My Kingston - Professor Rupert Lewis

Saturday, September 12, 2015

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University of the West Indies, Mona

What are your earliest memories of Kingston?

Driving from Port Antonio into Kingston with my parents to do Christmas shopping at Times Store on King Street and travelling in 1958 to board at Calabar High School.

Share with us the best meal you have enjoyed in the capital city.

Bammy and escoveitched fish at Gloria's, Port Royal.

Where is your island chill spot?

Goblin Hill hotel in Portland.

Share with us the title of the last book you read,

I reread Alejo Carpentier's Explosion in a Cathedral.

You have published extensively on Marcus Garvey. Indeed you introduced the teaching of Garveyism at UWI...did Garvey find you or did you find Garvey?

My encounter with Garvey was in 1964 when his body was reinterred in what is now National Heroes Park. A few years later I visited with his widow Amy Jacques Garvey. I lived in a back room of her home from 1969 until her death in 1973. Her home was an archive of documents, paintings, ceramics, period furniture and photographs. That was a thorough education for me as I was then a graduate student writing a thesis which focused on Garvey's Jamaica/Caribbean work.

Is Garvey relevant today? If so, why is there not as much buy-in?

Yes, if you read his writings on Jamaica, 1929-1934, you will see that he understood that three centuries of British racial slavery and colonialism had ravaged our minds, fostered self hate, and our mental outlook needed to be revolutionised. He conceptualised a template for Jamaica's economic development emphasising land reform, modernisation of agriculture; development of our ports; diversification of production, manufacturing. He was very strong on education calling for the establishment of polytechnics in the three counties, skills training institutions and high schools in the parishes; and the development of a university. He stood for political sovereignty geared to national and regional development.

Garvey represents a certain kind of change that cannot come easily because there are people who benefit from the system as it is, both in an economic and racial sense.

You are here celebrating the 53rd anniversary of Trinidad & Tobago as an independent nation; what are your thoughts on regionalism?

Regionalism will grow with greater freedom of movement for our people and functional co-operation in health and education and co-operation on disaster preparedness. Sports, the work of our writers, journalists, singers, players of instruments and carnivals help to mould a regional sense which is further strengthened through the Caribbean populations in North America and Europe.

Do you envisage One Caribbean?

We have been a crossroads for the civilisations of Africa, Asia, Europe, the Americas, so what do you call the region with such a diverse formation? One Caribbean is too simplistic.

You have been and indeed have played an integral role in the development of the UWI. How should this august institution position itself for the next three decades and beyond?

Adding research depth in answering the questions the population asks every day about the economy, political life, how we live, why we kill, how our environment is changing physically, the implications of new global centres of power in the 21st century. UWI has to continue to add value in its teaching and research and continue its global networking with the best scholars and researchers.

It's always a pleasure seeing you and your beautiful wife Maureen out together. What keeps the romance alive?

Love, respect and the mutually enhancing work we continue to do in our home offices.

Where's your favourite place to take your wife?

To a pan-yard in Port of Spain during rehearsals for Panorama at Carnival time.

Open the pages of your travel black book and share with us a few of your favourite places.

We visited Hangzhou and Shanghai in China in April 2015 and that was an eye-opener on the scale of housing and infrastructural development there, but especially the vibrancy of the young people. Johannesburg and Durban are top of my African list. Havana and Santiago are also great to visit.

When was the last time you had a good laugh? And conversely, cried?

Laughter occurs daily over little things. A cousin of Maureen's in Trinidad, who is also retired, feeds us with jokes regularly, and laughter occasionally turns into tears.

Finally, what's your philosophy?

Be true to oneself.

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