By Michael Lashley
Questions: What do you live for? Who do you live for? Why do you talk so much about how you “tief de people and dem mangoes”? Why do you spend so much time on public policy issues? Do you realize how much time you spend talking and writing about politics? Do you realize that your writing is so intellectual that few people will read it?
Comments: I like to hear you talk about music. Your piece on Caribbean food was great. Your tribute to (calypsonian) Black Stalin was well written. I love to hear you talk. Your speech was inspiring. Your presentation on art was an eye-opener. You should concentrate on writing; that’s what you are really good at; forget the other aspects of journalism.
Those are the sets of questions and comments most frequently sent my way. All are well intentioned and important because they raise the age-old philosophical question about the meaning and purpose of life.
The ideal would be to deal with public policy and politics in a simple and entertaining way. And to present cultural, social and entertainment issues in an uplifting way that illustrates their critical role in giving meaning and joy to life, in building social cohesion and community, and in supporting and providing solutions to the challenges we face in public policy and politics.
After election day has come and gone, we will do well to remember the colourful and insightful definition of calypso music (which corresponds with my approach to life) put forward by my all-time favourite singer David Michael Rudder: “It is a living vibration / Rooted deep within my Caribbean belly”.
In that same vein, his distinguished colleague Christopher Tambu Herbert also alerts us to the fact that “The journey now start”: our substantive hard work remains and continues to demand our attention, once the election is over.
The fact is that activist journalism is something I enjoy doing. It is one of the ways in which I fight for what I believe in.
It fits in neatly with another of my main activities: public speaking and motivational speaking. My three most recent speaking engagements have brought me the enormous satisfaction of seeing people doing constructive things, enjoying themselves and sharing with others in the process of giving to community.
I applaud the Mississauga 55 Cari-Can Group (Winston Cross and Jean Turner Williams got me involved); Imagemakers 4 Art Gallery and Community Space in Port Credit, Mississauga (Beverly Tang-Kong and Lloyd Pierre roped me in); and the Pickering Reading Program (Mala and Vinod Mahabir run an award-winning project for children).
As for my business activities, they are equally fulfilling and are mainly centered in the Mississauga Board of Trade where Sheldon Leiba and Rosa Lokaisingh keep me on my intellectual toes in our widely supported efforts to find structured solutions to challenges in business, international trade and education.
We are living the strategic approach used by Mayor Hazel McCallion to bring immense success to Mississauga: You have to involve many aspects of the community and you have to get people to develop their vision of what they want their community to be.
Public policy issues may require some “heavy” reading and writing, so one tries to keep to a maximum of 500-750 words. The work has to be done, especially through public education, which is one of the cardinal objectives of responsible journalism. The alternative “solutions” run counter to our shared commitment to participatory democracy.
I remain convinced that the trends in Canada’s labour market indicate more disaster to come, especially for our young people and new immigrants. But I continue my campaign for a change in policy direction in these two areas related to community development.
My solution revolves around redefining and re-engineering education. My thanks to all those who endorsed my commentary on this subject: “Education also belongs outside the box.”
Mahatma Gandhi advises us to “be the change that you wish to see in the world.”