Letitia Wright (Left)
Letitia Wright (left) and Shaunette Renée Wilson (right) are two Guyanese actresses appearing in the movie the Black Panther.
When did you leave Tobago, and what do you remember from your childhood there?
I left Tobago when I was about 10 years old. My memories of Tobago are of running up and down on the beach, exploring my neighborhood with friends, and a strong community of family. Family that always cooked and laughed together, family that supported each other and came over any day they chose to. I remember freshly baked bread and sweet bread which my cousin, who lived about 10 miles [and] four villages away, would make and have her teenage son deliver to us via bicycle. I really remember routine, and being part of something and somewhere — knowing that I belonged.
Something in particular which is etched in my memory is my village’s annual Harvest Festival (an almost weekly staple of Tobago life). There was nothing, and has been nothing in my life ever since, that compared to that kind of familial and community interaction… My entire village cooking and opening their homes for others — including complete strangers — to freely eat, drink, dance and converse. This allowed everyone to get to know each other better, and share both the celebration and the struggle of island life.
Where did your family relocate to in the US, and what was that transition like for you?
I moved to Brooklyn, New York and the transition for me was incredibly hard. It was a huge culture shock. I came from an extended family in Tobago (my maternal grandmother bore 12 children), that easily spans at least 250 people… so emigrating to a place where it’s just your mother and sister and little to no support systems was hard. In an environment that is foreign in culture, mindset and development — it was hard to acclimate. I think I retreated deeply within myself. Brooklyn wasn’t a safe space for me. I remember our first year living at our new studio apartment, it was broken into and all we had was stolen. I often wanted us to come back home but I also knew it just was not the plan. The plan was to build… to achieve … to gain something different and valuable.
How often do you get back to T&T?I try to return at least once a year. Most recently I was there, briefly, in the days before Carnival 2017, but then had to rush back to set to complete shooting for Black Panther.
How have you managed to stay grounded over the years, and what continues to motivate you?
I try to get back to T&T at least once a year. It never works out perfectly to be there for Carnival but I try every year. I fail because Carnival usually falls [during] some of the busiest times of year for me. That said, I love coming home. It charges me up and reminds me of what my life is about. What I love about my Trinbago “homeness” is that there are still a lot of things in process. Homes get built by people with their bare hands, with their blocks and cement and PVC pipes and things aren’t finished and it always feels like me. I’m in process … I’m unfinished. I always will feel like I’m in development and that’s just a great mind space to find oneself in. Film, and my current life, are all about the product and the end result but to me, it’s the story in the process that makes everything worthwhile. The process of development leads to the product. So my focus tends to stay there, and coming home always reminds me of that! Simply put, coming home keeps me grounded.
What made you want to become an actor, and when was that?
I wanted to become an actor because I love stories and I wanted to be a part of the telling of great stories to as many people as I could. Thus, my going in to film and television. In terms of process, I defined my life’s mission and figured out early on that I wanted to be a part of stories which shed light on the lives of people not often given the opportunity to tell their side of the story … you know, stories that reflect the lives of people who don’t always get to have a voice.
My love for storytelling started back home in Tobago! I would listen to the older people in my village tell folklore stories about a gold-toothed donkey that they believe was a person who could shape-shift…or of the Douens which were supposedly the souls of children who died before they were christened … or of this old man (Papa Bois) who lived in the forest and would protect it from hunters … All of these extemporaneous stories would serve to both scare the crap out of me and also send my imagination running wild! Funnily enough, despite the fear that [the stories] instilled, I would always ask them to be told to me every time older family and friends dropped by our house or restaurant … And let me tell you, they loved telling me those stories as well. This I think created my love for the genre of magical realism to this day …a genre I wish to explore further in my artistic future.
What was it like filming the Marvel films — and to land the role?
Landing the role of M’Baku in Black Panther was incredible for me! I just wanted to get in the room. I told my representation to just get me an audition and I’ll do the rest. I loved Ryan Coogler’s work … I remember being incredibly moved by Fruitvale Station and knowing one day that’s the kind of storyteller I want to work with. One with a clear and distinct voice.
What was it like for this to be your first film?
Being on the Black Panther set was something that I never experienced before. Working with my own personal heroes in that superhero setting was something poetically epic for me. To be able to meet and work alongside Angela Bassett, Forest Whittaker, Martin Freeman and Chadwick Boseman, to name a few of this incredible ensemble, and not end up feeling out of place was something I had ever only dreamed of before this movie. Also, the knowledge that I was part of something that would allow people of colour all over the world to see themselves represented was incredibly surreal. What helped me to stay grounded was a keen and detailed attention to storytelling. I was careful to constantly check in with who M’Baku was, what his attachments are and what do I wanted the world to see when they meet this man? I wanted viewers to see a strong and impassioned leader willing to do whatever he has to for the betterment of his people.
