"PAK! That was the sound heard when the bullet pierced his lungs." With these dramatic words, 14-year-old Rochelle Rawlins, a student of Holy Name Convent, opened her poem, Gunplay at the Prime Minister’s Best Village Trophy Competition preliminaries, on May 27, at the Chaguanas North Secondary School auditorium.
Rawlins, wearing a demure creole dress with a head scarf, delivered her lines from memory with meaningful gestures to her appreciative audience. Her poem described the trauma suffered by an aunt when her nine-yearold nephew is accidentally killed while playing with a loaded gun he found.
She was one of 55 entrants registered to participate in the Village Chat segment of the competition, which segment comprises short story, poetry and spoken word. The Best Village competition, now in its 54th year, is open to people of all ages who belong to community groups.
“The role played by young people in channelling their creativity to speak out about what is troubling for them in our society is another encouraging aspect of why the Prime Minister’s Best Village Trophy Competition continues to be so important year after year,” said Camille Campbell, vice president of marketing at TSTT . “This competition gives persons of all ages in Trinidad and Tobago the opportunity to develop and showcase their talents and in the process bring communities closer. As the largest indigenous telecommunications provider in TT , we complement this in our daily work to connect communities and make them safer. Supporting Best Village has the added bonus of nurturing young talent through promoting our local culture.” Like Rawlins, many of the performances on the second day of the Village Chat focused on serious social issues.
Among these were performances by 20-year-old Leeum Quan Kep, who has been a semi-finalist in the National Poetry Slam competition and a finalist in the Secondary School National Poetry Slam, as well as being “an up and coming artist”, to use his words.
Quan Kep, who represented the St John’s Village Council, performed the ironic poem Crime Time, in which he observed that “Our crime situation is a Lifetime movie because most of our life each time we see crime on the news we self-consciously liken it to a movie, not our reality.” Continuing the focus on national news headlines was the Tobago Drama Guild and Hampden Village Council whose members performed a lively discussion of Problems with the Sea and Air Bridge.
This year also marks the return of Tobago to the Best Village competition after a three-year hiatus.
Reflecting on the benefits she has derived from entering the competition for the second time, Rawlins, who represented the Success Central Community Council, said, “I realise that the spoken word helps me academically, also, because it made me braver. And I see the benefits of the Spoken Word competition because it helps you in the future when you have to express yourself.” The competition rounds will continue at the Southern Academy of the Performing Arts, followed by two weeks of finals beginning on August 7 and the announcement of winners at the National Academy of the Performing Arts on August 19.