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A Mother’s Day to remember
The LiTTribute to ToronTTo with the Zoomers Club of T&T (Zattic) in Mississauga, Toronto, Canada was interrupted by an 80-year-old woman on Mother’s Day—May 13—when guest speaker, author and heritage educator Dr Kris Rampersad began speaking.
Dr Rampersad was explaining the impulse to address the cultural habits that inhibit reading in rural districts of the Commonwealth Caribbean as she introduced her book LiTTscapes Landscapes of Fiction and her efforts with LiTTributes and LiTTours which she described as “the reading room outside the reading room” and other initiatives to make reading an enjoyable experience.
LiTTscapes captures in coffee-table style through photographs and texts the island’s districts, lifestyles and cultures as seen through the eyes of more than 100 writers as early as Sir Walter Raleigh to Nobel Laureates Sir Vidia Naipaul and Derek Walcott, as well as many writers resident in North America, Canada, the UK and elsewhere. It’s comprehensive treatment also features among them Canadian-Caribbean-American writers as Samuel Selvon, Neil Bissoondath, Ramabai Espinet, Shani Mootoo, Ismith Khan, and Sonny Ladoo.
Dr Rampersad was identifying the various countries represented in the room when the well-groomed woman interrupted, “Just before you continue,” said the woman in a strong voice, standing firmly. I taught you at St Julien Presbyterian School.
“I want to say how proud I am at all that you are doing. It is so remarkable. It is Mother’s Day and all my family is waiting for me but I had to come and see you, darling.”
“Oh! Miss Olive,” a surprised Dr Rampersad exclaimed, expressing her pleasure at the intrusion. Turning to the audience while in a warm embrace with the woman she identified as her first teacher, Dr Rampersad said: “This is the woman who taught me to read!” The room erupted with applause and Dr Rampersad explained how Miss Olive was her first teacher in the infant class when she began her formal schooling at St Julien Presbyterian School in New Grant.
Olive Sinanan has been the ‘first teacher’ of more than five generations of children in T&T before she resigned and migrated to Canada with her family. Several of her family members have also been making significant contributions to the Canadian education system in mainstream schooling, special and gifted education and musical and cultural education.
Miss Olive surprised Dr Rampersad as she began her guest presentation to the club on connected global literary heritage of the Commonwealth Caribbean and Canada. She identified Miss Olive as ‘the woman who taught me to read,” as she pointed out the interconnected relationship between the developed and developing world.
Dr Rampersad is on a tour of North America and Canada with her literary tributes and stimulating creative cross cultural conversations about the knowledge economy and creative sectors to sustainable development of both continental and small island economies. The next segment of LiTTribute to ToronTTo is at Windies Restaurant, Scarborough, Canada, from 3 pm May 20, when Dr Rampersad will meet and discuss opportunities and challenges with a cross section of Canada’s cultural groups.
“It is these kinds of surprising and remarkable relationships between the developed and developing world that these literary engagements are unearthing,” she said.
“Our island societies have not been a burden to the developed world but have been holding their own and contributing to their development and prosperity, and in fact, many of our resources are being drained, as with the brain drain in education by the inability to the islands to hold on to their talented citizens because of deficiencies in opportunities owing to weaknesses in political, educational, cultural and social institutions and climate.”
Rampersad also noted that “Globalisation and the information revolution has made even developed nations ‘developing’ and there is much we as small islands who have grappled with the challenges of multiculturalism and diversity can teach the larger metropoles.”
Dr Rampersad, an independent heritage educator, journalist and media specialist, is the former president of the UNESCO Education Commission. She also served as vice president of the UNESCO programme and External Relations Commission when she challenged the notion of developed and developing world and moved a motion that was unanimously accepted that the UNESCO Institute of Statistics begin gathering data to better represent global development and provide these to the United Nations, the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and other developmental institutions.
For more information and to book similar initiatives see social media for LiTTscapes and LiTTributes or email [email protected].
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