Additionally, seeing all the extras that were used to make Wakanda come to life was something magical. I remember thinking: “wow, this doesn’t happen every day…this is big! Ok … back to work”! Also, it was during our costume screen — before any shooting had taken place — and I was standing next to Chadwick Boseman, Micheal B Jordan and Daniel Kaluuya … and it all clicked … “I’m in this … this is huge …”
It’s a very charged environment at the moment — in Hollywood, in the US, and internationally. Does this have any impact on your work, your journey?
Are you seeing any positive changes in terms of the art that people are producing, or how people are approaching their work?
The climate of Hollywood certainly does have an impact on my journey. Hollywood is going through a period where a lot of people are advocating for inclusion and representation and I think that directly correlates to the opportunities I am getting. Also people are crying out for transparency, equality, and equity so it’s a space that will and is empowering artists such as myself who, perhaps, do not fit some of the previously held notions of leading male or leading female actor. New stories — which depict or are influenced by a spectrum of experiences of people of the African diaspora — have certainly created spaces for people like me to tell stories in which I can feel I have personal investment… stories which were not given the time and attention before. I am 6’5”, 230lbs and I think now is the time when the possibilities are higher for me to play people with depth… not just goons and muscle … but layered and thinking individuals who have complex motivations.
Piggy-backing off of that question, and as a Caribbean-born person, what opportunities do you think there are for Caribbean actors and filmmakers in the current landscape?
I believe it creates a huge market for strong stories that can come from the Caribbean — our folklore, our knack for great drama and storytelling has its place now! We just have to create the narrative. It’s not like it hasn’t been done before … just think Euzhan Palcy, Sydney Poitier as zenith examples! We have beautiful sub-cultures which can and should be explored! Our relationship to the sea and our fishermen; our mixed/blended cultures and the trials that come with that; our richly mixed and painful history of rebellion, revolution and discovery… all of these stories are present in our Caribbean culture and I would say the time is now. The world is “smaller” due to the internet and social media. People are craving their reflection …
Where would you like your career to go? (Writing? Directing? Producing?)
I would like my career to go into writing and producing stories about the immigrant experience. I love stories about the outsider who, through sheer will, creates their own path! I would love to explore more magical realism, and follow my personal mission of depicting people who usually don’t get seen or given the opportunity to be visible. I want to make the invisible visible!
More immediately — what’s next for you as far as projects (ones coming out soon, and/or that you’re filming/prepping)?
I’m not yet able to say what’s next for me … But I can assure you to stay tuned! Great things are coming!
Anyone you want to give a shout-out to — family, friends, colleagues, etc?
I want to say a big shout out to Bunji Garlin and Machel Montano… because I listen to their music almost every day. I listen to their lyrics of artistry, patience, process and integrity. It reminds me that I come from a place with beautiful people who create and know themselves. It makes me further interrogate who I am and why I do what I do. #BussHead And of course, forever peace and love to my mother, sister and extended Caribbean family! Big up!
And any parting words of inspiration for Caribbean actors and filmmakers in the region and beyond?
Know who you are … have a mission, know why you do it and be specific. Once you master and own this, no one will be able to define who you are outside of your own intentions!
Substantial Sargassum has been sighted along the Speyside coastline.
The Tobago Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) advises citizens, tourists and all marine interests, to be cautious while in and around the Speyside coastline.
Tobago-born US-based actor Winston Duke is receiving rave reviews for his role as the villain M’Baku in the Marvel blockbuster movie Black Panther, which opened on Friday to record audiences. In fact, Vanity Fair’s Yohana Desta rated him as one of the brighter stars of the film ahead of it’s opening. Following is Desta’s article on Duke.
When Winston Duke was a kid—9, or 10, he’s not quite sure—an episode of Frasier changed his life forever. It was Season 8, episode 12, “The Show Must Go Off”—more specifically, the scene where esteemed British actor Derek Jacobi parodies himself by doing a schmaltzy rendition of Hamlet, yowling, “I die, Horatio!”
“I ran around the house performing the bad Hamlet for a long time,” Duke says, chuckling. “I don’t know what it is about that episode, but it stuck with me.”
Two decades and two acting degrees later, the 31-year-old is, at long last, set to make his feature film debut in Marvel’s latest and greatest crown jewel, Black Panther. He’ll be introduced to millions of moviegoers and obsessive comic book fans as M’Baku, the leader of the distant Jabari mountain tribe and a villainous foil to Wakandan king T’Challa—and they’ll watch as Duke nearly steals the movie out from underneath Black Panther himself.
Duke is indelible in a role that’s been thankfully re-imagined for the screen. In the Black Panther comics, M’Baku is a classically jealous rival, itching to take the crown from his arch-nemesis. In the film, directed by Ryan Coogler, M’Baku is still angsty and ambitious, but his actions are grounded in a loyalty to his people above all else. When he first read the film’s script, Duke noticed straight-away that M’Baku often says “we” instead of “I”—the symbol of a true leader.
“He’s deeply attached to his community and the welfare of his people,” the actor says. “This is a lot more than I could have ever expected, especially for my first role.”
As M’Baku, Duke is an instantly fearsome presence, towering over T’Challa with his six-foot-five frame. But underneath that roiling fury is the sensitivity of a schoolboy who loves Frasier and a clever sense of humour (deployed with some of the film’s best one-liners), which turns him from a cardboard villain into a sensational fan favourite. And it doesn’t hurt that M’Baku is also broadly handsome, with a formidable shape-up, a spruce beard, and a marquee polish—in other words, a royal Wakandan thirst trap.
The Jabari tribe is known for worshipping the gorilla god Hanuman; in the original comics, M’Baku was actually introduced as “Man-Ape,” a name abandoned by the film adaptation for obvious reasons. But by contextualising the Jabari religion, Duke found an elegant way to sidestep negative or racist perceptions: “They haven’t been affected by colonialism and all the narratives that are associated with developing a sense of inferiority and people comparing them to animals,” he says. “To them, this is just who they pray to, and they find their strength and agency in this religion. So being a bit gorilla-influenced was a sense of pride for them.”
He also came up with certain ape-inspired characteristics for the film, including a scene in which the Jabari men grunt at an outsider who speaks without permission—a threatening cue for that person to shut up.
To find M’Baku’s voice, he researched and imitated Nigerian accents, further separating the character from the South African-inspired T’Challa. It’s just one of many ways the Jabari differ from the city-based Wakandans, who largely worship the panther god Bast.
“The panther is sleek, the panther is sneaky, the panther is covert—meanwhile, the gorilla will show up and bang on his chest and make noises to warn you about what is about to happen if you continue to cross the line,” Duke says. “We don’t hide, we don’t sneak. We come through the front door.”
Duke grew up in Tobago, in a small village called Argyle; a light accent still colours his voice. His mother worked for the government and had a restaurant on the side that often reeled in tourists. When Duke was a kid, he would show people to their tables, quickly learning how to charm strangers. When he was 9, his mother sold the restaurant and all their earthly possessions and moved the family to a studio apartment in Brooklyn in order to support Duke’s older sister as she pursued her dream of becoming a doctor. As she shuttled back and forth to the City College of New York, Duke withdrew into himself, spending most days after school going to the library or to a local comic-book store called Winston’s. (“Serendipitous,” he says.)
That adolescent-onset introversion, however, stayed with him through high school, until one of his Spanish teachers noticed that he came alive whenever he had to make presentations to the class. She signed him up for the theatre club and he never looked back, going on to study theatre at the University of Buffalo. He took a year off to hone his craft in Baltimore, then journeyed north again to enrol in the Yale School of Drama, where he became “really close friends” with an upper-classman named Lupita Nyong’o—the future Oscar winner and his eventual co-star in Black Panther. They were both members of Folks, an acting club on campus for students of colour, which was co-founded by Yale alum Angela Bassett—who, yes, is also in Black Panther. During the first cast dinner for the Marvel movie, Duke made sure to seek Bassett out and thank her for the legacy she had left behind at Yale.
From there, Duke immersed himself in Panther—embarking on a two-month-long training session with Boseman, talking shop with screenwriter Joe Robert Cole, and secretly geeking out about the set with Daniel Kaluuya, another cast member with limited blockbuster experience. “He’d come over to me and he’d go, ‘We’re in this. This is mad.’”
Before Black Panther, audiences might have seen Duke making the rounds on network shows: Modern Family, Person of Interest, Law & Order. In order to win the part of M’Baku, he had to audition four times over the course of three months, getting put through the ringer by Coogler. “He took me in every direction known to man with the character,” he says. Sometimes, he’d sneak glances at the filmmaker and realise that Coogler wasn’t even looking at him, but rather looking down and listening to the performance—sussing out “the patterns and the musicality,” Duke guesses.
In Duke’s estimation, Coogler felt a special affinity for the Jabari men, and would often rouse the cast and crew on a long day by performing the tribe’s glorious call and response. “He’s such a Jabari man,” he says. “He’s got the full beard, strong hair, very present. All these things. That’s a Jabari warrior right there.”
