August 2017

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An article from the Indian Express was sent to me recently, a terribly disquieting piece on Patrick Patterson, the Jamaican fast bowler who was arguably one of the fastest ever to play cricket for the West Indies. An Unquiet Mind, written by Bharat Sundaresen, describes how difficult it was to track down Patterson amidst a sea of rumours that he was lost, homeless, mentally ill, destitute. They finally meet and for four hours at a waterfront bar they talk about a range of things, including “dark days that were as dark as midnight,” from which he has not yet recovered.

Sundaresen had been trying to meet Patterson since 1987, and every time he returned to the Caribbean he would keep looking, until it became something of an obsession to find the man who was one of his heroes. “It was like the West Indies had not just given up on, but forgotten, one of their superstars of yore,” he wrote.

Patterson’s story is familiar – a talented young country boy making it to the big times, but uncomfortable with the transformations it brings. He feels like an outsider all of the time and soon, there are disciplinary issues. He falls away and practically disappears, drifting into a shadowy world that seems dominated by paranoia.

Sundaresen asks what his hero has been doing over the last 25 years.

“Absolutely nothing. Nothing that promotes good living,” is the 55-year-old’s response.

Is Patterson yet another fallen hero? And if he is, was he pushed? And if he was pushed what were the forces that pushed him, and what might have possibly saved him from this life of perpetual midnight?

“Heroism comes in different forms,” says Wendell Mottley. He is recounting that historic July 24 of 1976, when Hasely Crawford won a Gold medal in Montreal, the first Olympic gold medal for Trinidad and Tobago. A 100m medal in 10.06. (Ten years later, baby Bolt was born and he would clock 9.58 in an epoch of his own.)

“Back on that July day in 1976, every TV set, handheld radio and rum shop audience across Trinidad and Tobago was tuned to the Olympics and cheering on their countryman – hoping and praying for Hasely’s victory,” Wendell told his rapt audience. “There were 66,308 spectators packed in the stadium. There was a hush as the athletes came under starter’s orders. BAM, shot call, race GONE and in a 10.06 second flash, Hasely Crawford races into His-Story and becomes an enduring hero of Trinidad and Tobago.”

Wendell is an Olympian himself – 1964 Tokyo – bringing home silver in the 400m and a bronze in the 4x400m relay. A dozen years before Hasely, he had been on an Olympic track. He could talk about what it meant to prepare, to compete, to find acclaim and then have to live with it.

So here he was giving the feature address at the launch of an exhibition to honour Hasely Crawford’s achievements – and while it would be more specific to say achievements of 40 years ago, I think it is more accurate to say for over 40 years – as Mr. Crawford has contributed unstintingly to national development since then.

He had been inspired to run as fast as he could by the sheer determination to break out of the poverty he knew as a child. Unlike Patrick Patterson, he had found people to support him, and so his energy did not drag him underground into dark, shadowed places, it lifted him into the light.

So the National Gas Company joined with him and together they have done a lot to help nurture young people. The one everyone knows is the Right on Track Programme, teaching primary and secondary school students in track and field and basketball. On their website, NGC says, “Since its inception in 1999, the NGC Right On Track Development Programme has benefited more than 15,000 participants in 105 communities and eight institutions; it has trained 88 coaches and it has formed and/or restored seven athletic clubs. Its impact is evidenced by the many coaches who have seen results in the form of improved athletic ability, pride in achievement and character development.”

That’s impressive, and it is not the only evidence of CSR from the Company. Their website lists a series of sponsorships: three steelbands, the Bocas Lit Fest, Sanfest, partnering with Habitat for Humanity, partnering with The UWI. They epitomize good corporate citizenship. To my mind, it is partnering with communities by investing in their development that helps foster the feeling of belonging that makes people want to do good and build rather than break down their environments.

At the launch, NGC CEO, Mark Loquan acknowledged that our greatest wealth is our people.

“To know our heroes is to know ourselves: our values, our collective history, who we are, and what makes us as Trinbagonians, great. Recognising our heroes is an acknowledgement of who we are as a people. We are not waiting for the rest of the world to validate our heroes, or until it is too late,” he said. “This is the reason for the NGC National Heroes Project.”

The Hasely Crawford Legacy is the first of a series called INVICTA, where NGC will celebrate a national hero annually.

The exhibition that was launched is going to be housed at the Alma Jordan Library here at the St. Augustine Campus for two weeks. Then it will take to the road in the kind of mobile caravan set-up that I assume is the way the Right On Track Programme has managed to hit 105 communities.

It is something corporate T&T needs to get on board with. It is no good pointing fingers of blame at the public institutions as if they alone must shoulder the burden of building and development. Within its institutional framework, The UWI has expertise in practically every discipline. Corporation cooperation is the healthy way to go.

The Alma Jordan Library is often seen as the silent home of academia, inaccessible and unwelcoming to the public. Those days are past. It would be a wonderful thing to see exhibitions, performances, book launches, and readings taking place within and without its premises. There are several museums at the campus; we need our corporate citizens to see them as spaces to rekindle interest in our society. We need our libraries and museums to come alive because our histories have predisposed us to amnesia, and they are the best sites to remind us of ourselves.

On the first day of the Exhibition that Hasely Crawford attended, scores of people thronged the Undergraduate Reading Room to meet the affable hero, clad appropriately in a dazzling gold shirt, as he mingled and signed autographs.

One little boy, no more than six or seven, tugged impatiently at his mother’s hand. “Look de gold medal!” he kept saying, his eyes glued on the shiny trophy.

What has it taken for NGC to foster these meaningful relationships with the community it lives and works in? How has the Bocas Lit Fest managed to thrive so well in a place where we say people no longer read?

It is because the Lit Fest has been a site where the heroes of the world of writing have been brought out and dusted off and put within reach. They have been made into living, reachable, creatures of this world, not shadowy figures from the land of unattainable dreams.

And that is the value of having a hero in your midst. Did Hasely Crawford set out to be a hero? Did Patrick Patterson? Were they two young, working class boys from the country who loved to run and play and found a talent in their hobby? When Hasely burst onto the scene, he found support, when Patterson did, he found a world that he still thinks is trying to get him.

“Heroism comes in different forms,” said Wendell Mottley.

Perhaps heroes are the ones who find it inside themselves to reach out and lift the little ones right up to the pinnacle of their dreams.

Vaneisa Baksh


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Editor: Vaneisa Baksh

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