The Roseau Public Library Highlights Black History Month in Dominica

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Dominica’s Public Library in Roseau proudly promoted Black History Month with displays of their circulating and reference collections that focus on Black history, culture and literature from national, regional and international sources.

It was not in Dominica where I first became familiar with the value and importance of the12593902_10153992852545962_6201929265960829090_o  celebration of Black History Month, which now takes place annually in many countries.  In the early 1990’s I was working as a librarian at the Nova Scotia Archives in that Canadian province’s capital city, Halifax. Within that library’s collection were numerous monographs and serials which emphasized the tremendous cultural, educational and historical contributions of African Nova Scotians  to the Maritime region in particular.

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The Roseau Public Library was built in 1906. It is a treasure trove of local, regional and international books!

Since that time, festivities surrounding Black History and Culture have expanded to many countries, including the Caribbean.  Dominica’s Roseau Public Library is no exception, and I was delighted to see their promotion of this important event during the  month of February.

As a bibliophile, I really enjoyed perusing the special collection of materials that emphasize Black authors, history and literature.  Although these books are housed in the reference section, they are available for a special loan. You can search the collection’s OPAC (online public access catalog) with the subject of Black History to see the extensive listings here.

Here is a glimpse at some of the incredible titles that are found in that section:

A carousel of books in the circulating collection also featured prominently upon entering the library.  I was delighted that one of my donations, The Book of NegroesDSCF6973

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This carousel featured books that represent Black history and related topics during the month of February.

by award-winning Canadian author Lawrence Hill has been heavily borrowed by keen readers in the past few years.

While I am always interested in books, I rarely take in a film or video, even though I can access these genres as easily as anyone else.

But during Dominica’s Black History Month, I broke that tradition, as I was very interested in seeing  one of their featured films: 12 Years a Slave.

Many people may have already viewed this renowned and acclaimed film, which was released in 2013. I was one of a small crowd that gathered at the library  one evening to see itDSCF6974 up close and personal.

From the start, I was completely taken with the true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who lived in northern New York state  in the 1800’s. He was tricked into going ‘south’ in 1841 and was immediately sold into slavery, ending up in very abusive and cruel conditions on two plantations in Louisiana.  This movie was so graphic and detailed in terms of the gruesome violence that he and other slaves experienced that I could not look at the screen during those episodes.  It was enough to hear their cries of anguish. Tears were already falling down my cheeks by the time Northup meets a Canadian abolitionist who was working on the plantation as a carpenter.  This man risks his life to get letters delivered to family and authorities who in turn ensure Northup’s release from bondage by physically removing him from the property.  Of course, the southern slaves could only look on as he made his way back to freedom in the ‘north’. (Note: his experience took place a few years before the Civil War).

Certainly, there is more to the story, and I’ll leave that for you to experience on your own.  I can only conclude this brief review by remarking that human beings are capable of the most despicable acts of cruelty against each other, and on the other hand, the resilience of the human spirit is awe-inspiring.  I was so moved by this story that I dreamed about it.  I don’t think I can ever forget what I saw and heard in 12 Years A Slave. .  However,  I know that it reinforces my personal beliefs that we are all equal, regardless of culture, race or background and that when we treat each other with kindness, compassion and respect,  we will create a more harmonious, peaceful world in which to live.

Hats off the the staff at the Roseau Public Library and the organizers of Black History

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Miss Belinda is one of the friendly and helpful staff members at the Roseau Public Library.  You can find out more about events at this wonderful educational institution right here.

Month in Dominica. About 800 students, their teachers and the general public have benefitted tremendously from the presentations, displays and films that have given us further understanding and knowledge about various aspects of Black history in Dominica, and around the world.

 

 

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West Indian Murder Mystery donated to Roseau Public Library in Dominica

Roseau Public Library is located on Victoria Street, just south of the Fort Young Hotel.

I have mentioned in a previous post that the Roseau Public Library is one of my favourite hang-outs around town.  This stately wooden structure was built in 1906 with funds donated by American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.  Its broad veranda has a sweeping view of the hills above Roseau, as well as the southwesterly seashore.  Very often, a pleasant breeze blows through the building when I am seated at a serviceable table with books in hand.  There is even wireless internet in this century-plus building, which is a great help if I bring my laptop with me.  I am also grateful to the friendly and knowledgeable staff who are always ready to assist with any query.  My appreciation for different types of literature has expanded a thousandfold (I think!) due to its  diverse and ever-growing collection of local, regional and international fiction.

