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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

We wore black... Now help Childline...

The Trinidad Guardian has an excellent article on this social support service, Childline, in their archives. Written in 2005 by Avalene Harris, the article synopsises an interview with the Line's current supervisor, Ayanna Gellineau.

A further search on the web for "Childline" in Trinidad & Tobago raises a web page hosted on the NALIS site. The information there still holds in large part, but for one major difference. That dufference is that Childine no longer enjoys the comfort of corporate sponsorship. This I was made to understand in my own interview with Ayanna before I embarked on my brief hiatus.

Although Atlantic LNG is indicated as main and full sponsor on the NALIS site, this was only so for the first two years of the Line's operation, 2002 and 2003. Since then they have received small grants from the Community Development Fund and the National Gas Company (NGC). At present, it takes hope and prayer to accumulate the $35,000 minimum that they need to keep the Line alive every month.

Ayanna reiterated the fact that Childline remains the only service in the country that caters specifically to children and young persons. The Line is a safe place that provides them with needed encouragement and guidance, and allows children to share ideas, ask questions and solicit advice without judgement or ridicule.

The Line is staffed by Ayanna herself and approximately 50 trained volunteers. Volunteer listeners are rostered two at a time to man the lines for eight hours in the day, from noon to 8:00 PM, Monday to Saturday. Ayanna, as the Line's only trained and experienced supervisor, works every shift, overseeing the volunteer's activity, and stepping in when a call becomes complex. From time to time, when things are busy, Ayanna also takes calls herself. However, it is really best that she remain available to assist and support the two volunteers.

Not all calls are difficult though. Some of the regular customers of the toll-free service at 800-4321 just reach out to chat for a while, to tell the Line's listeners about their own day, or to hear a story before bedtime. And the service does have regulars. In 2005, when for lack of funding, it was announced that the plug may have been pulled on the Line, they found themselves inundated with calls, begging that they do whatever they could to remain open. All of these calls were from children. In fact, such is the size of their client base, as it were, that Childline now has to use a caller database so that volunteer listeners can pick up quickly with a caller where another volunteer would have left off.

Sadly not all calls are for storytime or idle banter. Childline is there to listen when no-one else will hear or can hear a young person in trouble. Children call the Line for any number of difficult issues. The NALIS site lists several including separation and divorce, exam stress and other school issues, homelessness, pregnancy, issues of sexuality, relationship probems, financial issues, HIV/AIDS, and sexual, physical and emotional abuse.

Calls about child abuse though may come from both children and adults. Sometimes the child may know of the Line's existence and call for help themselves. Other times, a neighbour, family friend or another child will call out of concern. And the calls, or sequence of calls if it takes more than one, can be harrowing. Ayanna herself recalls that her very first call was from a terror-striken teenaged girl that had been raped by her father. He was soon to return home from prison and she feared that he would hurt her again. With seeming no-one else to talk to, she called the Line and through speedy intervention saw the matter referred to the Police. The young lady was further able to seek counselling from the Rape Crisis Centre.

That young girl included, when a child calls for help, extreme care is taken to counsel the child and guide them to sources of help. WhileChildline listeners counsel, the Line does not have the power to remove a child from an abusive situation themselves. As such, whether a trouble call is received from an adult or a child, the Line applies a multi-faceted approach to getting help for the aubject of the call.

In the case that a child calls, the first step is usually to get the child to also talk to a trusted adult, whether family or family friend. Once the Line has ascertained some degree of veracity in the call, the Police are contacted to report that a crime has been or is being committed. National Family Services are contacted to report that a child is in trouble and in an abusive situation. Further, contact is made with the child's school, as it is the responsibility of teachers to act on cases of suspected abuse in their charges. Further, the line works directly with a number of social support agencies, like the Rape Crisis Centre and Families in Action. As such, when a child needs help beyond what the Line can offer by listening and counselling, there tends to be an agency to which the young person can be guided and referred.

One significant, and scary, sign that the Line is making a difference is the odd threatening call that they will receive from abusers whose victims have reached out for help and are seeing assistance. This though is a major concern for Ayanna. It is one of the main reasons that the location of the Line's call centre is kept a secret.

While Childline has done yeoman service over the years, Ayanna's wishes though are to be able to do quite a lot more for the children and young people in the country. In order to be able to do that, some critical needs must be met.

Childline needs to become a 24-hour Operation

At present, Childline operates only eight hours a day, for six days a week, from noon to 8:00 pm. One might argue that children and young people should be in school or bed outside of those hours, but the fact is that children and young people can find themselves in crisis at any time and may need the Line outside of those hours. A toll free call to 800-4321 can be made by a child in trouble from any cell phone or pay phone at any time of day, and it is important that someone be there to hear their cry. In order for the Line to run for longer hours, key requirements will include:

  • Additional staff - To carry the service for longer hours, additional trained supervisors and listeners will be required to manage the available lines. One might think that the existing 50 volunteers is enough to manage the Line, but one needs to remember that the volunteer listeners are not recompensed for the work that they do, likely outside of their own salaried working hours, and that Childline has no real claim on their time.
  • Secure facilities - Security is right now a cause for concern for Ayanna and her team. The hope is that someone in corporate Trinidad & Tobago will extend a hand and provide access to either square footage in their secured premises, or to an existing call centre to which Childline's calls can be routed.
  • Help with the phone bill - One of the Line's major costs is for telecommunications. The toll free line has a cost. That cost mounts when they themselves must call in order to follow up on troubles calls that they've received. The less that the Line has to worry about this critical component of their operation is the more that they will be able to do for children and young people that reach out to the Line. Frankly, given the incumbent phone provider's ability to paint town green and queue up entertainers, beauty queens and sportsmen to speak on their behalf, I'm surprised that Childline still has this particular need.
  • Help with other operating expenditure - While the phone lines represent major expenditure, the Line has other expenditure items with which they need help. Rent is one. Further, something as simple as paper is another. Ayanna indicated that training for a class of new volunteers requires generation of training material, including a minimum 20-copies of a 50-page manual. That's two packs of letter-sized paper. The next training class is scheduled to take place in June 2006. Hint-Hint.

An Internet presense is required

Childline Online is more than just a whim; it is a necessity. With so many of our children and young people accessing the information superhighway, communicating via email and instant messaging, Childline needs to be where young people today are most comfortable interacting with others. This would require a web page presence, email access for the Line, and instant messaging or chat room services for young people to communicate with Childline's pool of listeners. Again, corporate sponsorship and volunteer assistance would help with development of this communication vehicle, including provision of the web presence, provision of computers with the required services configured and installed, and ongoing technical support to keep the electronic channel open.

Childline needs to be a household name

Childline has saved many a young person. And even more can be done if Childline were as widely known as, say, CrimeStoppers or the Rape Crisis Centre. If every child in Trinidad & Tobago knew that 800-4321 was the number that they could call if they were scared or in trouble, we know not how mamy more could be saved. On top of everything, Childline needs exposure. All that they need is one ad agency doing a charity job to pull together a compelling campaign, and the youth-focussed media sponsoring a few square inches of newspaper column space or some air time.

Any help is still help, no matter how seeming small... Their office number is 624-0402

Call and find out where they need. Pay for two reams of paper at your nearest stationery shop on their behalf, and call them to pick it up. Ask for their account number and commit to deposit your lunch money once a week. Corporate Trinidad & Tobago, stop paying lip service and show that you really do care about what is happening to our youth. Make partial payment on their phone costs. Offer them a room and three or four desks so that they have somewhere else to answer the children's calls. Stop yammering about needing guns to shoot the children and do something to keep them from reaching for guns themselves. By our inaction, we all condemn the next generaton of young people to doom. Childline stands in the gap to keep that from happening, and to save as many as they can from lives of abuse, crime and condemnation. Help them to help the rest of us, especially the children.

