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posted 5 Dec 2016, 09:43 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 5 Dec 2016, 10:08 ]
Raf Robertson left us abruptly and unexpectedly one year ago. One conversation that has stayed with me is
Raf Robertson
his take on the positioning of our creative industries as a new growth pole for our economic development.

He used to lament that in a world already transitioning from oil and gas to 'clean energy solutions' we are still holding on for dear life to what is fast becoming an obsolete and redundant fossil fuel industry.

At the same time in the steelband, with our music traditions, in fashion, in sport and in other visual and performing arts, we have so much that we could share with the world and make a handsome profit out of it too.

Without proper planning and structures we have given the world community - Brian Lara , Penny Commissiong, Peter Minshall, Boogsie Sharpe, Vidia Naipaul, Hasely Crawford, Keshorn Walcott, Wendy Fitzwilliam, Dwight Yorke, Sparrow and Kitchener, George Padmore, Kwame Ture, Tony Williams, Elie Manette and Bertie Marshall; just to name a few of our sons and daughters who have captivated a global audience. Just imagine what we will be able to accomplish with proper planning and functional structures?

No one is saying that we should abandon our energy industry which is still earning invaluable foreign exchange and subsidising so many areas of our daily existence. But just as West Indies cricket floundered because of its neglect to prepare for the era after Sobers, Richards and Lloyd, so too will we flounder and pay a price if we neglect to plan for the post oil and gas era.

Raf used to point out that the contribution of the creative industries to world GDP has been growing exponentially and is fast supplanting the more traditional manufacturing and extractive industries as a major source of global employment and income generation.

While our traditional historical and trading ties encourage us to look to the developed metropolitan centres to our north, we also have a lucrative opportunity to explore trading and employment options, south of the equator, in South America and also in Central America and in Cuba which is poised to take off economically with the opening up of its trade with the west.

Again, we know that we have inherited the system of a five-year Westminster political syndrome but we have to 'walk and chew gum at the same time' - that is to say we have to elevate the conversation away from exclusively day-to-day expediency and also take a longer view of our path forward. And let us not sell ourselves short by characterising ourselves as selfish, greedy and fickle.

Raf Robertson was not an aberration, Bunji, Machel Montano and David Rudder are not aberrations, Anya Ayoung Chee is not an aberration; neither are Joevin Jones, Kevin Molino, Ato Boldon or Liam Teague figments of our imagination. They are real people who are the personification and representation of dreams that can be transformed into realities.

Beryl McBurnie BerylMcBurnie Tumblr
Beryl McBurnie
So many examples - so many shining lights to inspire and illuminate our pathway and remind us about what can be. Learie Constantine did it, Beryl McBurnie did it, CLR James did it and Khalifa St. Fort and Keisha Codrington are doing it now; so too are countless numbers of unheralded citizens quietly making a difference in their respective communities. Which small nation state has given the world Dwayne Bravo, Sunil Narine and Kieron Pollard...??? Just fill in the blank.

Could it be that while we are seeking to revitalise old remedies in dated medicine bottles, we are not seeing possibilities of new approaches and new solutions. Surely INDEPENDENCE cannot be about the IMF or mobilising foreign capital to buttress old ideas and outdated solutions.

Surely INDEPENDENCE has to be about searching, within our inner essence, inside of the depths of our being, to discover what gifts our small twin island state can share with the world. Surely INDEPENDENCE will not allow a nation pregnant with so much talent and promise to define itself as a circular subculture of violence and dark inevitability.

And surely it is in times like these that we need tap into the optimism, foresight and selflessness of patriots like our dearly departed brother to strengthen and nourish our resolve going forward. Let’s change the conversation away from 'what we are not doing' to 'what we can do'. Let's BALANCE THE PICTURE by sharing our success stories. Let’s keep that Raf Robertson spirit going!