes and pose for pictures. Thereafter, the entertainment resumed.
The Belan Drummers of Belmont
The Belan Drummers of Belmont were well-received as they trooped onto the stage. They sang, danced and drummed in African expressions. “Odunde Odunde,” as a song originally done by Baba Olatunji, is a traditional harvest song. It gives thanks for the food; this song they recreated and danced with joyful expression. A short chat with Ms. Naheelah Nefta Kojo shed some light behind their selections for the evening. She explained that they hoped to share an experience of self with the audience, “to remind them of who they are, to hear their own music and hear the message behind the music.” She firmly stated, “Just hearing that will allow the audience to see themselves and enable them to know themselves better and love themselves more.” The group also performed a calypso medley which was followed by a rendition of “Akiwowo” by Baba Olatunji. They closed their performance with an enthusiastic version of the song “We Are Free.”
After The Belan Drummers left the stage, The Palo’s Crew resumed their acknowledgement of accomplishments from residents of Mango Rose, hailing Kerwin “The Hardest” Jemmot, a national footballer from the community who was present in the audience. The use of the event in serving as a platform for highlighting the achievements of the community’s youths continued as the awards for SEA children continued. A Palo’s Crew thanks was also given to the security services that were on duty for the evening.
Freetown Collective members, Muhammad Muwakil and Lou Lyons
As the praises continued intermittently thoughout the evening of perfomances, Najara Mohammed was acknowledged for her current representation of the under 20 team in Chess in Norway while Shemela James was hailed for her upcoming trip to Colombia in November to represent in the Under 14 team in a Chess Tournament. Mango Rose reacted with proud cheers as the girls’ names were called. The next act to take the stage was the musical duo, Freetown Collective, acoustic guitars in hand, who rendered their distinctive brand of harmonic vibrations. They too were well-appreciated by the crowd.
Selvon ‘Mistah Shak’ Noel performs his 2014 Calypso “Bois”
The next performance came from Brother Benny who is a longstanding member of the groundbreaking group, The Network Rapso Riddim Band. The band’s roots are strong in the area and he paid tribute to the children with a powerful delivery of the Rapso song, entitled “Children Askin.” Thereafter, the Master of Ceremonies then spoke about the tradition of the gayelle and the chantwell. Following this, he introduced Mr. Selvon Noel, also known as Mr. Shak. Mr. Shak opened with what he called “Freedom Music” and he called for the artistes who were using their music to teach and uplift the mind of the people to be seen on the television and heard more often on the radio. A tall man with a commanding voice he soon had the audience singing lustily with him in the musical “gayelle.” As he paced the stage, he chatted in between songs and spoke about the celebration of African culture and identity in the evening’s programme. He said, “Two of the most important African traditions that we preserve in Trinidad and Tobago are kaiso and stickfight. When it [comes] to Emancipation we must know how to free we self. Kaiso was always for the common people to free dey self and express dey self.” He took the audience into his “kaiso gayelle” and pulling his bois stick he performed kaiso as bois, firing political commentary about present day events. A native of Siparia, he received much love from Mango Rose upon completion of his set.
Lutalo ‘Brother Resistance’ Masimba presents an award to a SEA student
Upon the arrival of one of the pioneers of the Rapso tradition and President of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Calypsonian’s Association, Brother Resistance, it was announced that he had himself received an award. He was conferred the title “Keeper of the Tradition” in recognition of his efforts in being a keeper of African cultural traditions. He was asked to assist in handing out some of the awards to the SEA children at this juncture. Subsequently, the musical entertainment once again resumed. Dwayne O’Connor sang “Black is Beautiful,” which was originally written by Kelvin Pope also known as The Mighty Duke. A temporary hiccup in the sound system (caused from its earlier wetting in the heavy rainfall) resulted in the loss of the accompanying music but this didn’t deter him as he continued his stirringly smooth rendition of “Black is Beautiful” a cappella. Brother Resistance was the next entertainer to take the stage and he began by addressing the children present in the audience. He called for a round of applause for The Palo’s Crew for their efforts at uplifting the community, saying, “Togetherness is the essence of the Struggle.” He also applauded the Minister for taking the time to attend the show. Brother Resistance then dedicated his first song to Mango Rose Rapso artiste, Bongo Wayney. As he performed, he spoke about his travels around the world but then showed that they, all the performers, had returned home to Mango Rose. He encouraged the children to do well in school and to strive to do what they wanted to achieve. “Celebrate yourself,” he said. “Your parents fought hard and their parents had also fought hard. Don’t take our freedom for granted and don’t take free education for granted.” He ended with a stirring performance of his song, “Ring the Bell.” After he departed the stage, a wife of a Palo’s Crew member, Natalie, presented more awards to the children.
The mood at this time was quite festive and cheerful. Children laughed and threw picong as awards were given. The bantering was good-humoured and everyone remained in good spirits. Pastries and drinks had been sponsored by well-wishers and these were distributed to the members of the audience as the show progressed.