And again, if anything at all, just spread the word.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

In the face of clear evidence, his guilt is irrefutable...

We've been clamouring as a people for justice and for persons to pay for the crimes that they commit. So something I can't understand is the breadth of the range of responses to the Panday verdict and sentence.

When you look at the facts of the case, the gentleman could be nothing but guilty, and the penalties written into the law prepared and passed during his own reign as Prime Minister have been applied by the magistrate.

Firstly, the law stated that he, as a sitting member of Parliament, must declare all his assets annually, whether worth one dollar or a billion dollars.

Secondly, the account in London was in his name, which is an irrefutable fact. That the account contained 1.6 million dollars is immaterial, but simply adds to the drama.

The former Prime Minister knew that the account existed, admitting in court to have written at least one cheque on the account that he claims was managed by his wife. He therefore was a knowing account holder and never took steps himself to remove his name from the account.

That he did not declare the account for three years puts him in contravention of the law. It's cut and dry.

That he knew that the account existed means that he could not even claim innocence. Other sitting MPs and senators have made errors in their submissions with respect to this law, and have made changes to their submissions when their oversights were discovered. This too came out in court during the hearings, as the defence attempted to show that Panday was not the only one who presented incomplete submissions. Panday, however, made no such correction or re-submission, according to what was revealed in the case.

Consequently, he is guilty of making a false declaration for the three years under scrutiny in the case. Based on his statements this weekend gone, that the law and the courts must be respected, Panday too knew that the judgement would likely not go his way.

Sentencing is something that seemed to have surprised a lot of people here. The fact that he was a Prime Minister of the country and a long-serving politician does not exempt him from justice. Based on the manner in which the law was written, there was a maximum penalty that could be applied for each infraction, and this was applied. The magistrate used his able discretion to apply sentence, in his comments stating that Mr. Panday clearly sought to hide the account and had to know of its existence. See Trinidad Newsday story "London bank account - Panday jailed for two years" for details.

The judgement is going to be appealled, as sure as night follows day, and the sentence will likely be reduced. In my view, the magistrate did well to impose the maximum, especially since it likely be lessened by the Appeal Court. Time will tell how much time Panday actually spends behind bars, and how out of pocket he will be when the fines are finally applied. Now I am no legal mind, but it makes sense to me that the most likely component of the judgement to be overturned is the order to seize the stated value of the contents of the London account. But all that is left to be seen as the legal system continues to run its course.

However, the case was cut and dry. The verdict was cut and dry. Panday is guilty as charged, and he must stand the consequences of his actions.

His being a former Prime Minister does not make him any more special than any of the rest of the population. He is not exempt from the rule of law. I find it an insane suggestion that leniency should be extended because of who he is. In the eyes of the law, he is guilty and the applicable penalties written into a law are to be applied.

It is with great interest though that I now watch and wait for the proceedings of matters against sitting PNM MPs Franklin Khan and Eric Williams.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

A brief hiatus...

While the drama train certainly does not stop in fair Trinidad and Tobago, I've needed to step off for a short time for exams and to make a quick trip out of the country. In the mean time though, I've done a phone interview with Ayanna Gellineau, the Line Supervisor for Childline, and have received an excellent piece from a really old friend of mine now resident in Canada. He's graciously given permission to allow me to publish his missive here. For those of my friends reading who know Colin, you can look forward to a very insightful bit of commentary.

At some point too, as the smoke begins to clear, I'm also going to chime in on something else that's been ticking me off here at home. It's the new and ongoing marketing onslaught that TSTT/Bmobile has been waging against the new kid on the block, Digicel.

People had grumbled and outright complained in the recent past about Digicel's marketing efforts. But I've not heard the same venom spewed about the incumbent's misinformation, their twisting of the truth, their hiding behind value-added tax, and the fine print that they don't print.

At the end of the day, with competition, the winner is ultimately us, the consumer, but I can't say that I'm pleased with the way that I've seen things progressing. But, more on that matter on another day.

But just to seed the scandal, can someone tell me how I'm supposed to get tickets for the Trinidad & Tobago vs. Peru warm-up match if I don't have a TSTT cell phone?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

We wore black... and the Trinidad Express has published the first post!

I'm just off the phone with the Express news desk...

It seems that they did publish the original "We wore black... What next...?" in the Sunday Express of April 9th, 2006, with some edits. [Link Here!]

I do send personal thanks to "Jaleel Nabbie via email" for getting the Express to print the substance of the post. Thanks much, Jaleel. Contact me. I'll send you a t-shirt.

Monday, April 10, 2006

We wore black... Now, a minor digression...

Among all of the feedback I've received so far, including phone calls and comments on the blog postings themselves, I received the following email from one of our external Trinis, a lady by the name of Sharmaine. It's really good to know that those of us outside are concerned and want to do something as well. With her permission, her email to me follows.
Keith,

I migrated to the U.S. 6 years ago. I visited last Christmas and was besides myself with fear and rage My sister and I were followed by a thug on Frederick street until we made eye contact with him. At nights my heart pounded every time I heard a noise in the backyard. In New York, my daughter and I walk to the corner store at any hour. I am in school again and ride the subway at midnight without fear. For Christmas I was inside as soon as darkness hit. One day my sister went to work and I was alone in the house. Keith I did not answer the gate bell. In fact I never looked outside, even when I heard my cousin screaming my name across the fence. I had not heard his voice in years and thought that it might be a hoax to get me outside. In Trinidad my sister's house has more metal gates than Fort Knoxx. What is going on?

I taught at one of our composite schools before I left Trinidad. I know that its easy to simply say------"Each one reach one" However, I found great success as a teacher and a mother taking that advice. Parents need to stand up to and with their children. Where in the world are the mothers of these thugs?

Whats up with the crazy driving? My brother- in-law told me that I should opt to be driven and when I got on the road I switched places with him. Mind you I had driven in Trinidad for fifteen years. But I had never seen such recklessness.

Keith my heart aches. You are right. My sister called me and told me to wear black and I felt a moment of relief. I felt that at last somehthing would be done. But we are a 'tongue' people. I have made a vow to play the New York lotto and win. Some of that money will be sent home to clean up the streets. (Pray that I win)

Why in Dicken's name are these monsters holding a God fearing, hardworking, educated beautiful country at their mercy?

My nephew attends QRC and has been held up three times walking home in the evening from school. For what? ----his cell phone and sneakers.

My sister asked me when I intended to return to Trinidad. I told her that the previous Christmas I had gone to Disney world and had a blast. Why should I come home to spend my money in fear?

Keith------we who are out here join our hope and prayers with yours.

Trini in New York.

Sharmaine is right in that we do now seem to have completely lost our way. The latest thing does seem to be road rage. Every day we hear a new story, noting that it might well be the same story with another Trini storyteller's colour and nuance, of some driver going ballistic on the nation's roads. Our patience even with each other seems to have disappeared.

Living in jail, as it were, is nothing new though. We've been doing it since Penguin sang a song of the same name.

We all, I'm sure, appreciate the overseas-based Trinis like Sharmaine's concern, and thank you all for your prayers. Prayer is something that we do need right now. We used to be a praying and God-fearing nation. At some point, we did have it right, and it's time we strove to get back there.

