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Thread: The Greatest City on the Face of the Earth

  1. #1
    Registered User brownskintrini's Avatar brownskintrini is offline
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    The Greatest City on the Face of the Earth

    By Rubadiri Victor

    Horace Ove, the first black filmmaker in Britain, and premiere ethnic director there for two decades, travelled the world in the early 1960s. In that period many cities were said to be having their golden ages-San Francisco, London, Paris, Rome, New York. Having seen them all, and many since, Horace concluded, “The greatest city on the face of the earth was Belmont in the ‘50s and the ‘60s. Hands down.”

    Horace describes Belmont not as a village or a town, but a city. A metropolis. A metropolis of spirit and creativity. He describes its streets on any day as churning with life, activity and colour, all tribes were in their energy, Chinese, East Indians, Syrians, Africans. Ralph Dyette, the champion King Sailor, who was the memory of this article says, “Najib Elias knew Belmont and the hills like the back of his hand- he walked those hills for more than twenty years. Belmont was its own world. The most beautiful.”

    A modern day person would be hard pressed to find the evidence of this in today’s Belmont. Likewise in any of the Mother Communities that suckled this country into existence. Couva, Arima, Point Fortin, Tobago (as village), St. James, Woodbrook, Belmont, Laventille; there is no Trinidad without these communities. Yet they’re the most under-resourced and under-developed. There are no institutions and shrines to commemorate or continue their legacies. They have either been overtaken by middle class business or the ‘ghetto.’

    Belmont covers the arc from Belmont Circular, including ‘behind de bridge’ to Tokyo and Fascinators panyards. Belmont was one of the seats of Trinidad’s Golden Age; its verb was Carnival and it was known principally for sailor mas and pan. It’s champion panside sailor bands included Dem Boys, Dem Fortunates, D Jackers, Casablanca and Syncopators. The famous pansides included Hill 60, Bar 20, Pandemonium and Highlanders. Many of these have vivid mythical stories stretching back to the 1940s. Where are their panyard museums? Their panyards?

    Belmont was the home of great bandleaders like William Shepherd (father of TNT Mirror’s Keith Shepherd); the legendary Harold Saldenah and his epics like ‘Imperial Rome’, ‘The Cree of Canada’ and ‘The Glory that was Greece’. There was Oaksville led by Ralph Hoyte and the Dennis brothers; The Merry Darceuils from Darceuil Lane; Rabs Immortelle and of course the magnificent Burrokeets of Belle Eau Road. Where are the schools and museums built around their expanded mas camps? Where are their mas camps? Burrokeets does not even own the building it occupies! Why no Belmont Carnival Museum? No statues commemorate the thousands of costumes Belmont has given this nation.

    This is the home of great sailor band designers like ‘Diamond’ Jim Harding, Jason Griffith, Carrington and “Boss” who still keeps the flame of traditional Carnival alive today. Where are the forges of metal men like the late great Ken Morris? Where can we see the wizardry of great wirebenders like “Baby” Grant? Where to read of the exploits of the infamous Badjohns like ‘Ozzie,’ Baron Arrietas, Oscar Pile and Big Barker?

    Among the hundreds of tribes that would pour out of the small houses come carnival time would be champion King Sailor dancers like Carl ‘Stretch Cox’ (“There was never a King Sailor dancer such as he!”), Bill Trotman (yes that Bill Trotman) and Ralph Sargent. Then there were fireman dancers like Percy Serrano, Desmond ‘Jim Bill’ Sobers, ‘Rock’ and the flagman Arthur ‘Tramcar.’

    Never was the community without colour. All ages participated. Belmont was known for some of the biggest rings for pitching marbles-enjoyed by men of all ages. The best kite makers and flyers were said to come from there- especially from ‘d quarry’. They were masters of chicki-chong, mad bull, coffin kites and more. The savannah was open arena. Everywhere children and community created their own toys as children played in the open: roller skates, ‘canal carts’ (box carts), scooters...

    On evenings, weekends and holidays, teams of young boys ran 100-yard dashes on the roads- one part of Belmont against another. Many of this country’s Independence generation of doctors, politicians, scientists, lawyers, athletes, principals, old school headmasters, civic and corporate leaders came from Belmont. Teachers like Pete Simon who is referred to as the first teacher to sing calypso: “He used to play old mas when playing old mas was a crime!” Where is the hall of fame for this pantheon of greats? Where is the honouring of the old families like the De Fours, Shepherds and Clarkes?

    Belmont was home to the iconic Colts, one of the great football clubs. One hears about the epic battles of Malvern and Colts that used to fill the Savannah. Colts, the boys in blue, with the Harding Brothers, Len Laggard, Che Seymour, Len Leon Munroe (Samba Dancer) and Horace Lovelace (Pepper Wine), the latter two had pioneering international careers. Where is the evidence of the great runners and athletes of all types that Belmont begat?

