Making Sport the weapon of choice for our youth …

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The Jamaican Olympic success has been simply phenomenal and I admire and congratulate the government and people of Jamaica.  I however worry about my own country because every four years we rehash the same discussion about what is Jamaica doing right and what we are doing wrong?  The solution is the same – we need a strategy for sport and consistent implementation.  Our leaders continue to fail us by not clearly communicating their vision.

In a recent address Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh said that “Childhood Obesity had doubled and that the Non Communicable Disease (NCD) policy, which is waiting on approval, will come on-stream soon”.   The fact that Minister Deyalsingh referenced the increase in obesity in children tells me that we are aware of the problem.  What is needed now is action to get our children moving.

During the 10 years I served as Secretary of the Witco Sports Foundation, I spent a lot of time with the late Lystra Lewis and one of the stories she often told was what led to our country sharing the World Netball Championship title with Australia and New Zealand in 1979.   This was the the fifth (5th) World Netball Championship which was held in Port of Spain, Trinidad in 1979.   20 countries were represented.

10 years prior to this achievement, Lystra Lewis won the bid for Trinidad and Tobago to host the tournament.  At the time we did not have a stadium and she knew that good facilities were needed so she approach then Prime Minister Dr. Eric Williams to build the facility which is now known as the Jean Pierre Complex.  Her role was to implement a developmental plan which would see Netball being played across the country.  This resulted in the unearthing and fine tuning of talent at all levels of our society but it began with a focussed attempt, a strategic intent to create a winning netball team.

Unfortunately, we have not maintained that high performance, well oiled machinery and Netball has slid to un unthinkable level.

In every area of sport, Trinidad and Tobago has consistently demonstrated that we have the talent but we continue to underperform.  The missing element is there is no strategic intent.  I have not heard the Minister of Sport articulate such a strategic intent.  Once he makes the call, we would quickly need to deploy qualified physical education teachers into every school and provide them with a programme aimed at developing the specific athlete(s) we want to produce.  That’s what inspired leadership would look like.

During my Caribbean Games experience, my mantra was “Sport must become the weapon of choice for our youth”.   I still believe in the potential and possibility of this statement but it will only become a reality when we devote the time and effort to craft the strategy for the sport industry.  Of course, this has been done before but our leaders choose not to build on previously laid foundations but to smash any bases that exist.  As blood fertilizes our land and our people flounder, it is urgent that we put a strategic plan in place to capture the imagination of our youth and re-ignite our people’s passion for sport.  Whatever we do, there is the grim recognition that it may be another generation before we reap the rewards.  But if action is taken now, my generation may pass-on confident in the knowledge that our future sports persons will thrive in a nurturing, passionate environment.  The minimum outcome will be a reversal of the negative obesity trend amongst our children.

Revisiting the Colour Line: Cycles of Resistance or Empowerment?

Image courtesy of rjlohr on Flick

I have experienced tear gas twice in my life. First at a “black power march” in Port of Spain and secondly at that famous “Pele” football match in the Queen’s Park Oval.

These memories came flooding back to me on a recent site visit to the Queen’s Park Oval. It is amazing that the pungency of Tear Gas has never left my consciousness.

I was drawn to the 1970 revolution and I don’t know why! Was it because I lived that juxtaposition of poverty and plenty? Coming from behind the bridge, we used an out house while my school had water closets. Or was it because I challenged the fact that the banks appeared to be staffed only by lighter skinned young women? This was one of the complaints of the marchers in 1970. Or was it because when Ventures played hockey against Checkers, it looked like a white team versus a coloured team on the Princess Building grounds?

I was at a stage where although I sat next to a white Trinidadian in school and we are friends today, I was uncomfortable in the presence of white persons.

Of course I felt that my school friends were different. My school had very few “darkies”. In those days I had no opinion of girls of East Indian descent. I saw them as neither dark, coloured or negro. I don’t know how they were viewed.

School was a contrast of poverty and privilege, rich and poor, high status and commoner.

My sojourns to support the Black Power marches ended after the tear gas experience and I settled down to make the best of the opportunity for an education. I settled down as most of us do to allow the universe to unfold. However I kept a keen interest in anything associated with the Black Power movement. When Beverly Jones and Guy Harewood were killed I felt I had lost a sister and brother.

I met the late “Guy Harewood” through a friend who was at Queen’s Royal College. During the marches he would call me “smallie”. I saw this survivor of the Revolution recently and was deeply pained by how rough life has treated him. There is another survivor whom I met at a Gym in Central. We talked about the superficial but acknowledged the memories that were awakened. I remember the late Beverly Jones as a young woman appearing to be larger than life.

My “Black Power Kit” comprised denim jeans, black vest, a jacket, bandana and a lime.

There was some illusion that rubbing lime on your bandana before tying it over your nose and mouth would reduce the burning sensation of Tear Gas. I never had the chance to test this illusion because the Tear Gas was swift and powerful enough to confine me to my home whenever there was a march. My late mother’s mocking question echoed in my head: “Aye, Aye .. yuh not black powering today? … dey in de square yuh know!”

Years later, the international environment is punctuated by incidents of brutality against people of colour.

The schisms between black and white are once again intense and black people have to find a place in the world and indeed in Trinidad.

We are still marginalised and at the bottom of the rung. People still use latrines in many parts of the country. The conditions of today remind me of 1970. Our reality is being revisited daily. Is it that there were no lessons of 1970?

By Dennise Demming
Volunteer, TEDxPortofSpain

Support Plastikeep!

This space was occupied by a Plastikeep bin!
In a short few days, it has been transformed to –
A dump …  An eyesore!

Responsible Minister, get your finger out and do what you were voted in to do – help us to make this a better place.  Otherwise, you stand accused of facilitating the complete degradation of our environment.

Plastikeep was doing a good job.  They encouraged us to separate and dispose of our plastics in a responsible manner.  With the absence of their collection bins now, our trash will revert to an “all in” approach which adds to our high level of plastic pollution.

What I don’t understand is  why the monies in the Green Fund are no longer available to Platikeep.  In addition, the green fund levy was increased in the last budget.  By way of explanation, “The green fund levy is payable by all companies and unincorporated entities, including partnerships” … taken from the Parliament Website.

Why is this not simply a process of drawing down on the available funds to carry out the project?

Plastikeep needs our support.  We can survive problematic politicians, corrupt decision makers but not a contaminated  environment.