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A Rose by any name

Natanga Smith

A Rose by any name

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I was wary of doing this interview. But even though nervous, I was excited at the same time. Because this was an individual of whom I had heard so many stories, seen on television and was told she was a tough cookie – a no-nonsense sort of individual.

What made it worse was that the photographer Randy Phillips and I were an hour late for the interview.

We had kept her waiting. Was she upset? Well, she didn’t sound angry when we called her four times for the same set of directions.

Randy was driving and we had to make two turnarounds (yes, even with clear directions we were confused) before we finally got to her house, at Fortescue Development, St Philip.

“Keep driving. I am not seeing you. Where I am I can see you before you see me,” she kept saying as I told her where we were on the road to her house.

“We are in a silver van,” I said, to make it easier to spot us.

“OK. I see you now. Look up. Do you see me on the patio?”

“Yes,” I said, motioning to the figure in the gigantic yellow headtie, on the back patio of the home that offers a picturesque view of the Atlantic Ocean.

We took a couple of turns and arrived at the gate, where she was awaiting us.

“Don’t worry. Many people get lost,” she said. I breathed a sigh of relief. I felt a little better but since we were late on a Sunday evening I didn’t want to take up too much of her time and while Randy went scouting the property for the perfect picture spots she invited me inside, telling me not to worry about taking off my shoes.

Rosemary was already dressed. Yes, that yellow headtie completed the African outfit she wore for the interview.

“How many pictures and how long will this take?”

 I told her two hours. There were gasps of surprise.

“No. Make it 30 minutes,” she said while her daughter Toni admonished her, explaining, “Mum, this is a photo shoot.”

She sighed, resigned to it all, and sat down. At the end of the shoot we had spent just over two hours there and the EASY team left with stories of her travels too many to mention and a different concept of who Rosemary Alleyne really is.

Q. How would you describe Rosemary?

A. That’s a very interesting question. I think that should be asked of other people – how they would describe me. To me, though, I am a shy and quiet person. People might not agree but I am shy and quiet.

Q. People see you on television and form a view of you. But do they really know you and your beliefs?

A. It is funny you should ask that. No, they don’t know who I am. Just two days ago I went to Sterling Plantation to buy eddoes. They gave me a fork and showed me how to dig. I started to dig and to take out the eddoes with my fingers. A lady said, “no, no, Ms Alleyne, I will get you gloves. I said I didn’t want any. When we were finished, the same lady came up to me and said, “You know I always saw you and thought that you was great.”  So people do see you around and on TV and form a particular opinion of you, but I have a small core group of very good friends that really know me so what people say of me that’s not true. They don’t really bother me.

Q. Tell us a bit about your family. You were very close to your parents who’ve passed. Do you miss them and how did they influence your life?

A. I have a small family group – four sisters and one brother. I have two children, my husband and two beautiful granddaughters, who I enjoy.

I miss my parents every day, William and Carmel Clarke. My dad died in 2006 and my mum in 2013. I lived with my mum in the end, taking care of her. Living with my parents and taking care of them in their golden years really showed me a lot about my own life. Sometimes on Saturday mornings, especially when my feet touch the ground, I would cry. Because that was the day when me and my mum would do stuff together, on the weekends.

 My parents were important influences in my life. They taught me the value of a good education (She holds a BA in history and political science, and an MA in heritage studies from the University of the West Indies at Cave Hill) and taught me to love reading (pointing out the wall to wall bookshelves in the family room) and those two things are priceless. When I travel, you know how women go into shoe shops? I have to tell myself Rosemary stay out of the bookstores because I cannot leave without four, five books.

Q. As host of CBC Presents (for the past three years) your Afrocentric dress has created quite a stir.

A. In 1989 I went to London on a fellowship for young journalists and walking the streets I saw these young black women wearing these beautiful clothes and they looked very regal. And I started reading about the different clothing and I said I have to start wearing these African pieces. I was always Afrocentric . . . . I was always aware of my African heritage. I have to credit Undene Whittaker who taught the girls at St Leonard’s Girls’ School in the 1970s about their beauty, and African heritage and their woolly hair. And that formed a good foundation for me about celebrating my Africanness.

Q. How do you feel when you hear or read the comments about the clothing and headties?

A. I know people don’t like them. I have had complaints come into CBC but I am not changing who I am. I am comfortable and confident in being me. I have seen on Facebook “I’ve got to buy a bigger TV to fit those headties of Rosemary Alleyne.” Sorry. That doesn’t bother me one bit. I have no problem wearing the clothing.

Q. Where do you get these outfits from?

A. Most of them are made here locally. I have many African friends living here who are from the continent and they make for me. When I travel I purchase and people send me clothing. I have a friend in Kenya who is a Masai and she makes all my jewellery and sends to me. My headties are tied a certain way to show I am married. I have traditional ceremonial pieces that come from certain tribes.

Q. Education, as you mentioned, is important to you. Explain.

A. I was at St Leonard’s Girls’ from 1970 to 1976. We had very good teachers there. Carmelita Archer developed my love for history there as my history teacher. Our challenge now is that the generations after me have not instilled in their children the importance of education. To me, it is sad to say that some black people in Barbados are more concerned about being in a materialistic society. Wrong goal, wrong focus. I would like to see us encouraging people to read more. You need that to speak well and have a conversation. We need to encourage them, especially the boys.

Q. How did you end up in journalism?

A. After graduating from UWI, I was approached by Glyne Murray about coming to work at CBC in 1982. Along the way I have had some good support. I knew that I was going to be in a field where I was going to be talking to people. At school I was always at the front of the class reading to people.

Q. Let’s talk health. You are passionate about diabetes?

A. Both my parents were diabetic. And I have to watch my own health as I am affected by it too. Food is a cultural thing so it’s a 360 degree learning curve to change your food ways. It is really, really hard to eat right and do the things your doctor wants you to do.

Q. Are you actively involved in church?

A. We are Catholics. I made my first communion in January 1969. I stopped going to church for a long time and my mum used to be upset about it. I have started going back and attend Church of Sacred Heart every Sunday at Six Roads.

I find it helps me in a way to start the week. But I am not one of these who walk about with my Christianity on my shoulder.

Q. And what about Rosemary in five years?

A. Retirement and enjoying my grandchildren. I will enjoy making conkies taught me the way my mother taught me. My legacy I want to leave for my grandchildren is that they are beautiful with their dark skin, their woolly hair and they need to celebrate themselves.


Rosemary is the director of broadcast services at the Caribbean Broadcasting. She has extensive experience in broadcast journalism having worked as a reporter, director of news and current affairs, and the head of the Archives and Information Department at the CBC. She was the second woman to be appointed head of news and current affairs in 1993 and was a news anchor from 1989 to 1994.

My pet peeve is people gossiping about people. Stating things like it’s fact when they don’t know. Tearing people down on social media. Going on that thing (said with disdain) and writing things about people that are going to be there forever. People have children. Think about if it was you. Would you want someone to write this about you that your children can see?