The problem though is that, despite Sharmaine's and other well-minded Trinis care and concern, there is another group whose concern is in grim contrast. We hear coming out of the US and Canada over the years that other Trinis are using the crime situation as a tool to sully the country's image even further in the eyes of the international community, painting a picture far, far worse than is reality. Does anyone remember the call to split the country in two, calling the southern portion Indesh, on the grounds that certain people were being terrorized and targeted with violence? That is kind of care that we really don't need. These people don't really have the country's interests at heart, and probably wouldn't give two hoots if the US finally took them on and sent a naval blockade because of their propaganda and half-truths. We need other right-thinking Trinis like Sharmaine to stay in touch with home and speak out against those who seek, from outside and for their own gain, to kick us while we're already down and struggling to get back up.

The country does need help other than that too. We'd all love to get rich and do our own thing to help, but there are ongoing efforts here that only really need a lot of little hands. My employers, for example, deduct 20 dollars from my salary every month for charity. When I thought about it recently, that's a minimum of 20 dollars by some 3,000 of us every month. That's good money that's invested, earns interest on the balance, and is paid out as donations to any number of children's and educational charities. Imagine how much could be done if each Trini abroad donated one day's lunch money to some social support organisation here. And that's all it takes - one day bandin' yuh belly in support o' home.

We can get where we need to be, you know. Like everything - and yes, we know that Trinis have no patience - it will just take a little time. The crime problem did not come out of nowhere. It took years of ambivalence and neglect to get to what it is. It's not going to go away in a day or a week or even a year. We all need to bind together - Government, NGOs, and the public at large - to fix this. We all have a responsibility and a part to play no matter how small. Otherwise, we may never get our country back...

Thursday, April 06, 2006

We wore black... What next...? (Part 2)

I've gotten a lot of feedback on the email message that became my previous post. There were people that I had not sent it to myself that wrote me back directly when they realised that they knew the author. Others to whom I'd forwarded it sent me back the comments of their friends to whom they forwarded it themselves. Sadly, none of the daily newspapers have seen it fit to publish the piece to date. It's no big thing really though because I'm not looking for mileage, just quiet social consciousness. And I think that the latter can be achieved.

A seed having been planted, it's only responsible for me to continue with some nurturing. I'm certain that there are persons who really do want to do more than keep their sweetie paper until they get home and stop to let little old ladies cross the road. However, information on how to get involved in existing social support activities may not be readily at hand. In that light, I'm going to embark on a series that will seek to provide comprehensive information on the volunteer organisations currently operating here at home.

There's a list of these at the NALIS website (link here), though it appears to be quite old, dated 2003. What I'll want to do is run through these and any others that I find, contact the organisations and present in precis enough information for persons to understand what these groups are about and who you would need to contact to get involved, actively or in a background role.

The first that I'm going to look at in detail though is Childline, an organisation that I was made to understand this week is supervised by a friend of a friend.

Keep reading and encouraging... I'll keep writing...

Monday, April 03, 2006

We wore black... What next...?

I woke this morning to see that a colleague had changed their MSN Messenger display name to, "We wore black yesterday. What are we supposed to do today?" It got me to thinking about how quickly we as Trinibagonians are to jump on a bandwagon and make much ado of an issue, only to see things fizzle slowly away because nobody ever bothered to help us figure out how to drill it down to a personal level, or how to turn grief and disdain into personal action.

Surely, the murder of Sean Luke is one of the most tragic events of our recent history. All the same, we responded to the call and showed solidarity with the family of the young man. We wore black. We drove with our headlights on all day. Some of us even went to the funeral and extended our sympathies, or maybe we just went to see what we could see for ourselves. Many of us marched the streets of Port of Spain with the Keith Noel 136 Committee. We placarded. We sang. We begged the Governement to do something about the crime situation. And at the end of the day, what difference does it really make if on a personal level we sit back and do nothing else?

People would ask the question, "what in heavens name can I do? I'm just one Trini hoping to keep myself and my family safe day by day..." And so after all the lacouray, because we have no answers and no desire to find any, we return to the safety of our barricaded homes, hoping against hope that the madness will come to an end all on its own, or that the security forces will do something, or that the bandits will eventually run out of fellow bandits to kill. We sit in the relative safety of our living rooms and offices and talk about how much is not being done. We read the papers and lament that the Police didn't have the intelligence information to prevent the latest murder or kidnapping or whatever bad news the media decides to sensationalise as their lead story on that day. We're quick to berate everyone's efforts at anything, and we always have big ideas about what someone else can or should be doing.

It's about time we stopped bumping our gums and that we all got up and did something ourselves.

What can you do, you ask? I'm not suggesting that we all go up into Laventille and Marabella and do mediation with the gangs and social work with the poor. Nor am I saying that we put ourselves in peril to stop that purse snatcher that will run past us on Charlotte Street, even though if enough of us tried to get him, there's no way that he could get away. There's three things, very simple things that each of us can do. If we all try together and we're consistent, we'll surely make a difference.

1. STOP DOING ONE THING THAT'S NOT GOOD

Have you ever taken a chance and run down the shoulder on the highway, or made an illegal drive down the bus route? What about that sweetie paper or gum wrapper that you absently toss into the drain? Or the stray dog that you kicked? Or the driver that you cursed because he was more hurry than you and almost ran you over? What about the fact that there's that co-worker that you don't say "Good morning" or "Good evening" to because you just don't like their head? What about the child that you shouted at today because you just didn't have patience with them anymore? We each have one illegal or mindless or foolish thing that we can stop doing, no matter how small. There's always one negative thing that, if we think about it hard enough, we can discipline ourselves to consistently avoid. And don't pretend that there's not even one little thing. None of us are perfect.

2. START DOING ONE THING THAT'S GOOD

Having stopped doing something that's not good, fill the void with something that's good. It will take nothing for you buy a ten-dollar box of chinese food one day in the month for that sleeping vagrant that you stepped over on your way down Frederick Street. It takes nothing out of you to smile and pleasantly say "hello" or "excuse me" when you walk into a store before you launch into, "allyuh have...?" Stop your car, and let the little old lady trying to cross the road cross. Put the 37-cents change that you got that you're going to lose anyway in the FEEL or Salvation Army or TTSPCA or whatever donation tin next to the cash register. Just like the bad thing, it doesn't have to be some huge press-worthy effort. Do something, anything, because it's just nice to be nice.

3. SPREAD THE WORD

Now that you've stopped doing something dumb and you've started doing something nice, look for company. You don't have to start a political movement or a committee or an organisation. You just need to find one other person to spread the message of goodwill to, and get them to do what you're doing too.

What good will this do, you ask?

Imagine what would happen if even one quarter of our million and a half citizens stopped dropping sweetie paper and doubles paper and styrofoam cups in the road. Can you see already how much cleaner the streets and highways would be?

Imagine how smoothly traffic would flow if we just showed some patience and didn't sit in the intersection when our light was going from yellow to red.

Imagine how much more pleasant a trip to town would be if just one stranger with whom our two eyes made four smiled and muttered, "have a nice day."

The vagrant wouldn't have to tear up the garbage looking for food if just 21 people each paid for one meal on one day a week.

If a charity had just 100 donation tins on store counters all over Trinidad and ten miscellaneous people deposited $1.00 each week day in each tin, the charity will have collected at least $20,000 in a single month toward their efforts.

Don't think that your little bit does nothing. A little bit goes a long way if there are lots of little bits together. So remember:

1. Stop doing one bad thing
2. Start doing one good thing consistently
3. Spread the word

Together, my Trini people, we can make a world of difference here at home.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Photographing Trinidad Carnival 2006

Once again, I've spent two fantastic days on the road photographing, arguably the Greatest Show on Earth, Trinidad Carnival.

