Chatting with Jean Claude-Cournand and Devon Seales

Civil Conversations

The conversation begins with Spoken Word advocate and founder of the @2CentsMovement, Jean Claude Cournand who comments that spoken word provides an opportunity for millennials and others to have civil conversations about topics like politics, religion, and diversity. Comparing spoken word to traditional communications tools, he referenced the superiority of a good poem to tug at your heartstring over simply narrating a statistic.

Spoken word and Education

Referencing how spoken word is used in other parts of the world Jean Claude commented that Chicago has provided a case study of how it could be integrated into the school’s curriculum where teacher Peter Khan has integrated a “Poetry Slam” into his school’s curricula and all students participate. The benefits experienced go beyond reading, writing, and performing to developing their confidence and presentation skills. There is ongoing research globally to understand the impact of spoken word from an evidence-based perspective.

At 17:00 the conversation pivots to Devon Seale who is bilingual (fluent in Portuguese), a Calypso Monarch (2016), and a technology nerd. Inspiration for him comes from being around people who are passionate about what they do whether it is solving an “IT” problem or hearing an “encore” in the calypso sphere.

Digitization

In dreaming of the future of our country, he wished for us to embrace technology in all forms and implement the changes that are necessary to digitize our country. Among the many areas where service delivery can be improved, he commented on transportation and the easy win which could be derived by embracing technology.

Devon operates at the intersection of the Calypso art form, Technology, and Language. His motto is “Trust and Believe.”

Where is Trinidad?

Originally published Friday , September 17 2021 Wired868

Thanks to rapper Nicki Minaj, that question topped the Twittersphere recently. This came about after Minaj tweeted that her cousin’s friend had taken the Covid vaccine and ended up with ‘Swollen Testicles’.

Photo: Controversial Trinidad-born American rapper Nicki Minaj.

Her tweet led our hard-working, super-busy minister of health to admit that he and his medical team spent all of 24 hours trying to verify the accuracy of the ‘swollen testicles’ story. He then announced to the whole world that they had found no evidence to support the claim that the vaccine causes testicular swelling.

Scientists the world over have identified and documented the Covid side effects. But not even among casual Covid followers and conspiracy theorists has there been any mention of swollen testicles. Until now…

So why go down that rabbit hole? But then, this is Trinidad and Tobago; here, common sense often seems to be not all that common.

My reaction to this particular ministerial statement was two-fold. First, it caused me to wonder what was the anticipated outcome of the announcement of this disclaimer and what was the thinking behind the advice to respond? Secondly, it spawned a few questions in my mind.

What was the process used to ascertain the veracity of the story? Was there a physical examination? Who conducted the examination? Was the examination completed merely by observation or was some kind of measurement necessary? The examination having been completed, what measures were put in place to ensure that all necessary protocols were followed and who verified the results?

Image: A meme pokes fun at Nicki Minaj’s claim that the Covid-19 vaccine led to swollen testicles for her cousin’s friend in Trinidad.

Whatever the answers to these questions, the fact is that our country provided global comic relief to several talk show hosts and their millions of followers for at least 72 hours. And the memes continue still.

So if we are seeking an example of a recovery effort, we need look no further than the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. Though steeped in controversy, the Dove reaction has ultimately been very successful.

Thus, as a response to this global clap back, it is clear that we have a choice. We can either run for cover and hope that the issue will be forgotten. Or we can put our creative minds to work and mount a global social media and traditional media campaign to answer that Twitter question about where in the world is Trinidad.

I thought of the book Where’s Wally? (called Where’s Waldo? in North America) which is a series of children’s puzzle books in which readers are challenged to find a character named Wally hidden in the group.

We do not have to go that route. But a proper—and timely!—answer will provide us with an opportunity to sell our tourism product to the world with the tagline ‘…and the birthplace of Nicki Minaj’. For example, a social media post could be: ‘Trinidad and Tobago, the land where the only new musical instrument of the 20th century was created and, of course, the birthplace of Nicki Minaj. #superballs.’

