After Fenty’s funeral
Frankly Speaking...
By A.A Fenty
Stabroek News
July 18, 2003

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Unless I had prepared this before-hand, it couldn’t be my own funeral mentioned in the caption and to which I am referring.
So an anecdotal start to this piece would be the fact that someone, whose tone hinted that he might not be a fan of mine, called from Linden to a friend in Georgetown saying “so Allan Fenty dead!”. But boo to that fellow. He has to wait a bit longer for that inevitable event. (If he survives.)
The passing last week was that of Maurice Allan Fenty, whose middle name “Allan”, only became widely known after he closed his eyes and mind for good on Caricom Day last. (As happened when, for example, the accomplished Andre Sobryan died.) And for useful reasons I’ll personalise just three more paragraphs before making my basic point.
Between the fifties and early eighties Maurice Fenty was known, to the less fortunate, to the artistic and the artistes, to the middle-class, the politicians, the police and the criminals of the time, to be a man of many talents for all seasons. He was convicted of some crime, served his sentence, was disallowed entry into the military service, became a career cynic and a commentator on all manner of social/political issues - from the causes and reality of Ghetto life to the failings of political government and Opposition and the absence of a sustained national cultural policy.
Being somewhat on the periphery of the “Fenty family” as it then was, I was an observer who found him a bit fascinating when I had the time to tarry. His was a nimble intellect, perhaps, like mine, honed in the faculty of the Urban Poor, in the University of the Streets. The grassroots - needy, dispossessed and/or criminal - usually listened to Fenty, gathering at his Wellington Street, then Charlotte locations. Remember now, it has been written: “Speak your (own) truth quietly and clearly and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant - they too have their story...” And Maurice Fenty was neither dull nor ignorant.
After prison he apparently wielded some significant influence amongst the petty thieves’ underworld, whereby he could retrieve stolen items at will - in the sixties. He chided certain criminals, he advocated prison reform, being on an influential committee and actually taught potential or released “bad boys” sign-painting and other survival skills. He himself was, in turn, a sign painter, an artist and poet, a tatootist, a boxer and judo title-holder, a classical tenor singer and social activist who actually was a Good and Green Guyana Regional Elections candidate two General Elections ago. That incomplete snapshot might afford those interested, a glimpse into a life of uncertainty, diversity - and achievement.

After the service: “Judgement”

The rootsy funeral services in Lodge last Saturday saw the Invaders Steelband playing musical tribute to Maurice its long-time caretaker. Many who were expected to “show their faces” at the farewell did not, or could not find the time to do so.
This fact upset some who were loyal to the versatile Fenty and actually angered a few. Feeling conciliatory, I pointed out to the faithful that some of the names once known to Maurice, in various capacities and for various reasons, perhaps just couldn’t make it - if indeed they had knowledge of his passing. This was most probably so especially in the case of say a Laurie Lewis, a Vic Insanally, a Norman McLean - or a Hammie Green. They were for some reason, incensed at Hammie’s absence. But, I offered, perhaps Hammie Green was not even in Guyana last Saturday.
Even as certain old lieutenants of Fenty told me of his mobilising them to escort frightened PPP officials to their East Coast residences in the sixties; or of assignments “de PNC Big Ones” would sometimes require of “Maurice’s Men”, they acknowledged that Joey Jagan, Maurice’s “neighbour” was out of the country and heaped scorn on those current government and Opposition politicians who did not bother to attend. Proceeding to the After-Service drinks at the Regent Street watering hole, I pointed out that persons like Maurice - and me - would prefer to praise and thank those who participated in his final farewell - genuine friends, the common people, the salt of the earth, the poor, the powerless-but proud.

Judge not!

As the drinks flowed I urged the more annoyed, even the more matured NOT to rush to judgement over any one. We are entitled to our preferences and biases - as others are to theirs. It is when we control and try to balance our own views against enquiry, analysis and understanding of other positions, that we achieve tolerance, practise compromise and promote peaceful co-existence.
Issues surrounding Maurice’s past, his deeds - alleged or real - and his character surfaced as the bottles’ liquids lowered. I marvelled as “the table” reserved judgement. Who dares to be judgemental, without being hypocritical, these days? How many can claim the high moral ground these days? Justifiably?

The grand debate

Homosexuality? Frankly Speaking, I am still battling to come to terms with the life-style of its adherents. But I’m old and tolerant enough to grant them their right and space - away from me. But we must be cautious with condemnation. For the grand debate is raging - gay rights, lesbian marriage, homos in high places right here, in the Church and around the world!
Criminality? Can a “Maurice Fenty” of the fifties and sixties be roundly condemned by the accused say, involved in the multi-million dollars scam and thefts? At GT&T, Guyoil, Royal Castle, Auto Supplies, Banks DIH, UG? Or by the exporter or Pageant Queen accused of drug trafficking. Two wrong-doers in sin cannot claim any right. But, I suggest, be cautious in “judging”.
May that Fenty’s Soul be treated with what it deserves after 73 years of mere mortality. A just judge awaits his presence.

Other people’s views

I share two published views regarding our educational systems and processes. First, Ian McDonald quoted a Trinidadian University Lecturer, Mr Noel Kalicharan, on the long-term devastating effects the grind to pass the Common Entrance Exams could have on our youth. (I agree!)
Says Kalicharan: “`The real tragedy of the Common the long-term damage done to them by creating in them a very debilitating mindset about learning in their most impressionable years’. Perceptibly, more and more university entrants cannot generalise, cannot infer, cannot formulate solutions to simple problems, cannot reason, cannot easily express clear and logical thought...” The devil in the works - rote learning as taught in the Common Entrance years. Yet, - I hear suck-teeths at its replacement.
Then why and how did I come across too, the remark of Chancellor Desiree Bernard whose message was read to UG’s 36th Convocation Ceremony. Said she to the graduates: “it is better to have common sense without education, than to have education without common sense.”

1) Kudos to the Georgetown Council or who admitted that the vendors’ lawlessness had its genesis in the fact that the council had been allowing vendors elsewhere to encumber and block the entrances of stores and other buildings.
How fundamentally significant, your Columbus-like observation Mr or Mrs Councillor. We are a blighted people!
2) Congrats Vivian Harris. Stand by for August, for Carifesta!
3) So “Big Truck” Braithwaite does not feel he needs a manager - My my...
‘Til next week!