Duke cracks up at the suggestion that once the film finally hits theatres, the Jabari tribe might also be claimed by Omega Psi Phi, the black fraternity whose members are usually referred to as “Que Dogs”—and are known for barking and a general rebelliousness. He takes the joke, and we run with it; the female warriors of the Dora Milaje are obviously hip Deltas, while Nyong’o and Bassett’s characters are prim Alpha Kappa Alphas. It’s just another example of the way Black Panther is sure to be sewn into popular culture once it’s released. Duke can already feel the threads of his old life coming loose, can already sense pedestrians looking at him just a little bit longer when he’s on the street. “My life is changing,” he says calmly. “I’m becoming a lot more watched, and I can tell.”
Source: Guardian, Feb 18, 2018.
With Machel Montano and Superblue winning the 2018 Road March race, here are some facts about the Road March that might interest you.
1. The late Lord Kitchener has the most Road March titles - 11. Superblue is now second with 10 and Machel Montano 3rd with 9.
2. Only four women have ever won the Road March - Calypso Rose in 1977 (Give More Tempo) & 1978 (Come Leh We Jam), Sanelle Dempster in 1999 (River), Fay-Ann Lyons-Alvarez in 2003 (Display), 2008 (Get On) & 2009 (Meet Superblue), and Patrice Roberts in 2006 (Band of the Year which was done together with Machel Montano).
3. The Road March was won by two bands, instead of individuals or duets, on two occasions - The Obernkirchen Children's Choir in 1955 with "The Happy Wanderer" and Ultimate Rejects with "Full Extreme" led by MX Prime in 2017.
4. There has only ever been one tie for Road March - 2000 Superblue "Pump Up" & Iwer George "Carnival Come Back Again".
5. The Road March was won by duets on only three occasions - 2006 by Machel Montano and Patrice Roberts "Band of the Year", 2010 by JW & Blaze "Palance" & 2018 by Machel Montano & Superblue "Soca Kingdom".
6. There were two Road March competitions and two Road March winners in 1953 Vivian Comma "Madeline Oye" & Spit Fire "Bow Wow Wow" and in 1957 Lord Christo "Chicken Chest" & Nap Hepburn "Doctor Nelson".
7. Lion holds the record for most consecutive wins, winning four straight Road March titles in 1935, 1936, 1937 & 1938.
8. For 14 years, between 1963 and 1976, there were only two Road March winners - Kitchener (10) and Sparrow (4).
9. The song played the most ever to win Road March was Full Extreme with 556 plays followed by Palance with 417.
10. There were no official Road March titles between 1942 and 1945 because World War II meant no official Carnival.
Conceived by rape, born on a cotton plantation, never certain who her father was, abandoned by her mother, abused as a child because she was "yaller" and was forced to live in the crawl space under the house with the cats.
She rose to become an internationally beloved singer, dancer, actor, and comedienne. She was an anti-war activist and member of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, who gained the wrath of President Johnson and was harassed for years by the FBI. A vocal advocate of LGBT rights.
Asked about her following from and affinity for the gay community, she said, "We're all rejected people, we know what it is to be refused, we know what it is to be oppressed, depressed, and then, accused, and I am very much cognizant of that feeling. Nothing in the world is more painful than rejection."
Eartha Kitt. SHE PERSISTED.
Turtle conservationist and chairman of the Grande Riviere Nature Tour Guide Association Len Peters, has been named the 1st Commonwealth Points of Light Award Recipient 2018.
The Points of Light awards is a special series of awards recognising inspiring volunteers from the 52 countries of the Commonwealth.
Peters protects 20,000 turtle nests yearly, and has even had his work featured on BBC’s ‘Blue Planet 2’ with Sir David Attenborough.
The conservationist was recognised by Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday and named as the recipient of the award in honour of his exceptional voluntary service protecting endangered turtle species.
The Queen’s recognition of Peters’ work comes as she offers her thanks to inspirational volunteers across the 52 Commonwealth nations for the difference they are making in their communities and beyond – as part of the lead-up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London April 19-20.
In making the announcement, the British High Commission said Trinidad and Tobago is now home to one of the densest leatherback nesting beaches in the world, thanks to Peters’ educational work in local communities and regular patrols of the country’s beaches.
The Commission added that the Heads of Government meeting will celebrate inspirational acts of volunteering across the Commonwealth and help inspire others to make their own contribution to tackling some of the greatest social challenges of our time, as these stories of service are shared.
Peters, on receiving the award, is quoted as saying that he was honoured to receive the prize on behalf of the dedicated members of his organisation.
He added that the award recognises many years of dedicated voluntary service performed by him and the members of his community in protecting the environment and creating sustainable livelihoods.
Peters said he hopes that his acceptance of the award would, in some small way inspire others to see the value of voluntary service.
Source: The Loop, February 5, 2018.
T&T news blog
The intent of this blog is to bring some news from home and other fun items. If you enjoy what you read, please leave us a comment..