While the library purchases books and other educational materials, there are  some generous donors who give brand new or slightly used books to this wonderful establishment for the enjoyment of all.

Gwendominica hands over a copy of Island in the Clouds by Susan Toy to Davina Jones, Chief Librarian of the Roseau Public Library.

I had the pleasure to act on behalf of author Susan Toy  when I donated a copy of her new West Indian murder mystery Island in the Clouds to the library.  The Librarian, Davina Jones was delighted and asked me where she could buy more copies!   I have put her in touch with Susan to get the particulars.

Now that I have may own paper copy, I can flop down on the bed and devour it in a day or two. It has been a few months since I gobbled up the electronic version.  I wonder what I will discover this time that I missed during my first reading!

I did really enjoy this whodunnit, affectionately nick-named Clouds by its Canadian-Bequian (St. Vincent and the Grenadines) writer, colleague and friend.

Here is my first impression, which I am thrilled to report is found on the front page of the book:

I was spellbound by the development of the plot and the quirky twists that you sprinkled throughout. Sometimes I found I was even holding my breath! I also was laughing to myself about many of the cultural differences that you so cleverly pointed out between foreigners and Bequians – well I would say all West Indians for the most part. As an expat living in Dominica for almost 15 years, I could really identify with so many of Geoff’s remarks about life on Bequia.

Island in the Clouds occupies a spot (for now) on the Popular Books carousel.

I really hope that patrons of the Roseau Public Library will have as much fun reading  Island in the Clouds by Susan Toy as I did (and continue to do)!

Island in the Clouds – a Bequia novel

Available as an eBook to purchase online from:
Kindle
Kindle UK
Kobo
Apple’s iBookstore/iTunes: Apple Canada, Apple US, Apple UK
Print edition is now available!

ISBN 978-0-97879385-2-7 CDN/US $18.95


Discussion about Island in the Clouds on Tripadvisor

Roseau Dominica: Charming Caribbean Capital – Part 1

Hurricane season is here – and the heat and humidity are turned up high!  As you might imagine, the Nature Island is showered with rain, sometimes gentle and sometimes fierce at this time of year.  Although it doesn’t stop me from hiking, I am mindful of approaching storms and  inclement weather, as there are increased risks of flooding and landslides.

It’s no matter really – I can still get a good work-out around the capital city Roseau – and a sauna on the streets if I am there in the heat of the day.

This charming Caribbean capital is filled with history, gorgeous views and diverse shops and houses – both old and new.

For me, this town provides endless fascination, as its mood and temperature can dramatically change from early morning to late afternoon.  And every day is different too!

I like to walk up to the top of  Morne Bruce, which was once the island’s largest military fort.  It is situated above the Botanical Gardens.  It’s a lovely spot to take in a bird’s-eye view of Roseau on a quiet Sunday morning or a late afternoon, when the sun is sinking low over the Caribbean Sea.  The roughly half hour climb up the road is steep and is  good preparation for any future foray into the forest!  The following pictures depict some of the sites/sights  seen from above the town:

The 12,000 seat cricket stadium features prominently when looking down from Morne Bruce. The Botanical Gardens are in the foreground.

People often light memorial candles at the base of the Morne Bruce Cross which overlooks Roseau.

Behind the cross, one can gaze inland up the Roseau Valley to Morne Micotrin (Macaque), a dormant volcano.

Scotts Head is seen in the distance when walking up or down the road to Morne Bruce.The village that appears to be in front of the promontory is Pointe Michel.

The only cannon left on Morne Bruce from the 18th century seems to protect Roseau from an imaginary invasion.

The Roseau Public Library is among my favourite hang-outs in town.

Once back down from the Morne, two of my favourite haunts are found nearby on Victoria Street, on the  southern approach to the downtown part of Roseau.  I love the Roseau Public Library – and that’s no exaggeration!  This stately building is just over a century old, and was actually built with funds donated by American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. I credit this little library with expanding my tastes in literature and always offering me books of interest to take home and enjoy every week.   It’s a comfortable place to study or write, and they have wireless internet too.  The book choice is broad.  I’ve read classics, current and past best sellers, Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners, foreign authors in English translation and little known gems of literature. I’ve even expanded my familiarity with past and contemporary Canadian and West Indian writers.  There are many generous donors, including authors, expatriates, the Canadian Consulate, the U.S. Embassy and some cruise ship lines.  The library has an online public access catalogue (OPAC), so you can look at their collection, no matter where you are!

