ON REFLECTION: Of mental slavery and Combermere
It still boggles the mind why the confidentiality agreement between the Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA) and our homegrown international superstar Rihanna continues to be a sore point. It was the million-dollar question since the show at Kensington Oval last August, and again raised its nuisance-like head in the House of Assembly late Friday night.
Understandably, taxpayers’ money was involved, some $5 million, and the public had a right to know some details of how their money was spent. But we were told by more than one tourism official that the show would cost about $4 million, the bulk of which went to production costs, and that the Def Jam/Roc Nation star would not charge the Government a fee to perform.
We were also told afterwards that the show had broken even, despite naysaying promoters spouting negative rhetoric because they had not been part of the Rihanna-Kensington “brew” .
Yet, for the last year some Barbadians have been making Barbadians’ right to know details of the artiste’s confidentiality agreement a major priority. What “right”? It’s confidential, for heaven’s sake!
Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy humoured the Opposition in the Lower House late Friday night by giving unaudited figures, showing that the show cost $5 million and that a “slight surplus” was gained via receipts and sponsorship.
He also reiterated that Rihanna’s “performance fee was zero. We paid Cover Drive $10 000, we paid J-Cole, but we did not pay Rihanna”.
Then he went on to give his interpretation of this burning desire by some to “know” the confidentiality details.
Said Sealy: “There are several relationships which the BTA has that have confidentiality clauses and they predate me, Mr Chairman. They predate me. There are certain airline arrangements that have confidentiality arrangements. But you know, of course, airlines belong to white men. So who is a black girl who happens to be Barbadian from Westbury Road to have any international-style agreement? That is what this issue is about.”
It was an interpretation with which I agree.
Why this howl of indignation over confidentiality details when numerous agreements have been made and are being made with Government agencies and other entities – some involving far more than $5 million?
And even in the entertainment arena, when state-owned agencies would have brought in foreign artistes for Cohobblopot and the Jazz Festival, when deals would have been signed with Hugh Masakela, Kenny G and others, was the public ever given any figures, far less an audited and confidential breakdown?
Where were the howlers then? My advice to them: go and get the audited details from certain West Coast establishments, airlines, and owners of grand pleasure crafts; and afterwards, rid yourselves of the mental slavery that unofficially dictates that white is right.
It’s been a wonderful week for Combermere School and old scholars everywhere. Not only was it a joy to see a resurgence of its athletic prowess in the Secondary Schools’ Championships, but that joy would have soared in many a heart at the inclusion of a record five Combermerians in the Barbados cricket team.
It must be said that the current exalted state of Combermere’s cricket came from a low point where the school had to combine with St Leonard’s to field a team in the Barbados Cricket Association’s (BCA) competition two decades ago. But the school played the masterstroke of employing Roddy Estwick as coach, and this has propelled it to stardom.
Crowning this week’s achievement, however, would have been the elevation of Kerryann Ifill to President of the Senate. The visually impaired senator has often lavished praise on her alma mater Combermere, which nurtured her and took care of her needs at a time when national care and consideration of the disabled were not yet “fashionable”.
In my time there as well, Harold Morris enjoyed all the school had to offer in terms of learning, sports and just being a part of the intrinsic camaraderie, while making his way around the precincts of Waterford on crutches. Today, he’s a successful professional.
In my daughter’s time, I used to see a student in a wheelchair happily crossing the car park surrounded by classmates on their way to morning assembly.
And I must mention the late wheelchair-bound “wonder boy” Kregg Nurse, who captured the hearts of Barbadians through his academic prowess, determination and love of life as he gained eight Grade 1 passes and a Grade 2 in 1992 at Combermere, graduated with honours from the University of the West Indies, and went on to work with a top accounting firm.
Catering to all has long been the essence of this great school, whose song not only rallies us “up and on”, but reminds us that the lives of people, not worldly achievements, but “lives” are “in the making here”.