    David Rudder is the purest distillation of Belmont. He is her muse and in his generation, her purest son and gift.

    Walking its streets today one sees traces of its old craftsmen, the old artisan class, visible now in the husks of old shops with classic old tailors, men who fix fans and televisions. Save for some with spirit like Christine Pantin who has set up her book shop Paper Tigers on Norfolk Street, few have committed to stay. Belmont is a ghost town abandoned by its upwardly mobile, but moreso neglected by this country’s leaders who failed to consecrate the community. Where is the re-investment by the brightest sons? The time has come to re-invest in legacy. The winding tiny streets of Belmont, its small elegant houses are full of history. Consecrate it.

  2. #2
    Registered User brownskintrini's Avatar brownskintrini is offline
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    RE: The Greatest City on the Face of the Earth

    My sister found this article to be really sentimental. These are her words:

    Somewhere below my sentimental blatherings, check out the article
    from Vox Online. My sister just sent it to me because it's about Belmont,
    the town/village where I was born and where lived until I was 19 and because
    she's always the one who knows how to make me cry.

    My parents know or knew just about everyone mentioned in it and some
    of the artists, the mas makers, the calypsonians bounced me on their knees.
    It's strange to read about the place where you lived as an important but
    fading archive of your country's culture. To me it was skinned knees and
    chinneys (don't ask) and falling out of guava trees and the men on the
    corner singing slightly drunken carols until sun up on christmas morning.

    The place where you're born is just not ever really anything but
    someplace to stand if your sentences still begin, "when I grow up...". This
    is of course true until you do grow up and you're far away and it's suddenly
    echoing in your head and figuring prominently in your dreams. In my dreams,
    no matter where I start, I always end up walking out the gate of 147 Belmont
    Circular Road. I am always looking over my shoulder. Hoping for a glimpse
    of it's open front door; the wooden shutters, the mismatched glass panes,
    the peaked galvanize roof, the faded brown paint, the concrete blocks hidden
    behind the crotons and the potted plants, the windows shaded by guava trees,
    the slight swing of the outdoor light over the table-tennis board. Waking
    reminds me that its airy rooms and ancient handmade lattice work vents are
    an unrecorded part of history. That this remnant of a shotgun slave-quarter
    with its separate kitchen and its wholly separate (thank you Jesus) outdoor
    toilet is gone- just that, gone.

    Ok- I'm sharing this because today (thanks Steve) much more than
    usual, I understand the feeling that the writer below has of wondering who
    will consecrate our culture, my culture. Particularly the feeling of having
    abandoned something important. The house that I grew up in is gone and with
    it the community of athletes and thinkers and masmen and darts players and
    musicians who made up the world as I knew it at age nine. A world that my
    mother and father built almost without thinking, they simply opened their
    home to the most wonderful universe of people that a child could imagine. I
    know that, in ways, the legacy we built continued when we left but in key
    ways, it's gone. Its home is gone and the town is going. People get on me
    about all the "stuff" that I do. I wonder sometimes about my need to build
    things and shape things but I know that it comes from being raised by my
    parents and by those people in that house. I am the child of a panman and a
    maswoman and I carry that with me every day, every day. Panmen make
    beautiful solo music but what calls them is the way that music crescendos in
    a steelband orchestra into a perfect frenzy of beauty. Mas is surreal. It
    is a river of bodies building a story of color and forever retelling the
    ethos of a people who would not be silenced. The single exquisitely
    sequined mas player sitting on the side of the street just as the sun is
    setting on carnival Tuesday, tired to her bones but still tapping her feet
    in the fading light is sometimes even more beautiful, more eloquent. I
    never feel that I can describe it but this is what I come from, this is what
    is at my core and I don't know how to keep from losing that in my voice or
    my work or my world.

    The planet becomes more homogenized places like Belmont lose their
    voices. The people leave and take their art with them to hide in their
    Brooklyn basements or the artists die and are quickly forgotten simply
    because no one has the time to learn arcane arts like wire bending or copper
    beating or the proper placement of mirrors on sailor mas'.

    All of a sudden today, I miss home so much I could cry.

    Nuff love,

  3. #3
    Former IMIX POSTER Child montREALady's Avatar montREALady is offline
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    Brooklyn, NY

    RE: Big up to Brownskintrini!!

  4. #4
    Registered User SSS's Avatar SSS is offline
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    bk baby

    RE: The Greatest City on the Face of the Earth

    Alright brownskin I gotta print this out and read it on the train.

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