Q: Can you give us some background into your professional life?
From a young age I wanted to be a teacher, perhaps because of the strong influence of my parents who were both teachers. The result of this is that I began the teaching experience by being one of the first students who entered the Mausica Teachers College when it had just opened in 1963. From there I went on to The University of the West Indies where I studied French and English. Though I had my degree in French, I wanted to have native proficiency. I was lucky to get a post to teach in a secondary school in Martinique after which I returned to teach French and English in Belmont Boys’ Secondary (now St Francis Boys’ College).
In 1973, I got a scholarship to pursue post-graduate studies in French at the University of Bordeaux, France. Bordeaux is famous for its wines, and I took advantage of my stay there to learn as much as possible about wines and experienced wine tasting at various chateaux.
At the end of my studies (of both French and wine), I returned to my former post at Belmont where I remained until I retired as Principal. I should tell you also that while there, I took a year off (1993–94) to work as a human rights observer in Haiti in a joint UN/OAS observer mission, where because of my bilingual proficiency, I was posted to work at the headquarters as a radio operator.
When I returned to my old post at Belmont I stayed put and did not run away again until I retired in 2002. I should also add that part of my educational experience was being one of the team of CXC Chief Examiners in English and for several years the Chief English Examiner for SEA English. I no longer serve at either post.
Q: How do you integrate faith, culture, and tradition as a lifestyle?
What has also sparked keen interest in my life is my experience of trying to live life to the fullest, following the proclamation of Jesus in John 10:10, where He said: I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full.
I equated life to the full to mean travelling to see as much of the world as possible and taking part in what I call full life activities. Thus, I have been active not only in travelling but in spiritual and cultural activities, in ways such as play writing, short story telling and writing, and using the experience gained to promote faith activities like Liturgical Dance, dialect poetry based on scripture passages, dramatising pieces of scripture and I have even done Pierrot Grenade speeches based on scripture passages.
I believe that it is important to use our cultural experiences when giving life to the passages of scripture. This means that the Word of God becomes alive and active in our everyday life: Ora et vive (pray and live).
Q: How did your practice of being a Pierrot Grenade begin?
The Pierrot Grenade came up by chance. I was doing a script for Best Village, and I wanted one with a Carnival spirit, a Carnival character who can narrate, and I came upon the Pierrot.
I had heard about the Pierrot Grenade and so I did some research to find out exactly how the character speaks. I did the script with Pierrot Grenade as the narrator and people loved it and wanted me to continue with it.
As an English teacher, it has made me more aware of the way people speak and the way they use their words, so many times people call me the wordsmith because through the eyes of the Pierrot Grenade, I can use English with a most imaginative approach. Thus, when I hear words, I imagine several things. I can hear and listen more carefully to what is said.
As someone interested in traditional Carnival characters, I initially wanted to be a Midnight Robber, but as I just explained, the Pierrot Grenade infiltrated my cultural life and I enjoy doing the portrayals. I have trained others and written speeches for the Midnight Robber.
Q: How do you help both continuity and progress in our faith traditions?
I help organise Liturgy School. Liturgy is our deepest form of worship, so we engage in activities where we encourage participants to make the liturgy more culture oriented. We have introduced workshops on Liturgical Dance, story writing and telling, and drama where we instruct participants in these skills and show them how they can use what they have learnt to improve the liturgy.
Apart from Liturgy School, I have also trained willing students to present dramatic pieces of scripture. All this assists in making our life interesting and helps us on our spiritual journey, a voyage that I am ever ready to join as we move along on our synodal expedition towards salvation.
Q: What value does maintaining traditions, spiritual or otherwise, bring to an individual and society?
I have lived a life blending spiritual and cultural values as I see this as what Jesus Himself did. When He said that He had come so that we may have life to the full, my interpretation is that He was referring to our spiritual and cultural values, for that is real life. We are spiritual and cultural people, and it is important for us to know our roots. We are born into a culture out of the Spirit of the Almighty Father and if we understand this and try to live it, we will understand the meaning of the word ‘inculturation’, which is a blend and harmonious living of the spiritual and cultural life.