Ready to defend his crown
Barbados Crop Over 2002 belonged to Bajan soca star Lil’ Rick, who drove the masses wild on stage and on the road with his high-energy performances and the monster track Hyper Dawg. Backed by a big following, both locally and regionally, he walked away with the road march and party monarch titles. One year later, he’s both more infamous — thanks to his run-in with Trinidadian kaiso artists Denyse Plummer and Sanell Dempster at the “Battle of the Sexes” show held at the Kensington Oval — and more beloved. He’s even being compared to Machel Montano, for his grassroots appeal and constant top billing. At Crop Over 2003, keep your eyes open for more fireworks, both on and off the stage!
Pulitzer in the tropics
When Cuban-born playwright Nilo Cruz won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for drama in April, New York theatre mavens were taken by surprise: his winning play, Anna in the Tropics, had yet to make its Broadway debut (and it had been 11 years since a play had won the Pulitzer without a New York production). Commissioned and premiered by the New Theatre in Coral Gables, Anna is the story of a family of Cuban cigar-makers living in Florida in the early 20th century, inspired by Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. “By honoring my play,” said Cruz, who teaches at the Yale School of Drama, “the Pulitzer Prize Board is . . . actually acknowledging and securing a place for Latino plays in the North American theatre.”
Trinidadian Nadella Benjamin is energetic, fearless, and, at 27 years old, remarkably certain about her life’s mission: to document the cultural traditions and art-forms of the Caribbean, while taking an active role in their promotion. When London’s Yaa Asantewaa Community Centre asked her to help design costumes for the 2000 Notting Hill Carnival, she decided to go and see for herself. In 2001, the centre invited her not merely to help, but to design the entire band — which went on to win first place in that year’s competition. This year, Nadella is coordinating a full-scale Caribbean village, where Notting Hill masqueraders can sample island cuisine and browse distinctive Caribbean products. But her designing days are not over: the big plan includes working with Peter Minshall’s Callaloo Company in 2004.
Making a big gesture
When the Royal Ontario Museum’s new Crystal wing opens at the end of 2005, it will bear the name of Jamaica-born billionaire Michael Lee-Chin. Last April, the museum announced that the $30 million lead gift in its major fundraising campaign had been given by the chairman and CEO of AIC Limited, an Ontario-based financial assets management firm. Lee-Chin migrated to Canada in the 1970s, and entered the financial services industry after graduating from university. Rising rapidly through the ranks, he bought AIC in 1987, and took the company’s assets under management from $1 million to over $14 billion. “I represent a large segment of the new Toronto,” he said, speaking when news of his donation was made public. “It was important that the lead donor be someone like me.”
Marion Hall, aka Lady Saw, is a patois-centric pioneer without equal. Her tough, raunchy, yet eloquent style — full of salty Jamaican poetics and style-bending assuredness — has broken barriers, earning her respect in the male-dominated dancehall world. She’s also in high demand as a collaborater with hip-hop and pop-rock acts — she’s worked with No Doubt, Missy Elliot, Lil’ Kim, and Eve. Her fans get to experience Lady Saw’s lyrical prowess live this August at the Red Stripe Reggae Sumfest, where she’s sure to make a scene with selections from her new album, Striptease.
Hail to the chief
First-time director Shola Lynch is bringing Caribbean-American history alive in a new documentary for PBS. Lynch, whose family hails from Tobago and Grenada, takes on the spirited 1972 US presidential campaign waged by Bajan-American Shirley Chisholm. Chisholm was the first black woman elected to the US Congress, and the first black to run for the presidency. Lynch’s toughest challenge? Getting Chisholm’s permission. “She’s as feisty now as she was then,” laughs Lynch. “I had to filibuster to convince her.”
The 2003 Easter weekend brought triumph for Team Jamaica at the Carifta games, as they topped the final medal table with a total of 76 (39 gold, 23 silver, 14 bronze). One man in particular, world junior 200-metre champ Usain Bolt, had an exceedingly good time. His magnificent performances brought gold in the 200-metre, 400-metre, 4 x 100-metre, and 4 x 400-metre events. He also established Carifta records in the 200 and 400, and helped the sprint relay team to a new games record. No surprise that he also walked away with the Austin Sealy Trophy for the meet’s most outstanding athlete.