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Honoring The Sheroes Of The Steelband Movement: Maneuvering A Gender-Based Society

In continuing to focus on the (often) unmentioned heroes of the Steelband Movement, we must acknowledge and honor those women who were instrumental in "pan moving forward". The STEELBAND SHEROES! Indeed, once the "steelbandsmen" figured out how to come together in peace, and end over a decade of warfare and violence, the role of these sheroes became more critical to the successes of the movement. The earliest of such sheroes was the late, great Beryl McBernie. Ms. McBernie (may she continue to Rise In Peace) opened the doors of her Little Carib Theater to steelbands and provided them a venue for their early performances. In fact, she hardly ever held an event without hiring a steelband.

Yesterday, we wished another shero Birthday greetings - Dr. Dawn Batson-Borel. "Dr. B.", as she is affectionately called by her students (past and present) continues to represent the Movement with professionalism and grace. One can only imagine what she may have had to endure in becoming the head of a college music department, as she maneuvered around the "politics" of a male-dominated academic system, while advocating for a steelband academic program at an American university. Dr. B., like a true leader, further continues to duplicate herself, as we see her nurture young sheroes like Iman Pascall, Shanelle Abrams, Joanne Shortt, and the other female students at Florida Memorial University, whom she treats more like her daughters than her students.

On the international scene, we are all reminded of the universal strength of our women, as we see the great accomplishments of sheroes like Dr. Jeannine Remy and Angela Smith. Special mention and honor goes out to Ms. Keathe George, who was very instrumental in the successes of Ellie Mannette and his company. (May she also Rise In Peace). Of course, no one can forget the great Pat Bishop and how she helped influence Robert Greenidge and place Desperadoes among the echelon of steel orchestras performing classical music. Rise In Peace, Ms. Pat Bishop!

Last but not least, we honor the mothers and grandmothers who opened up their yards for the early steelbands to have a place to practice; a place to call "home". Many may not connect the dots, as to why steelbands' homes are called "panyards"; that it was the matriarchs of the panmen's families who had the vision to see that one day the steelband would become larger than life and internationally renowned.  All of these sheroes of yesterday, today, and tomorrow continue to impact the Movement in positive ways. The fact that we see so many young women involved in the steelbands is testimony of the leadership of the steelband sheroe. Young women like Keisha Codrington, who enters the finals of Pan Is Beautiful XII ahead of the pack of fine young musicians. You are ALL Sheroes, and the Steelband Movement owes you a debt of gratitude for helping to ensure that our "pan culture" continues to be preserved and protected for posterity. We, the Pan People, thank you and honor you: STEELBAND SHERO! Without you, the Movement would have died a long time ago, and those who play the instrument, would have still been known today as "steelbandsmen". Of course, we must also acknowledge and honor the wives and "significant others" of panmen. These women may not have been directly involved, but like my own mother, made sacrifices in their support of their husbands, as those "steelbandsmen" unintentionally or not, often neglected their own families for the steelband, and often took out their frustrations on their wives. Again, Shero, we honor you!

George D. Goddard, B.A.

Pan'tum - The Ghost Who Talks.

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Thanks for sharing...we have two more to add to the list: Pat Maurice and Brenda Hosang. (Yes; you too Ms. Brenda. I've seen first-hand how important your presence is in Silver Stars USA.Thank you for picking me up on 441. ☺) Ghost

P.S. Make that three more; Sandra L. Blood has given sooooooo much to the Steelband Movement, that I sincerely DOUBT we can EVER repay her. A true Steelband Shero! (There are so many of them; who would you like to honor?)

This is a very timely intervention in the pan movement. We certainly need to remember and pay homage to those women who, sometimes against the odds, stood up for the artform, and even pushed the limits of the social structure of the times. Beryl McBurnie was one such and I am sure no less a person than Dr. Elli Manette, would be a witness to her involvement, both in his life and the pan story. I happen to be her nephew, and at this time I am honoured to be the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Little Carib Theatre, and a passing mention of the song I composed last year "La Belle Rosette" in her honour,which was sung by Andrew Marcano, Lord Superior.

Another entity which deserves its place in the annals of  pan, is the Girl Pat Steel Orchestra. I don't have much information on them,  but, again they need to be placed high on the totem pole, since as I said earlier, the social stigma attached to being involved with the steelband, was great, and the turnaround was all the more remarkable- remember the line in Rudder's "The Engine Room"-" My granddaughter beats for a steelband".  Note it is not the mother of the child ,but the grandmother, who probably would not have allowed her daughter, the child's mother, to go close to a panyard.!

And  I would certainly endorse the other side of the story, those better halves who stood behind their menfolk, and supported them even at   some cost to themselves and families. Mike Germain.