Photo: Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh (right) was a guest on Trevor Noah’s Daily Show, a popular American satirical news show, on 16 September 2021 to discuss Nikki Minaj’s claim about the alleged response to the Covid-19 vaccine experienced by her cousin’s friend in Trinidad.

The 19th-century American showman and circus owner PT Barnum is often credited with the statement ‘Bad publicity is still publicity’. Maybe we have to see this as an opportunity for us to make lime juice when life provides us with limes instead of oranges, for us to turn an embarrassing reference into a positive campaign.

Maybe it gives us an opening to shine a spotlight on Trinidad and Tobago as a prime tourist destination, a great place to visit. If we are clever and act promptly, we may even be able to strengthen our bond with the rapper to bring global attention to our tourism product.

A few months ago, when American actor Michael B Jordan of Black Panther fame launched J’ouvert Rum, we failed to make capital of the opening. After the social media backlash, he quietly withdrew into the shadows, leaving us, some of us, to quietly mourn the squandered opportunity.

This is another big break. We cannot let it go to waste. As a country, we have the creativity. All that is needed is for us to have the cojones to take a bold step, strike while the iron is hot, seize the time and try to jump on the horse’s back instead of finding ourselves bidding frantically to close the stable door long after the horse has bolted.

#nickiminaj #superballs.

Demming Chronicles hosts Former Energy Minister, Kevin Ramnarine & Environmentalist Dr Rahanna Juman

Reduction of State Dominance in the Economy

Former Minister Kevin Ramnarine shares his views on critical areas which can help our economy grown and thrive. Five takeaways from this interview are: Trinidad and Tobago needs to revise our constitution with the aim of reducing the current concentration of power in the hands of the executive; intensify our focus on preserving our natural environment; urgently work on improving our Ease of Doing Business (EODB) ranking from 105 and establish the goal of becoming the bunkering hub of the region.

Reduced dependency on Hydrocarbons

Kevin noted that our modern economy which began in 1974 with the first oil boom has run its course. While the dominant narrative will continue to focus on hydrocarbons and the revenues from oil, gas, and methanol, global demand will continue to reduce and force us to pivot to other areas for revenue generation.

Bunkering Hub of the Hemisphere

Recognizing the explosive growth that is expected by our neighbours Guyana and Suriname, Kevin noted that we are naturally endowed to become the bunkering hub and transshipment point for the expected increased Maritime traffic. There are at least 5 docks in the Gulf of Paria which can accommodate large maritime vessels. A bright economic future can stand on the pillars of a reimagined Maritime Sector, a stronger Manufacturing Sector, and an improved EODB.

At 19:00 Dr. Rahanna Juman changes the conversation to remind us about the important role that Mangroves play in environmental protection, climate change mitigation, coastline protection, and even protection against storm surges.

Carbon Sequestration
She notes that Mangroves are sometimes described as the “Supermarket of the Seas” because of their ability to provide a range of organic materials. As Trinidad and Tobago continues to be called out for our huge carbon footprint we can use the revitalization and rehabilitation of our mangroves as part of our strategy to capture and store atmospheric carbon dioxide. A recent study concluded that our mangroves capture more than 4 times the amount of carbon that is captured by our terrestrial Forests. This special group of plants, both trees and shrubs can live in the harsh intertidal zone where they help protect our coastlines. Their ability to store vast amounts of carbon makes them an important weapon in the fight against climate change.

Protect our mangroves
Although 50% of mangroves have been cleared to make way for housing and industrialization, much can be done to remove the stressors on our mangroves. There needs to be a greater focus on strengthening our policy implementation and enforcement strategies especially as they relate to minimizing pollution caused by industrial waste and other run-offs into our rivers and streams. Citizens are encouraged to become active participants in the thrust to revive and rehabilitate our Mangroves. By protecting mangroves, we can help protect the future of our planet.