Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 4th 2014 Contents appeared for Girvan, according to Gregory McGuire,
an economic strategist, at a conference several
decades ago where he told a colleague he had entered
the meeting as a Jamaican nationalist and left as a
The Lloyd Best Institute, aka Tapia House, was
filled with great thinkers last week for an evening
dedicated to the memory of Girvan.
His thinking and his words will be deeply missed
by his peers, friends and family.
Just last December, Girvan had been amongst the
great thinkers who had flocked to the institute to
attend the posthumous launch of Lloyd Best s book
Transforming the Plantation Economy.
Some weeks later, doing what he loved, exploring
the islands of the Caribbean---on this occasion,
Dominica---Girvan fell whilst hiking and in a few
short months he had passed away in Cuba, a place
close to his heart.
That he went suddenly, without fanfare, and that
his passing was marked with decorum and private
introspection from the family he leaves behind---
wife, Jasmine, son Alexander and daughter Alatashe---
was perhaps symbolic of a man who lacked any
sense of pomposity or self-importance and was
completely unpreoccupied with status.
The work he did was to support others---individ-
uals, communities and nations: Haiti, Grenada, Cuba,
Venezuela to name but a few.
Modest, and hopeful for future
He hated being overly praised. When he was intro-
duced at the 2011 CLR James Memorial Lecture as
"the last great thinker in the Caribbean," he was
more than bashful, he was upset. If he was the last,
he wondered, then what was left of the Caribbean?
An instinctive supporter and encourager of youthful
intellectual minds, Girvan refused to accept the
notion he was the last.
His son and daughter themselves are an envi-
ronmental economist and law student, respec-
They are young Caribbean thinkers.
There were other young minds at Tapia
House, remembering Norman. Nikki Johnson
of the Oilfield Workers Trade Union recalled
seeing Girvan at a concert, his "white head
(of hair) rocking back and forth to the
music," amongst the front row of other dig-
nitaries who sat stiff, rigid and unmoving.
Johnson read out a letter from the Haitian
Platform to Advocate Alternative Development,
thanking Girvan for his continuous support for Haiti,
particularly after the devastating earthquake in 2010.
Girvan held up Haiti as crucial as the forerunner
of postcolonial Caribbean political expression, even
naming his blog 1804 Carib Voices after the Haitian
Revolution, which ended that year with the slaves
having overthrown French colonisation and slavery
and established the country as an independent repub-
On a night of tears as well as happy memories,
the assembled well-wishers and mourners were
welcomed by McGuire and Sunity Maharaj,
the hosts, to come up to the microphone to
share their memories, which they did in various
ways and, having done so, all embraced Girvan s
wife, sitting dignified in the front row next to her
Muhammed Muwakil, the young radical poet, read
a poem which listed Girvan as one of "so many
giants to thank."
Gillian Moor sang a song with the words "Fly me
to heaven, fly me home, it s time to go." Introducing
the song, she said she had "never had a chance to
tell him I esteemed him very highly. If you esteem
someone, tell them."
Ingrid White-Wilson of the Cropper Foundation
fought back tears speaking about a (political) "belief
that did not die," thanks to people like Girvan.
Addressing his daughter, whom she sat beside all
evening, White-Wilson told her that Girvan s was
"not a life that passed, but a life lived," and spoke
of the adoration and admiration he had for his fam-
ily.Nicola Cross, daughter of the late Ulric Cross,
said it was an honour to have known him and that
as the daughter of another great man she had only
later in life learned about the great "non-daddy
roles" played by fathers of the stature of the two
She said Girvan s life work was "a point on a con-
tinuum," not an endpoint, and it was essential that
younger people in the Caribbean continued the fight
to establish a community.
Economist Terrence Farrell spoke of Girvan s lucid-
ity and clarity, describing him as the "consummate
lecturer" and recalling with fondness and thanks
Girvan s assessment of Farrell s manuscript for his
"I asked Norman to read it, but of course, Norman
being Norman, he didn t just read it as normal people
do. He studied it, dissected it and unfolded it."
There were joyful contributions amongst the sad-
Venezuelan ambassador Coromoto Godoy spoke
effusively with a beaming smile on her face about
Girvan being "the greatest thing to happen to her
Having recently arrived, unconfident about her
English speaking, Girvan had seen her at an event
and they had spoken.
At the end they hugged, she said, "and that hug
stayed with me the whole year."
Girvan was the first to visit her house and the
last to leave when President Hugo Chavez died.
Amongst much praise, she thanked Girvan for
being instrumental in bringing together Venezuela
Burton Sankeralli, unionist and activist, spoke of
Girvan s socialist credentials and unwavering support
for Cuba and Venezuela before he began to sing,
mournfully and quite exquisitely, a song by Venezue-
lan singer Ali Primera called Los Que Muere Por La
The words, translated into English are, those who
die for life, you cannot say that they are dead.
The gentle rocking sound of Black Stal-
in s Caribbean Man faded gradually
out to silence and the room assumed
a respectful hush.
It was Norman Girvan s favourite calypso,
a song about a philosophy he spent years
pushing for---the Caribbean as a unified
region of communities instead of the
detached entities that have existed since the
breakdown of the West
Indies Federation half a
and political inte-
gration was some-
thing he realised
should be not
but essential to
potential of the
millions of people
living in the islands
and countries bathed
by the same ocean.
• Twitter: @GuardianTT • Web: guardian.co.tt
Continues on Page A32
SUNDAY, MAY 4, 2014
at the 2011
Norman Girvan PHOTO COURTESY: STA.UWI.EDU
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