By Michael Lashley
It is perhaps useful for me to personalize my approach to Caribbean cuisine and Caribbean music and to raise the issue of their place in our personal lives, our professional lives and our formal education system.
Of all our assets, Caribbean cuisine is one of those that we have neglected the most as a foundation for consolidating our cultural identity, building self-reliance and self-sufficiency, instilling teamwork in our family and community lives and for publicizing our significant contributions to the rest of the world.
In my personal, family and professional life as a foreign student in France and a diplomat in Switzerland and Venezuela and Canada, I made it my extremely pleasant duty to enjoy and share with my classmates, friends and foreign colleagues the delicious joys of our distinctly multicultural cuisine.
Up to today, I continue to do my part in reversing the North American trend towards buying meals. My family and I have also saved a lot of money by relying mainly on top quality, tasty, home-cooked food. I can therefore insist that socially, culturally and financially, it is in our interest to ensure that our young people draw deeply on our unique Caribbean cuisine for all these diverse benefits and joys!
On the matter of music as a vehicle for youth empowerment, I am elated to note there is no need to advance arguments to support this ideal in our community. All generations are basking in the lusty pleasures of the steelpan, chutney, soca and calypso.
We are dancing to those and other rhythms, aided and abetted by such inspiring local stalwarts as Richard Luces, DJ Bad Lad, Pan Fantasy Steel Orchestra, Macoumeh Fifi and our own lovable parang promoter the venerable Joan Alexander.
In support of my ingrained view of the value of music for our cultural identity, our self-confidence and our personal empowerment, I take the liberty of quoting from my superstar David Michael Rudder’s definition of calypso music: “It is a living vibration, rooted deep within my Caribbean belly!”!
In my previous capacity as a consul general, my emphasis on promoting and showcasing music throughout Ontario was a critical factor in the successful engagement of our nationals, our community organizations, our business community and the wider Canadian society in a range of projects and initiatives from which all our stakeholders have drawn great benefits both in the Caribbean and in Canada.
The value of our music and our cuisine for youth empowerment leads me to the related subject of integrating a wider range of subject areas into our school curriculum. I take offence at the traditional practice of having the performing arts as “extra-curricular” activities.
I am also of the view that our cuisine and our music serve as entertaining and scenic bridges, linking us with other cultural communities in Canada and across the globe. Even more than strengthening the Caribbean region’s tourism industry, they are key aspects of our international image and at the very core of our “branding” of ourselves as a multi-ethnic and multicultural region.
If music be the food of love, then let us play on!