Mike, thank you so much for your comment. It certainly gives meaning to the reason I posted this discussion. To be honest, I do not know where these discussions I post come from, so I have to believe that they are "divinely sent". lol. Anyway, it is a great honor to be able to pay homage to you beautiful, talented, strong and culturally-aware aunt, Ms. Beryl McBernie. My dad ADORED her in the purest sense of the word! Thanks again for you comment. Ghost (George David Goddard)

Pantun . Yes! Yes! Thank you for this story. It was long overdue.  Another Doctoral dissertation or book for you. Guidance my bredren. Dr. Lance Seunarine

Glenda Gammory, Pantonics Steel Orchestra, USA, and one of the powers behind Mr. Clive Bradley.   Ms. Gammory has held high the Pantonics banner since Mr. Bradley's passing over.   This is not a small feat in New York, Brooklyn.   Glenda Gammory must be included for her work in the Steelband Movement (foreign).   Thank you "Ghost" for this timely consideration!

Yes Yvette, Glenda Gamory indeed has to be considered one of the most important figures in the history of the modern era of pan.

Thanks George for honouring the "mothers" in the pan diaspora.              {Dr. Pat Bishop/Desperadoes} lol

@ Yevette, thanks for mentioning Glenda Ford-Gamory, we grew up together in Laventille

For trivia, these are some of my ladies:

Mrs. F. Hills-Headley: co-founder of Golden Hands Steel Orchestra, has nutured many a young to become productive citizens of Trinindad & Tobago through the discipline of pan

Vanessa Headley: composer, arranger, pannist

Daisy James: one of the earliest to get "many a licks" but stuck with it becoming one of the noted players

Yvonne "Bobolups" Smith: one of the earliest noted "flagwomen"

Ursula Tudor longest active pannist with Desperadoes since 1970, and played on 18 of the band's various victories

Michelle Huggins-Watts: first to arrange a winning tune at school competition,                                                     captain a large Steel Orchestra (Phase II 98/99) and arrange a co-winner at medium panorama

Chantal Esdelle: pannist, arranger and first to co-win the soloists category at P.I.B. (1992)

Niasha Layne: first to win the soloists category outright (1994)

Keisha Codrinton: youngest soloist winner at 10 years (2004)

Natasha Joseph: Excellent pannist, only one amid the boys at Panazz 

Dr. Dawn Batson: only one since Dr. Pat Bishop to arrange a winning piece at P.I.B (2000)

Dr. Jeannine Remy: only American to arrange a winning piece at Pan in the 21st Century (2010)

Mrs. Joycelyn Sealy: musicologist personified 

Thanks, Ian, for the correction and the addition to the "Wall of Steelband Sheroes". I don't know how I got that mixed-up; seems like no matter how much one proofreads, there is always something that's missed. It took a man form "up de Hill" to catch it, but knowing Laventille's history, I'm not surprised. Without Laventille and the "Lamplighters", there would have been no "University of Woodford Square", and Dr. Eric Williams would not have been victorious in his drive towards independence. It hurts to see what Laventille has become today; the same young men who held intellectual debates under the street lamps, are now killing each other. (What can we do as an international steelband community to help return Laventille to its glorious past?) Ghost

BTW- I made the correction; thanks again, Ian.

Thanks George,

                        We in the pan world should always try to uplift rather than bring down each other. I am also guilty of being "a miss" in my proof reading at times. (lol)

About my beloved Laventille, I do not see what the outer world sees, and I am quite comfortable writing from the same house that I spent my first 18 years of life. From my experience, only 4 grand children of friends that I grew up with, turned to the other side; I would not use the word bad. I remember a speech of Malcolm X saying, "we do not bring in the drugs." I know that no one forces anyone to use drugs or use the gun. However, if using drugs and guns are bad, why importation of these deadly items are "not bad."

Yes, everyone tells me that I am in denial about the state of crime in T&T (lol). I am missing the Miami Carnival once again. Tell Brenda and Lloyd Payne of Silver Stars USA good luck at tomorrow's panorama.

Love, Peace and Pan

Ian,  Tripoli had a woman double second player in the early sixties, I think her name was Dotsy you must find out about her because she had to be one of the early pan women.

Greetings: Ian is a walking pan encyclopedia. I truly respect this bredren's knowledge and if you have not purchased one of his books, please go out and do so. Guidance.  Dr. Lance Seunarine

Thanks Dr. Seuanrine,

                                   I am trying to get back my T&T, but it is an uphill battle. I was at city gate and suggested why we do not line up and first come first board. Well people looked at me as if I was crazy (lol)

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