I almost had kittens though waiting for my new camera, a Canon Powershot A610 (link here) , to arrive, the old one having conked out on me some time before. I'd actually wanted and ordered a Konica Minolta Dimage Z5, a recently discontinued but excellent model by all reviews. However, the only web store in the States that carried it at a decent price refused to accept my Trinidad-issued credit card. With the countdown to the big show on, not only did I have to choose a new make and model, but it had to be ordered from an electronics store that I knew would take the card. I paid about US$5 extra for two-day shipping to my box in Miami and crossed my fingers.

The camera eventually got into my hands on the Thursday before Carnival, just in time for the road workout. Based on the results and viewer reviews, it proved to be a great buy.

Impressions are everything, and I think the camera's size and general appearance gave me a more professional aspect as a photographer. At least two people stopped me to ask what magazine I was working for, and another gave me their contact information so that they could later get copies of their photos.

It took almost three weeks, because of work and school, for me to get around to culling the near 800 shots taken over the two days. Approximately 600 were distributed to my usual suspects on CD, and a little over 400 made it to a Kodak EasyShare Gallery (link here) for general display.

My readers here are all invited to view and enjoy Carnival 2K6 through my eyes. Whether you were here for it or you were abroad and missed it, I've done my best to capture the sights and sensations in still and silent glory.

My Carnival 2006 Photos hosted at Koday EasyShare (http://www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=18w19uav.brgzkb6b&x=1&y=ol4v1i)

Writers' Block...?

I was looking tonight for a piece from a decidedly juvenile period to start thenew year. I recall writing one or two pieces in my early teens that I wouldn't mind offerring up for public consumption at this stage. In fact, I spent the last hour or so entertaining myself, remembering old muses and situations that prompted some of these old stories. Then I ran into a letter that never made it to completion. It's dated 2002/05/07 and in it, I realise that I've captured an incredible bit of insight into the nature of Writers' Block...

I've copied it here, exactly as I did in the unfinished letter, a stream of thoughts...


Why do I write...?

Because sometimes a story, an issue, a lie, a truth, a sorrow, a joy lands on my chest and sits there and the only way that I can manage to breathe is to grab a pen and prise it to fuck off. The thing is though that sometimes it just doesn't work that way, it's just not that easy all the time; I allow it to sit there for a while, allowing it to stifle me, while it takes up all the room in my existence. Then the only way that I can manage to continue to live is to try to coax it off, attract it to pretty patterns on paper, to strings of words and sounds that sing, to loops and swirls that dance on the sheets. And then maybe, just maybe, the story, the issue, the lie, the truth, the sorrow, the joy, that thing will crawl off and engross itself in the show, ensnare itself in the plot, and join the words at play. And when it's gone, it will have made room for some other little shit to come along and sit squarely on my chest and keep me from breathing until I get me a pen and find a way to get its ass off me too.

Sometimes, the coaxing is easy because it's cooperative...

Sometimes the thing is a bitch with claws that dig deep into my skin, or roots that sink themselves in my gut, and I have no idea how to begin to get it off. The mother fucker leaves my ass so numb with the continuous and persistent pain that I stop caring that it's there anymore after a while. I get accustomed to having to take short, sharp breaths. I live with the black balloons floating in front of my eyes all the time. It gets that I no longer recognise it for what it is, and no longer remember how I moved such things before, no longer remember how I dislodged them and trapped them on but a flimsy bit of writing paper. And as long as it's there, sitting on me, there's no room for anything else anymore.

It's not Writers' Block. Calling it that is to not respect it, to not see it for what it is. It's something alive, something that's agitating quietly for my attention. It lives to be captured, put on display and immortalized. It's alive and fierce and relentless, and it will kill me if I don't move it quickly enough.

It takes energy sometimes to move it though. And I realise that sometimes life makes a body so tired. You spend all day shovelling shit in the real world and you don't want to waste the effort because you know you have a whole new shit hill to move tomorrow. Maybe that's a cop out. Maybe it's the truth. Maybe I just can't stand to part with the cute and cuddly teddy bear that's seated squarely atop my chest. Maybe it only looks like a teddy bear because I'm close to blacking out for want of air and just a tad delusional. Maybe it knows things about me that I don't want people to know about me, and when I coax him off, he'll expose my ass.

But if I don't move him, if I don't get him off me, there won't be room for anything else. There won't be any more stories. And if I don't move him then sooner or later, I'll forget how I moved anything off my chest at all. And then, at some point, I'll slip into darkness and just die...

About time I got that teddy bear off my chest, isn't it...?

Discourse on Faith...

Those who know me well know that I grew up with a spiritual background.  My formative years were spent in a "small church" in Woodbrook with my maternal grandmother.

Baptized at age eighteen, I fell away while I was at UWI, and picked back up again while I lived in East Trinidad.  I'd started attending a Pentecostal assembly in Trincity, a group of saints with a focus in Christian education.  It was at Harvesters Pentecostal in Casselton Avenue that my faith really began to develop as I started to peruse the scriptures with a far more critical eye than I had while I was growing up.  It was while there that I presented the following lesson on faith to the Adult Sunday School class.

I sincerely hope that reading this blesses your heart as much as I remember it did mine when it was in preparation.


On Faith...
Presented by Keith Francis - Harvesters Pentecostal Assembly Adult Class - April 13th, 1997

"...faith is the substance [or assurance] of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."- Hebrews 11:1

Faith is a belief or trust in something or someone that is beyond reason, our natural senses, our wisdom and our knowledge.  It is an assurance that exists within us without physical proof.

From the very beginning, God required faith of mankind - utter belief in all that He had to tell us and had us to do.  It was required of Adam, Noah, Abraham and his offspring, Moses, and all of the people of God.  But just how does faith matter to us as Christians?

Faith is a requirement for salvation.  Without faith that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that he was sent to redeem us from the penalty of sin, it is impossible to be obtain salvation.
"For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish but have everlasting life." - John 3:16
"He who believes and is baptized will be saved..." - Mark 16:16
"...but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that, believing, you may have life through his name." - John 20:31
But faith does not come from nowhere, out of the air, as it were.  It is a gift of the Spirit of God in receiving that Spirit, and that faith is nurtured by Him.
"To each is granted the evidence of the Spirit for the common welfare.  To one person is given by the Spirit a message of wisdom and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to a third faith is granted by the same Spirit..." - 1st Corinthians 12:7-9
"My message and my preaching were not in persuasive, learned oratory, but rather in evidence of the Spirit and power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on divine strength." - 1st Corinthians 2:4-5
God doesn’t give us faith for salvation alone though.  Faith is required of us in our daily walk.  Jesus said so Himself.  He commanded:
"...Have faith in God.  For I assure you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and entertains no inner doubt but believes what he says will happen, it shall be so for him." - Mark 11:22-23
"...without faith, it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." - Hebrews 11:6
Jesus also said that faith is the first and foremost duty of one who would serve God.
"Then they said to Him, 'what should we do to accomplish the works of God?'  Jesus replied, 'this is God’s work, that you believe in Him whom he sent.'" - John 6:28-29
Faith is our duty, and is work.  It takes effort to have complete and total faith in God.  But there are benefits to having and maintaining such faith.