President of The Palo’s Crew, Duane Gulston, presents a Republic Bank RightStart gift certificate to Denisha Lewis
Denisha Lewis who is a dancer with the Malick Folk Performers and swims with Flying Fish Swim club, stands as the Under 9-10 50 meter National Swimming Champion. She was asked to take the stage and there she was introduced to the gathering as a national contender in the upcoming Goodwill Games to be held in Suriname. Donations were requested at this point to assist in allowing for a parent to accompany her since the Government would not be paying for a parent to go to the event. Mr. Babb conceded that it would be unfair for young Denisha to travel unaccompanied by a parent and appealed to Mango Rose to assist in however they could as she would be representing both Mango Rose as well as the national community. Republic Bank had also given her a Right Start account which the Palo’s Crew presented to her. Brother Resistance pledged TUCO’s support right there on the spot for half of the airfare for a parent to accompany her. Another gentleman, unidentified except as a member of the audience, immediately walked to the stage and donated to the cause. Thus, Mr. Babb solemnly stated, “We have to take care of our own and that is what this is about.” At this time, sponsors for the concert were also named and thanked. They and other contributors included Republic Bank, Durfy Trinidad and Tobago Ltd., Mr. Gandhi Mohammed, The Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism, The Ministry of Diversity, The Ministry of Gender Youth and Child Development, National Joint Action Committee, Pastor Rondan, The Green Zone Sports Bar’s Mr. P. Walkins, Mr. Chee Ping of Phoenix Logistics, RHS Marketing, Toyota Trinidad and Tobago Ltd., Trinidad All Stars Steelpan Orchestra, The North West Laventille Cultural Movement, The Centre for Human Development, Mr. Hanif Benjamin and Councilor for the area, Ms. Mc Clean. Again, the Ministry of National Security who’s membership includes The Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force and The Trinidad and Tobago Police Service and The Trinidad and Tobago Fire Service came in for special thanks. Palo’s members were also thanked for their cooperative effort as were all of the people who assisted in putting together the event.
Mr. Andrew Allen, member of the mas band Zebepique Productions, receives a token of appreciation from Daniel Gulston
Another recipient of the evening, Mr. Andrew Allen, was called to the stage and given a special token from the Gulston family for his assistance in the Emancipation programmne in previous concerts and for his support to the community including Dane’s son, Daniel. It was then announced that Mango Rose was selected by the Ministry of National Security to allow access for some the community’s children to participate in an anti-crime initiative. It was explained to be a form of rehabilitation through mas’ where thirty children from Mango Rose would be integrated in a mas’ band Mr. Allen is affiliated with, Zebepique Productions, along with children from other communities.
Members of the Roadblock School for the Arts
The next entertainment act then commenced. Lead singer with Roadblock band, Teddy B. Singer, presented the Roadblock School of Performing Dancers and the troupe comprising of youngsters danced in precisely coordinated movements to the music. Although the temporary glitch with the sound system occurred again, they demonstrated true showmanship and their show went on regardless of this setback. Mr. Wilby John was the next act and he serenaded the crowd with a silky cover of the ballad “All of Me” by John Legend. After his performance, The Roadblock School for Performing Dancers presented another dance; this time, a piece performed to Machel Montano’s ‘Possession’. The dance was accentuated by the beautiful ensembles of gold which flashed with the dancer’s movements under the lights. Roadblock also presented an excellent performance by the talented twin daughter and son duo of renowned pannist, Mr. Cain, performing John Legend’s song “All of Me” in song and on the steelpan.
(R) Member of Palo’s Crew presents a token of appreciation to a member of Neal & Massy Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra
Thereafter, another pause to the musical programme was taken so that a token of appreciation could be presented to The North West Laventille Performing Group for their continued support over the last few years. Trinidad All Stars were also given a token of appreciation from The Palo’s Crew for their continued support. The Palo’s Crew hereafter encouraged the youths to feel free to enter the Trinidad All Stars Panyard to learn what they could about the art of the pan, assuring them that the yard would be open to them at any time they wished.
Members of Neal & Massy Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra
Roadblock then returned to the stage led by Teddy B to put on a rousing display of live entertainment and the crowd perked up as the band regaled them with song after song. The finale was realized with a triumphant flourish to the sweet steel tones by The Trinidad All Stars. The concert ended shortly after midnight.
List of S.E.A. award recipients at the Palo’s Crew Emancipation Concert:
NAME ——————— SCHOOL ATTENDING
1. Ornela Roberts ——– St Joseph Convent
2. Tyrese Theodore ——- Trinity College
3. Brittney Chattergoon — Success Laventille
4. Vana Chattergoon —— Success Laventille
5. Isaiah Lamy ———– Success Laventille
6. N’kosi Corbin ——— Belmont Secondary
7. Jadea Willis ———- South East Secondary
8. Mya Queeley ———– Morvant Laventille
9. Jahile boyee James —- Morvant Laventille
10. Justin Cupid ——— Morvant Laventille
11. Kent Seapaul ——— Morvant Laventille
12. Sapphire Huggins —– Mucurapo East
13. Noella Mc Shine —— Mucurapo East
14. Adesha Maxwell ——- Tranquility Secondary
15. Isiah Cupid ———- Laventille Life Centre
16. Jonathan Thomas —— South East Secondary
17. Diarra Fraser ——– Mucurapo East Secondary
Palo’s Crew – Evening of Culture 2014 in pictures: