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An inspiration—Bocas Lit Fest

Published: 
Sunday, April 1, 2018

Morally crushing and troubling, innovative, inspiring, and promising—descriptions of our time. Morally crushing because of the social and political decay evident across the globe and the inhumanity to each other as manifest in violence and murders, the slaughter of the innocent in war-torn countries, and the callous way social media and other business empires trade our identities. Indeed, they buy and sell us as in the case of Cambridge Analytica—unscrupulous transactions of betrayal in the name of greed and political power.

The times are troubling for the same reasons, but also because of the resurgence of xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and bigotry putting the early twenty-first century in the shadow of the Dark Ages.

True, innovations are making welcomed differences in the quality of people’s lives such as in medicine. Inspiring too is the promise of youth as the children of America took the future into their hands and are challenging their policymakers.

Promising because the future may not be in the hands of promoters of guns and weapons of mass destruction no matter how they try to wreck the present.

Finding a moral centre when trust erodes in the bastions of civilisation—enlightenment—whether these are the church, parliaments, judicial and educational institutions, is a challenge.

But every day, there are sources of inspiration—calming centres of resourcefulness among the horrible events that surround us.

Virtually all of these centres of inspiration are people who give freely of their time, energy, and talents and do so with a passion.

Whether it occurred to them or not, they are guided by the principle of enlightenment or humanism. They enrich human existence, which brings me to the Bocas Lit Fest—a festival of literature.

Literature is a means by which we learn. It expands our understanding of the interconnectedness of all life. It is an indelible mark of civilisations found in libraries, caves, monuments, pyramids, and on rocks. So how do we promote local and Caribbean literature?

How do we inspire our children to read and write and contribute to the refinement of world life? How do we nurture the next generation of writers, poets, and great storytellers? How do we, at this critical juncture of our history, demonstrate value for those writers who contribute to the development of a local and Caribbean civilisation and add value to the archives of the world’s civilisation? Certainly, not by putting VAT on books!

Have successive Governments demonstrated appreciation for the dimensions and importance of the Bocas Lit Fest to the advancement of education?

I am aware that the Ministry of Community Development Arts and Culture is contributing to the initiative and also State Enterprises and I am an advocate of individual initiative, resourcefulness, and enterprise, but the scope of this uplifting festival of Caribbean literature deserves a place that is integral to the education curriculum.

It should have meaningful financial support as a significant development programme. It is a light of excellence.  

Many of the regions literary achievers became internationally famous through awards they won in international events.
Every developed country and also many developing ones have national competitive literary awards. Their governments contribute directly through subventions to universities and support non-governmental organisations dedicated to advancing literary works.
The indigenous organisation called Bocas Lit Fest, founded by Marina Salandy-Brown in 2010, is dedicated to the promotion of excellence in Caribbean literary skills.

It collaborates with international festivals to access platforms for promoting Caribbean writing and with leading literary professionals to provide training and marketing of Caribbean literature.

The annual NGC Bocas Lit Fest features some of the best writers of the Caribbean and its diaspora, awards for outstanding work, a nationwide storytelling caravan, grand poetry slam, and debate.

It is the biggest and most successful literary festival in the English-speaking Caribbean—a world-class event of which we can be justly proud.

In the face of morally crushing and depressing social and political events that we witness every day, there is promise and inspiration.

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