Through faith, we are justified and made righteous before God.   God declares righteous one who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, and through faith in Christ alone.
"For we come to the conclusion that a man is justified by faith without the works of the law." - Romans 3:28
"... since we know that a person is not made righteous through the works of the law, but only through faith in Christ Jesus, we have believed in Christ Jesus in order that we might be made righteous by faith in Christ and not through the works of the Law; for by works of the Law, no person will be justified." - Galatians 3:16
Through faith, we are purified by God.
"As He cleansed their hearts by faith, He did not discriminate between us [Jew] and them [Gentile]." - Acts 15:9
We are sanctified through faith.
"But I [Paul] said, 'Who are you, Lord?'  And the Lord said, 'I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.  But rise and stand on your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you a minister and witness both of the things that you have seen and of those in which I will still show myself to you.  I will deliver you from your people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you for the opening of their eyes and their turning from darkness to light and from the authority of Satan to God, to obtain forgiveness of sins and their allotted portion among those made holy through faith in Me.'" - Acts 26:15-18
We are made overcomers through our faith, having been born anew because of it.
"Because everyone who has been born of God conquers the world, and this is the victory that triumphs over the world, the faith that we have.  Who is the world’s victor if not he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" - 1st John 5:4-5
Faith is our protection against anything that the wicked may throw against us.  Of the armour that God would have us gird in the book of Ephesians, faith is our shield, and is to be carried above all other pieces.
"... above all taking up the shield of faith, with which you will be able to extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one." - Ephesians 6:16
Through faith, we find peace with God, joy and hope.
"...being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." - Romans 5:1
"So may God, the fountain of hope, fill you with all joy and peace in your believing, so that you may enjoy overflowing hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." - Romans 15:13

Dealin' wit' yo' (...Insert your own word after you read...)

I wrote this pretty passionate piece of fiction a few years ago in a fit of creativity. There's only one other work that's gotten more responses of "Oh my God!" and "Did this really happen?!", and that other work I may share at some other time. Enjoy.

You awake but know you haven't slept for long. The digital clock on the other side of the room confirms what you already know, unless it's that you've slept for a day and seven minutes. Your mind refuses to let you rest, your thoughts are in turmoil. She, oblivious to all the noise in your head, and is dead to the world. You feel her breathing more than hear it in the darkness, her body pressed against yours. In time past, you would have kissed her gently on the forehead, hugged her a little closer and closed your eyes to drift off again. But of a sudden, her hand on your chest makes your skin walk. Her breath on your neck is repulsive. All you want to do right now is get out of that bed and get her out of your space. You kiss her on her forehead anyway and ease yourself out of her embrace. As you get out of the bed, you look back at her and can't help but think how beautiful she is, how pretty you always felt she looked while she was asleep. The image of her splinters, and you force yourself not to weep further.

You can see just well enough to make your way out of the bedroom without having to feel around, and close the door softly behind you. A draft in the corridor raises her scent on you. You breath deeply her sweat, her non-designer perfume that you like so much, her essence, as you tread softly toward the bathroom. You remember seeing her yesterday, seeing her smile, remember the good times you had together. It was the first time you'd seen her in a month and a half, and of a sudden, the reasons you had for separating became frivolous. You wanted to stop the car and reconcile with her right there and then. But your friends wouldn't let you. They reminded you of the reasons you decided to leave her, the reasons that caused you to determine that the two of you needed to separate for a while. You didn't tell them that you had kept in touch with her, that she would cry and beg you to be with her, that she promised that she would make things right, that there were good reasons then for her being wrong but that she would change, that she would fix things, that she needed you, that you were the best thing that ever happened to her. You ponder on her sincerity, and on theirs, as you start a hot shower running and close the bathroom door.

The water is near scalding, but you don't care. You want her off you, want to deaden your flesh, burn off even your skin's memory of her touch. Her perfume rises on the steam and then just as quickly is gone. You just wish that getting her out of your head would be as easy. You step out of the shower to get a fresh bar of soap, and you have no idea how long you've been standing in the shower mindlessly lathering it, but when you come to yourself it's half gone, down the drain in a swirl of suds. If only it would be so easy to wash away what you heard tonight.

You began to fall in love with her on the day you met her, and you find it hard to deny that you don't still love her despite everything that you now know. You're convinced that no matter what happened, she does love you desperately, or she came to love you over time, or you got under her skin after a while and she couldn't do without you. She began to cry uncontrollably when she heard your voice outside her front door, and she could barely get it open to let you in. When she finally did, she just stood there, weeping, not moving, like a deer caught in headlights. You remember hearing her gasp softly as you locked the door behind you, and how she continued to stare at you as you led her to the couch and dabbed at her tears with your handkerchief. You remember how fiercely she'd hugged you when you put your arm around her shoulders, remember her pleading with you not to stop loving her, begging you to forgive her, that she never meant to hurt you and that she never would again. You remember thinking, as you ran your fingers through her hair and softly shushed her, that she had no idea what you knew, what you'd found out. She had no idea how much bitterness had been stirred up in you. She had no idea how much you truly loved her, how much you had wanted to forgive her, how much you wanted to return. You remember that after announcing yourself, you had not spoken a single word. You just kissed her to shut her up.

You step out of the shower and get a clean towel from the bathroom cupboard. You dry yourself as you walk to the living room to look for your clothes. As you pull up your underwear, you realise that you are very, very sore, and make a mental note to go easy when zipping your pants. You'd rutted her like an animal in heat and only stopped when she let the neighbours know that she couldn't believe that she was coming again and near passed out. When she came to her senses, she'd kissed you gently on the mouth and giggled as she pleaded for mercy and told you that she loved you. Then she curled up in your arms and fell asleep. You had only felt worse.

You locate your shoes and socks and sit to put them on. Your mind goes back to the events of the day. You'd seen her and loved her again. Your boys ran all the misogynistic rhetoric they could find, and they were right. You'd all been disappointed around the same time by the women you'd cared for, and that was your bond. It was a day for a bunch of chauvinistic shits to hang out. And it had been a really good day too. You'd gone PC shopping, spent some hours playing pool, and sat and shot the breeze and laughed for even longer. After a while, you all got tired of being in the same clothes for so long and everybody went home. But you were restless and the music you heard in the distance didn't make it any easier to sit still. Both you and your best friend heard the music from the fete as it rolled across the hills and you had called each other. The day had been too good to end yet, so you'd meet up there and be disgusting sleazes and pick up chicks. The vibes were nice, the women decent enough and the talk was sweet. You came back from the bar with your fourth round and said that you really thought that she could turn around. He disagreed, not vehemently, but firmly enough. She called your mother to beg her to talk to you for crying out loud. He said that that was all well and good, but just showed her desperation. But you weren't listening. You told him that you thought that maybe what she did wasn't so bad, that you two could work it out, and that you wanted to. He shook his head and said that she was no good, and that it wasn't a good idea. You'd left her for reasons that probably weren't going to change. But you weren't hearing that either. You said that she loved hard and she loved you and you wanted that for yourself. He said that he didn't want to tell you at the time because he would have been shooting himself in the foot. He was after all seeing your sister at the time that he introduced you to her.

You still can't understand how you took the revelation so good naturedly, not only that he'd slept with her, but that he had been sleeping with her while she was with you. With that, you agreed with him. He was just looking out for your best interests after all. You'd talked about all sorts of things after that, from the number of women you both had been with to the politics of the day. It hadn't sunk in until you sat in front of your PC waiting for it to boot up so that you could check your email. Then you'd made the forty-five minute journey to her apartment, numb and on automatic. You didn't know where you were going or why, but this was where you ended up.

You get up and pull on your t-shirt, and realise that morning is coming because it's a little brighter in the living room. You want to leave, want to get out because you can't stand being where she is. You can't understand how she could love you and do this thing. You can't understand how he could be your best friend and near be your brother-in-law and could do this thing to you. A wave of bitterness sweeps over you and settles. There's one more thing that you feel you must do before you leave.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

The sun is high in the sky when she awakes. She reaches across the bed to hold onto you but only grabs sheets. She smiles and rushes out of bed, out of the bedroom into the kitchen to greet you, but you're not there either. She stops and turns around, heading for the bathroom. The door is open and she can see that you're not in there either. As she passes the entrance to the living room she notices that only her clothes are scattered there. She goes in and picks them up, wondering where you are. She shrugs, and remembers that it's Sunday and thinks that you probably went out to get the papers from the shop on the corner.

She goes into the kitchen and puts on the kettle, and then heads back to the bedroom to tidy up a bit. She tosses the clothes in the hamper and stops for a second before she decides that she should change the sheets. As she tugs at the corners, her eyes fall on the nightstand.

She feels like someone has punched her hard in the middle of her chest. There was no way that he could have known. She'd ended it when she realised that she was falling in love with him. He treated her like no man ever had. He made her happy, happier than she had ever been in her life. They had vowed that the secret would go with them to their graves. He was never supposed to know. She needed him. She loved him. She knew now that he was gone and would never be back.

There on the nightstand, in a plain white saucer, was fifty cents.

Fade to Black

In 1995, while at the University of the West Indies, I was required to produce three original pieces for a prose fiction course. The following, "Fade to Black", was one of those pieces. It was subsequently picked up by one of my classmates for "Topsoil", a magazine for young Trinidadian writers. The story was carried in the second issue of an all too short-lived independant publication. Note that I have no Stateside gangland experience other than what I see in the movies and on TV. But I do believe though that a fair understanding of the human condition and a degree of empathy can provide a light into someone's soul, hence this piece.

The story is reproduced here as it was published in "Topsoil".

FADE TO BLACK
By Keith Francis

You are walking down the dark side of a dimly lit street, cautiously. It's easy to move here; most of the streetlights don't work. You know that you are not safe here though. Removing the red bandannas from you wrists and head do not make you feel safer. You are not afraid. You've never really known fear. You just don't feel safe.

This is not your place, not your turf. You don't belong here, but your grandmother is here. The crudely wrapped box in your left hand is for her. You've never missed her birthday yet and you won't miss one now.

The corner of your eye catches a flash of blue and red in the distance. You crouch under the steps of the apartments on your right and wait for it to pass. You know that whether your bandannas are blue or red or yellow or green the men in the car see only your dark skin, and they don't think too highly of it. You've spent a night inside for loitering before, served time for possession, but they won't be stopping you tonight. They're probably looking for you or someone fitting your description anyway - young, mean looking and black. You heard that description on the police radio from the back seat of a cruiser once, and the white cop had laughed. You remember thinking that the brother who was driving was a sell-out - He'd laughed too, as if "black" was some big joke. They'll pull down anyone tonight, but not you. Your grandmother is waiting.

The lights pass, slowly, and you wait a minor eternity before you step into the street again. Your stomach gradually settles as you move away from the garbage that was mellowing next to the stoop - it's one of those things that you still aren't accustomed to and probably will never get used to. You move away from that contributor to the street's reek and you cautiously walk again.

You couldn't come here with your ride nor any of your brothers'; the Crips would make you the moment you crossed into their turf. You couldn't steal a car and come either because your grandmother wouldn't let you into her house; you know that you can't hide anything from her and your conscience gets super powers when she's around. She would accept the gift though - you paid for it with your own money. She didn't have to know that the Paki who ran the store said something stupid and made you shoot him in the face for it. You couldn't leave all that cash in the open register either - the cops would take it. And whoever got tagged for killing the Paki would get tagged for burglary too. You couldn't leave the money for the pigs if that was going to happen. You left the five bucks in the Paki’s hand though. It had felt good saying keep the change, but then he had to go and say something stupid about "niggers never having money that's theirs". At least you paid for your grandmother's gift - she would still accept it.

You reach the corner and peer around it. The street is much brighter, not much gloom to hide yourself in. But you're almost there. Nothing much can go wrong now.

But you are wrong.

You take two steps beyond the corner and he steps out of a doorway not too far in front of you. The blue bandanna on his head is fresh and clean and crisp, brand new. He has fresh white bandages on his left hand with spots of crimson in the palm - the mark of his blood pact with the gang is yet to heal. You know that he is a brand new Crip, probably no more than half your age, no more than eight, and he has something to prove. You can see that he doesn't know you; it's in his eyes, as he looks you up and down. Then recognition dawns, not of you but of the brand on your forearm that you and the members of your chapter of the Bloods wear with pride. Too bad he has to die so young, you think, and reach behind you, under your shirt for your piece. You grab air, remembering now that you were headed for your grandmother's, and that she despises guns. The Crip smiles, draws his own weapon, and fires.

He doesn't know how to shoot, you think. The piece they gave him is too strong for him. You see the recoil and the gun hit him in his face, probably breaking his jaw. But your mind's attention is taken by a fire raging across your insides. You sink to the your knees and clutch your stomach. You can feel the blood trickling through your fingers. Being shot has never felt like this.

You can see the boy telling you something, his own blood flowing from his mouth, but all you can hear is a roaring noise and what you think is your heartbeat. You fall over to your left and land on something, crushing it. Some awareness tells you that it is your grandmother's gift and you wonder why it didn't break when it fell from your hands. The smell of the rose water is strong above the stink of the gutter - she would have liked it, but it's gone now, running into the street.

Your arms and legs have gone numb and the fire in your gut still burns, but you shiver - you feel strangely cold. And you could swear that the street was brighter than this. And for the first time in your life you are afraid. You're not ready to die. You know that at your age though if it didn't happen now, it was only a matter of time. Now, it is only a matter of time.

You try to get up but realise that your body isn't responding. You notice too that the fire has gone out. You just feel horribly cold, inside and out. Involuntarily, you lay down your head and sigh. The smell of your grandmother's perfume fills your senses. She would have liked it. You wonder what she would think of you lying in the gutter like this. You remember her being the only one who cared - your daddy had died of twenty-two bullets before you even knew him and your momma was too strung out on crack to give a damn. You remember her burning your first bandanna on the old stove and telling you it was for your own good... You remember her old Barbadian accent in her shouts behind you in the street whenever she drove you home late at night... You remember her dragging you to the little white Episcopal Church every Sunday... You remember her whipping your black behind with anything she could get her hands on and screaming to Jesus to drive Satan's demons out of you... You remember watching her cry when the cops came to get you that first time... You remember her bailing you out, every time being "the last goddamn time"... You remember her, hugging her and telling her "happy birthday Grandma" last year... You remember how much you love her...

You're tired now, but you can muster up the energy to smile. She doesn't have to worry about you anymore. You know that she'll do a better job with your daughter than she did with you.

The scent grabs you again. You feel yourself letting go. Nothing matters anymore, nothing at all.

You feel high and your spirit soars as your world fades to black.

Keith Francis is an enigmatic evening student at U.W.I. St. Augustine.

North Zone Intercol Semi-Final 2003 - QRC versus Mucurapo Senior Comprehensive

Two years ago, I followed the prospects of a tremendous young QRC First Eleven team, and their progress in the 2003 Secondary Schools' football season. The following is, in the view of most, the best match that the boys played for the season, before going to win the North Zone Intercol title.

A game scheduled to begin at 5:00 PM at the Hasely Crawford Stadium actually got going at minutes to six. Fatima simply could not find it within themselves to bury an all-too-lucky St. Anthony's team in the first game on the match card, and eventually lost on sudden death penalties.

The rain had fallen in torrents during the second half of the first semi-final, and it continued to drizzle as our boys took the field under lights in their white kit. Simba and Aldo started up front, with Jason, Mikhail Awai and Radonfah behind them in the midfield. Tireless Delano 'Gecko' Pierre was running in his favoured wing position. A surprise for me, even though I'd heard that he started in the quarter final game against Morvant Laventille, Thorne was present between the uprights. Notably absent though was Lloyd Sealy, our last stopper and last year's captain, and the little right back whose fearless defensive play I've come to enjoy so much.

I must admit that I was a little worried for our boys. This was the Mucurapo outfit whose speed and spacing had troubled us so much in the second round game on Fatima Ground in similarly wet conditions. Despite early go ahead goals though, our boys' composure was so much and so powerful that it allayed the fears of the crowd and quite possibly threw Mucurapo for a loop.

The boys in the burgundy strip kicked off quickly and charged down the field with a blitzing assault on the QRC goal. The defence was unprepared for such a hurried attack, and Compre opened the scoring in a goalmouth scramble. It wasn't two minutes after this that Compre intercepted a pass in the midfield and charged down the field again, and in what QRC players probably at that point were seeing as absolute chaos, Jared Marvin James inadvertently provided them a second item.

Compre supporters were jubilant, their team up by two in less than ten minutes. But a game is ninety minutes long, and what took place over the remaining eighty minutes or so puts this game down as one of the classics of secondary school football.

QRC restarted undaunted. No-ones shoulders dropped. There was no sense of nervousness or halting urgency. They were like a machine, unflinching, unemotional, like the two goals that Compre scored were nothing. That had to be confusing for Compre. After all, how does a team down so quickly remain so unfazed, so disaffected?

Within minutes, we got a flash of things to come. Aldo, set free by a pass from the midfield, turned and headed toward the Mucurapo goal, with striking partner Simba on the other side of two defenders. Aldo was eventually shut down, but that burst showed Compre that he was only just getting warmed up and that he needed to be watched.

A minute afterward, Radonfah, realising that he was free, let go a shot from 25 metres outside, but to no effect as it was a little off target. The ball back in play, it wasn't a minute after that that we threatened again with a shot coming in from the left of the 18-yard box, expertly parried by the keeper. The resulting goalmouth scramble ended in a goal kick.

Compre now on the back foot conceded a free kick 30 metres out from the goal. Mikhael Awai stepped up and cracked a shot that sent a shockwave around the stadium when it struck the vee and rebounded into play.

Despite the pressure though, Mucurapo pushed back out using the pace with which they started the game and playing one-touch possession football. Good harassment by Jason and Radonfah eventually dislodged the ball and Aldo was set free again just outside the 18-yard box. With blinding speed and excellent control, he worked his way forward. After wrong-footing one player, and beating another with a change of pace, he was tripped up in the 18-yard box by a rushing Compre defender. Jason stepped up to take a text book penalty, burying the shot in the left corner of the net, sending the keeper diving the wrong way.

Mucurapo restarted quickly again. But Thorne proved up the task of defending his citadel, their quick initial shot parried. The resultant retry was harmlessly hit over the bar. The Compre strategy at this point seemed to be to catch our second string defence napping. Good challenging by Radonfah, Jason and Mikhail in the middle, by Delano on his wing, and Aldo's ever present threat kept Mucurapo honest. In fact, the occasional QRC forays on the Mucurapo goal seemed to unsettle their defence and rattle their otherwise excellent keeper more. Mucurapo continued to push the limits of Thorne's reflexes though, our defence constantly a half step behind the sheer speed of the attack.

It was the QRC Machine though that produced the next goal, and first contender for play of the day. The ball dislodged from the Compre midfield, Aldo was set free again and was fouled some 30 metres out from the Compre goal. Clearly made confident after his first attempt, Mikhail started his run almost on the half line after taking time to survey the distance and confer with his midfield partners. Had the keeper time to get a hand to the ball, that bat out of hell would have broken his fingers and still have enough speed and power on it to hit the underside of the crossbar to slam into the ground just inside the goal. It was the kind of goal that a keeper could only make look better by trying to get a hand to it, and that in doing so would make it certain to be one of the clips in an ESPN ad for South American football. Two-all was the score.

Mucurapo, wounded, pressed quickly again, having Thorne produce a diving save on a free kick and a heartbreaking diffusing of a one-on-one effort by a Mucurapo player. And so scores remained level as the ref blew the halftime whistle.

QRC had the touch to restart, and came out more purposefully. Mucurapo's engine seemed too to have a little less throttle, and their midfield was having more trouble keeping the ball at their now slower pace. It gave our boys another opportunity to pounce on a ball and release Aldo yet again. Bodying off one, dragging another, change of pace throwing off a third, another drag on the original draggee coming back for more, Aldo worked his way quickly into the 18-yard box again, where he was tripped up by a lunging tackle, winning us another penalty. All that Jason's kick was missing was a yellow 'R' flashing on the field, as he produced an effort exactly like his first. He buried the ball in the far left corner, sending the keeper diving desperately to the right. 3-2 was the score to QRC.

You could look at the Compre players' demeanour, their vexation with each other as another penalty was conceded, and the way that they came out to restart the game and know that they were broken. But they weren't shattered. In a foray similar to the one that produced the first goal, a Mucurapo swarm on the QRC citadel generated a goal mouth scramble that produced their third item for the evening.

The goal boosted Compre's confidence a little, and refreshed their hunt for a victory and a place in the North Intercol final. But it did nothing to shut down the Machine, evidenced by another releasing of our danger man and a free kick for the resulting infringement on him. With about 20 minutes to go, the coach pulled out an almost invisible Simba and an exhausted Gecko, injecting Kyle and Chike to augment the attack.

Compre's defence began playing higher and higher as the whole team pushed forward desperately looking for the go ahead and possibly winning item. Midfield play was now pretty much even, and as time wound down, it seemed as if we would be treated to another round of sudden death extra time. But one look at Aldo and you could tell that he wasn't having it. He'd wounded Compre twice before on either side of the half-way whistle, and had made surging runs that helped to provide dead ball situations and opportunities for us. Already again, the boys had sought to set him free and he was caught offside just beyond the half line.

So unnerved was Compre by the QRC attack that their keeper mishandled the ball when the attack rushed him, giving us a free kick on the edge of the 18-yard box. Jason curled the ball over and around the wall, but the shot was safely and brilliantly punched out by the Mucurapo keeper.

Again the opposition came out looking for the decider, and thrust almost all of their players into the attack. On the half line were Aldo and Kyle, shepherded by a Compre player each.

I'm not sure who threaded the ball out of the crowd, but at this stage, it really doesn't matter. Seeing the ball coming, Aldo turned on his man on the half line and gave chase, picking it up two strides later. He bodied his man off and accelerated, drawing the keeper out of his post into a one-on-one. He angled to his right to ensure that he could get into the box and still have some space between himself and the keeper, and then hit him a spanner and a drag that sent him to his knees and scrambling to get back up. By now three defenders had run back into the box and were jostling each other in the Mucurapo goal mouth. The keeper looked frayed, completely thrown by having been so roughly treated by Aldo's footwork. And then, Aldo just stopped dead. He looked up, measured, smiled, and scooped the ball over the keeper, over the defenders, and into the goal. It proved to be a final minute winner, and what a glorious goal it was.

On this day, the QRC Machine sounded a clear signal to St. Anthony's that their North Intercol reign is in jeopardy of coming to a crashing end. We play them in the North final at the same venue on Friday.