The main entrance to the Fort Young Hotel on Victoria Street. This establishment is a very popular place to socialize and/or stay awhile.

As I continue towards the town centre, I always pass by and sometimes go into to the historic Fort Young Hotel, which was originally built in 1770.  It became the Police Headquarters in the mid-19th century and then was converted into tourist accommodation in 1964. However, it was demolished by Hurricane David in 1979 and did not reopen until 1989.  It’s a very popular spot for a cool drink, a seaside meal, special events and meetings. Their famous Friday Happy Hour always draws a crowd.  It’s a great place to meet and greet friends – both old and new!

Remembrance Day 2012 at the Cenotaph in Roseau Dominica. The President of Dominica, Eluid Williams is in the dark suit in the centre of the photo.

On the way to the Bay Front and the Cruise Ship Pier, I take note of the War Memorial (Cenotaph) at the round-about on my right.  That’s where I attend the official Remembrance Day commemorative service every year.  Across the road, Peebles Park offers benches and shady trees, as well as a bandstand, which is always used by the Government Band for its ever-popular annual Christmas Concert.

The cruise ships can anchor  at the pier on the Bay Front in downtown Roseau. Photo by Edwin Whitford

During the cruise ship season, I really enjoy

A number of cruise liners anchor at Roseau during the tourist season (Oct. - Apr.)

A number of cruise liners anchor at Roseau during the tourist season (Oct. – Apr.)

watching those massive boats anchor along the pier.  It’s also fun to see them off.   I always hope that all the passengers who disembarked on the Nature Isle had a truly wonderful day.

The Dominica Museum is a great place to learn more about Dominica’s history and culture. The Tourist Information office is on the ground floor of this building.

In order to refresh my memory about Dominican history, geography, geology and culture, I occasionally re-visit the Dominica Museum, which is directly opposite the Cruise Ship Pier. It’s filled with artifacts, maps and displays.  I always come away with a better understanding of this country and am constantly in awe of its unique attributes.  Then I like to go behind the Museum and walk around the Old Market.  This particular cobblestone square is rife with history. It was a public gathering place for meetings, as well as slave auctions and punishments in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.   In addition, it was a market where at one time the trade was fruits and vegetables. This is now in another site called the ‘New Market’ – to be described in  another post.   These days, colourful stalls showcase and sell crafts, clothing, local music, and other products of interest to visitors and residents alike.  I enjoy purchasing trinkets, locally made products, T-shirts and beach wraps from the friendly vendors for gifts when I travel to Canada.

This old fountain stands over what was once a well for potable water in the Old Market Square.

The quaint Cartwheel Cafe on Roseau’s Bay Front is situated in a sturdy stone structure that has endured for more than a century and a half!

The friendly staff at the Cartwheel Cafe serve up delicious dishes and make everyone feel at home!

By now, I’ve been walking and looking around for a couple of hours.  It’s time for some refreshment at the Cartwheel Cafe (448-5353), which is  just a few steps north on the opposite side of the Bay Front from the Cruise Ship Pier.  I usually devour their Dominican breakfast, and especially enjoy the codfish plate.  If I’m just looking for a snack, I’ll typically munch on a couple of tuna-filled quiches.  Their local lunches are always large and flavourful. These tasty meals hit the spot after a big work-out (such as this amble around town!). I usually end up taking home a slice of their delectable chocolate cake for later –  in my estimation it’s the best in Roseau!

My walk around Roseau will continue on another day.  In the next post, I’ll be showing you some diverse streetscapes.  They’re an awesome mix of old and new!

References:

Honychurch, Lennox. Dominica: Isle of Adventure. Second Edition. (MacMillan), 1995.

Honychurch, Lennox.  Historic Roseau: The Capital of Dominica. (Paramount), 2000.

SHAPE (Society for Heritage, Architecture, Preservation and Enhancement. Self-guided walking tour: Historic Roseau. (booklet).