Blind Gladiators ready for battle
WHEN THE KINGDOM of Super Gladiators calypso tent opens next Thursday, two men will bring a difference to the stage – not just musically but in their unique perspective.
Granville Mr DJ Carter and Elviston Size 2 Maloney are both blind, and were invited by tent manager Peter Roy Byer to add their melodic voices to Crop Over after turning in impressive performances at the annual National United Society of the Blind (NUSB) competition.
When the third NUSB contest came off last Independence Day at Prince Cave Hall, Byer was among those in the audience who were blown away as Lisa Lady Emerald Williams topped the other visually impaired calypsonians, with Maloney placing second, Red Man third and Carter fourth.
All four were invited to be Gladiators; two declined, and the rest is history.
“I’ve always loved singing and currently perform with the Limelight Chorale, which has a wide repertoire of music ‘from wine to iodine’,” was how the affable Carter – a cricketer, DJ on a Caribbean Internet radio station, and an employee of the Centre for the Blind and Deaf – put it.
The father of two boys will compete in the Pic-O-De-Crop competition with the self-penned Barbadian Radio and The Blind Leading The Blind.
The latter, with its intriguing title, stems from Carter’s experience travelling through Bridgetown after leaving the centre on evenings and hearing unkind comments from passers-by.
“My colleagues and I would hear ‘Oh Lord, de blind leading de blind’. If we don’t hear it on the streets, when we go into some stores we hear ‘three blind mice’ because three of us move together,” explained Carter, who sang it in last year’s NUSB contest and has tweaked it with a stinging new chorus.
“It also speaks to some issues related to how women are treated in society today, how men refuse to do their duty such as supporting their children, some pastors in the country whose main goal is money, and a bit of politics. For instance, the last line says: ‘The people say three blind mice, yuh see, but I can count up to 30’,” he said in obvious reference to the 30 sitting Members of Parliament.
Of his other song, Carter explained: “We have about 14 radio stations but when you switch from one to the other, sometimes you hardly hear local music. So this song is basically making a plea to support our musical industry.”
“The time has long passed for segregation, and this is time now for inclusion. I see myself, though I have my challenge, as equal to anyone else. We have a slogan in our organisation, Disability Is not Inability, so I see myself as having the ability to do almost anything I want to do, and I always tell people that the only thing I don’t do is see,” added Carter, who travelled to India in 2012 on the West Indies’ blind cricket team.
Born 52 years ago with retinitis pigmentosa, he and an older sister Marilyn bear the same condition but noted that his boys Renaldo, 23, and Caleb, 18, showed no traces of the hereditary disease.
Maloney is also ready for the big stage with the self-penned Woman Is Boss and the uptempo A Little Soca.
Taking his stage name from a joke passed by someone who had been introduced to him for the first time, he recalled: “A friend of mine introduced me to a female friend of hers, and when she met me, she said after hearing so much about me she was looking to meet a big man and didn’t know she was meeting a size two. I laughed and decided to hold onto that name.”
The man who is in charge of information technology training for blind and visually impaired people at the centre said his condition had resulted from two accidents:
“When I was six months I had a fall and struck the back of my head and that damaged the optic nerve and led to loss of sight in my right eye. Then at 14, one night I was going for a ball we used to play cricket with and my mother had a Singer machine, and I didn’t see that its cover was open, so when I bent to pick up the ball I actually struck my eye on the edge of the cover and burst the ball of the eye,” he calmly recalled.
He has been able to cope superbly up to now, at age 56, through strong support of relatives and mentors, including a young woman he met at the centre many years ago.
“Hooking up with her, she never allowed me to sit down and think about blindness. She was always out and about: tea parties, fairs, garden parties, picnics . . . . The only thing she couldn’t get me out to were dances. I wasn’t a dance fan, but I never had time to stop and feel sorry for myself,” Maloney told the WEEKEND NATION.
A father of two, Shari, 25, and Chelston 20, Maloney has travelled the region representing the Caribbean Council for the Blind, to England and New York with the Council for the Disabled, and to Taiwan representing the Very Special Arts organisation.
“I have felt for a long time in Barbados that people do not recognise nor accept that people with disabilities are only people who have disabilities. Often people see the disability and not the individual. They think that your disability is you. People often don’t see that you have potential, dreams, hopes and you aspire like everybody else to become someone in your life,” said the IT specialist who aspires to run a business some day.
“My major objective is that you stop long enough to recognise that I’m just a man who happens to be blind,” said Size 2.
Both men see a wonderful season ahead as Gladiators.