In Memory of Donnie Clint Butler (1974-2005)

DONNIE CLINT BUTLER
Faithful Colleague, Loyal Friend, Loving Brother, Blessed Son...
Taken from us too soon...

Born - December 19th, 1974
Died - November 1st, 2005


The following is the eulogy delivered on November 8th, 2005 at his funeral service at St. Ann's Evangelical Church, Ariapita Road, St. Ann's. He was cremated at the St. James Crematorium, Long Circular Road, St. James.


The Good Lord saw it fit to bless us with Donnie Clint Butler on December 19th, 1974. I didn't know him growing up. He was a world away from my Diego Martin in his St. Ann's. While I recall seeing him at our parents' office building in Port of Spain, his CIC was enemy and anathema to my QRC. But when I did see him, he was always cordial, always pleasant, and always had a nod and a smile.

It was many years later that we would meet again at 3B Chancery Lane, where we would link as colleagues. Here, I would come to find that Donnie had begun his career with RBTT at the former Charlotte Street branch, moving on later to Park Street. Eventually he became a member of a select team preparing the organisation at Chancery Lane for the Year 2000 challenge. To most, he is more than just a co-worker or another employee on the roster or someone sitting one cubicle over. Generally jovial, non-judgmental, slow to anger and always helpful, sometimes to his own detriment, Donnie touched hearts and minds. He befriended many of his working contacts, both locally and throughout the RBTT Group's overseas units.

More than being a cheerful co-worker, Donnie is an exemplar for all of us. My friend was always dapper, articulate and soft-spoken, and put his customers and colleagues ahead of himself. When volunteers were required for any effort, Donnie was always present, whether it was running shuttle with his car for Chancery Lane's Creche opening, or it was to help host colleagues from overseas on training in Trinidad. He especially enjoyed family day where it became the expectation that year on year he would don costume to be his team's mascot. In that regard, many of us fondly remember Bunny Dutler in full rabbit costume, and Donnie-in-Diapers, he having offered to provide a comical counterpoint to a baby shower. Clearly, as many of us who knew him well were aware, he was never afraid to laugh at himself.

That fearlessness worked its way into every aspect of Donnie's life.

His couture was always on the bleeding edge, but never crazy, always classy. He was never afraid to try combinations like an orange shirt and green tie, which to be honest, actually looked good given the material and colours he selected for his tailor. Another friend recalls Donnie in pink socks and thinking to themselves that they wouldn't wear them, but that they didn't look at all bad as part of the outfit that he had composed.

Moreover, just as he did with fashion, Donnie challenged life with courage, almost with a cavalier attitude. He was never daunted or intimidated by people or places, and he operated with a confidence that belied his stature. I recall thinking Donnie crazy that he would leave Trinidad in December 2002 for the United Kingdom with passport in one hand and baggage in the other, not knowing where he would rest his head when he got there. In true Donnie style though, by his third day, he was living rent free above the Scandinavian restaurant in which he had secured a promotion from sandwich board boy to chef. His absurd wit, charm and boldness had once again won someone over, forcing them to take his crazy self into their world.

It was those things and the genuine love that he had for people that would draw many to him. And at the end of the day, the fact of the matter was that Donnie knew everybody. Many of us have complained quietly about the trial that walking down the road with him tended to be. A trip from Independence Square to Queen Street corner could take upwards of an hour because he would stop to chat with some one of us that he had not seen in a while. He could not just stop to chat either, but had to inquire into the welfare of your parents, siblings, cousins and pumpkin-vine relatives, all of whom he amazingly managed to remember by name. It spoke volumes about his genuine care and concern for others in his world.

Donnie's world wasn't small either. He has covered more ground in his near thirty-two years than many of us will cover in our lives. His feet have trod paths in many destinations in Western Europe, and he has wandered much of the Eastern United States. Closer to home, he has been up and down the Caribbean chain, and knows much of our own Trinidad and Tobago like the back of his hand. And everywhere he went and in every situation, Donnie made friends. I remember him telling me of the one time I think I ever heard him say that he was afraid. He had boarded a bus just to be able to say that he'd taken a cross-state trip. He'd fallen asleep and later awoke in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. With water before him, water behind him, water to the left of him, water to the right and no land but the bridge in sight, Donnie could not help but be concerned. It was minutes though before he was comforted by and befriended his seatmate. The person turned out to be a Trinidadian that had left Toco for New York at the age of four. The only reason that Donnie didn't reach Toco to look for the woman's family on his return to Trinidad was that he'd lost their contact information. And believe me, we would have made the long drive to personally extend love and greetings, and probably deliver two or three New York souvenir t-shirts. Donnie's willingness to give of himself and his time made errands like that easy.

Donnie was selfless to a fault in that he would extend himself for just about anyone like this. Further, if there were but one destitute person in a town of a ten thousand, they would find Donnie. He would listen intently to their plight, no matter how incredulous, and he would do what he could to help them. At some point much later, he might shrug his shoulders on realising that he may have been had, but that didn't matter. He was satisfied simply to do what he could for a fellow man.

Donnie treated with all of us in that unselfish manner. With the people that he counted as friends though, this was all the more so. If we needed help, he was there. If we needed uplifting, he was there. If we wanted company, he was there. If we didn't want company and wanted to wallow in our misery, he was still there, annoying the France out of us, yes, but making sure that we were all right. He was almost clueless in his desire to be attentive, and you couldn't help but appreciate him for it at the end of it all.

When I think about Donnie the friend, I think myself fortunate that I can count him as one of mine, and many of us should as well. I find myself more fortunate that someone like him, someone as special as he was, would count me as one of his friends. Many people have said that they have never seen Donnie angry, unsettled, or without a smile on his face. Many have said that they knew that they could lean on him at any time and know that he would be there for them. But there are a few of us with whom Donnie felt comfortable unburdening himself, sharing secrets and uncertainties, of whom he asked advice, and with whom he allowed himself to be human. Donnie too had hopes, dreams and fears, frustrations and loves lost, and opportunities that he missed and those that he craved.

I will miss this Donnie most. He was my annoying younger brother and best riding partner. If you saw one of us, the other was not far away. There are secrets between us that will remain untold, because I shall never tell.

There were very few people though closer to Donnie than this.

To my friend, his brothers Osei and Wayne can do no wrong. He loves them with all his heart, supports them in all that they do. He is there with them to share in their successes and is always on point when he can be to help then to clean up. No one could worry about his brothers or put things quietly in place for their benefit as Donnie could. Even in his sometime frustration and emotion, you could hear the love in his voice as he ranted over something that his brothers did or didn't do. Then he'd sigh, get into action and try to put things back into order.

At the centre of his universe though is the woman that is responsible for everything that Donnie is and what he represents. We must credit and praise his mother for the Donnie that she has shared with all of us. He loves her with all his heart, and his one desire above all else is to make sure that she is always happy and taken care of. His excellence is borne of her desire and insistence that he always does better. His love and compassion are borne of that which they have for each other. His humility is bolstered by the memory of what they have risen from together, and makes him appreciate everything that they have achieved. Her sacrifices for him helped to forge and form the young man that we are all proud to know. Know all that it is the love of a mother for a son and a son for his mother that made Donnie who he is.


Faithful colleague, loyal friend, loving brother and blessed son, for many of us, for all of us, Donnie is gone too soon. Donnie has touched each of us in some way, with his kindness, thoughtfulness, gentility, caring support and patience. Let us honour his memory by taking the good things that he has done for us and let us do them for someone else. Even if we touch but one person, we will have all, like Donnie, made the world a better place in which to live.

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