From its conception Force Ripe has always had its own journeys to travel. It own destiny. I left Grenada on Valentines Day. A bit ironic for me as I had left during some challenging times at home. I remember sweating in the heat. Having been warned about the cold spell, I had piled on the layers. I stopped off at Marcelle’s birthday bash down Wildwoods, to collect a coat which saved me on that cold, four and a half hour flight. I said my good byes and headed to the airport. Jetblue to New York. The plan: a few days in New York , go to Toronto for the Grenada Independence Showcase, back New York and home to Grenada.
I sat on the airport waiting for my flight, my mind heavy with the challenges instead of joy and excited about this brave venture. So heavy that I couldn’t even move myself to hand out my Force Ripe bookmarks, which I had ready at hand. It was rather refreshing when a young man, loaded with camera bag etc. sat next to me and started chatting right away. Next thing I know he is doing a quick on the spot interview, which was posted on Whatzup NY, which made me cringe every time I looked at it! It did get some good traffic. The journey had begun.
I arrived at JFK to a kind of cold I once knew, but which my beautiful Grenada had wiped from my memory. It was hostile. As if to say “you wretch you! In New York you want! Take it in your backside!” But there was Mr Johncrow Alexander, waiting, coat, gloves and scarf in hand and the car door held open!! And the journey continued.
My connection with Johncrow came through Wendy Crawford Daniel. Now Wendy is one passionate Force Ripe angel! From the time she read Force Ripe, she began her own personal campaign, spreading that infectious love she has with everyone she meets, full force! Wendy almost sold more books than me! But what is most commendable, and I admire and respect her most for, is the fact that she is an author herself. But she had no reservations whatsoever. I am ever so thankful for support like hers.
And like an athlete in a relay, Johncrow Alexander took on the baton and did a “jaguar”run with it. Well known as the voice of the Caribbean Classroom TV show, and being a very well connected man of action, he put down a good “Kirani Run” in truth- putting together the first event in Brooklyn , Ladies of Words, with three other authors of Caribbean decent , Claudette Spence, Tyrrel Ebony and Nandi Kai. My very first event of its kind. A Literary evening to present Force Ripe in a room packed with pride, familiar faces and almost tangible emotions. It was a much needed ice breaker for me to start this first event, looking into the faces of people who had connected with me in one way or another, through Facebook, through friends and family and of course through Mr Johncrow himself. The Grenada Independence Showcase in Toronto followed. It was the event which I left home for. I had done my ground work, pushing Force Ripe, especially on Facebook, since its publication, at the end of September 2015- I will now give myself a little pat on the back- I was pushing it so hard, I was sure people were starting to get tired of seeing it. But it’s my baby and I am determined to give it my all!
Of course I had the challenge of how I was going to afford that trip. But when I get something set in my head to do, and I feel the passion, it will be done! So I set to work, making contact whith the Consulate in Toronto and got connected to Trisha Mitchell, the coordinator of the event. Some contacts and inquiries made by my good friend and ardent supporter, Cathy Beharry-Ayanwale, Table booked, I set to work on making it happen. It was when Johncrow came along, and with the support of my friend Judy Antoine, they represented me at the New York Independence celebrations , selling out the books which I had sent him, that I saw the reality. Ticket funds.
And so the journey continued, From Toronto, I travelled to Montreal. An opportunity which came about while I was in New York. And it warms my heart to see how well Force Ripe was embraced by the Grenadian communities. The people who came out gave their genuine support, especially the Grenada Association in Montreal, together with Honorary Consul, Mr Leonard Wharwood. They pulled together an event which packed our Grenadians supporters into a cosy room at Le Spot, perfect setting for an intimate evening of sharing poetry, readings, making connections. Gemma Raeburn- Baynes’ Taste of Tea followed – a very different event with a very diverse audience. Force Ripe make its appearance and I enjoyed an evening tasting tea with some amazing women and a wonderful musical experience which touched my core! That guy reminded me of Barracuda, he was Italian also. Amazing thing he did with opera! Loved it. And I cannot forget my evening at the home of Dolliver Lewis and his family, a fellow Grenadian and generous supporter. What a spread! Topped off with a well stocked bar and toast with Champaign! Thank you Dolliver and Marsha!
Atlanta was next. And it was warm, both the people and the weather. Sherryl Calliste Thegg, the president of the Spice of the Caribbean Association of Georgia, through connections made by Johncrow, accommodated me and organized a great event with a Caribbean mix, a lovely spread of delicious food and music to celebrate with dancing- another passion of mine. Perfect end to the evening.
Washington DC was my final stop before the last few events in New York. And the Embassy, co-ordinated by Ms Dianne Perrotte, even at very short notice, organized an Evening of Literary sharing, an event which carried its own weight in the literary Arena, with Grenadian Dr Merle Collins, and authors Jewel Daniel Amethyst, and Carol Mitchell, (recently shortlisted for the CODE Burt Award for Caribbean Literature), both from St Kitts. It was a beautiful evening of readings, reconnecting, rekindling and celebrating with friends and colleagues.
After DC, the next stop in Brooklyn was at MCG Grand Cafe- run by Mr and Mrs Gibbs, who invited me to present Force Ripe at their popular little restaurant and Grenadian hang out. And those impromptu events were the best sellers.
The tour ended with another literary evening at the LAC Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Centre in Queens, sharing the platform with some great Ladies of Words and music, and culminated with more celebrations at the home of fellow Grenadian, Frances Purcell, on Easter Sunday. And after three very long days, I returned to my Isle of Spice. Nice.
Now I have a lot of people to thank. To everyone who has been involved, made contributions, no matter in what way, how big or small. Thank you!! Even before I left Grenada, my friend Marilyn, living in Montreal, had been boxing her brain about how to get me to bring Force Ripe to Montreal. She took on the task of mobilizing on her end, sending out emails, making calls, forwarding information. She was so determined to get me to Montreal, she even bough my train ticket, accommodated and really looked after for me. Boy do I have thanks to give!! I must recognise this as the collective effort it was. This community coming together out of passion and yearning for something which brought them back to a place which they loved, a time they treasure and something they could relate to, identify with. You were all very amazing- providing accommodation, transport. In cases, people who didn’t even know me. The support was tremendous. Every event was different in its own rights, and equally successful in more ways than one. This journey has been a special one, not only of sharing my book Force Ripe with that part of the world, but one of great learning, giving, receiving, trials and a lot of loving too.
Every once in a while, something or someone comes along that makes a difference and Force Ripe is one of them. From its conception, way back in 2001 to publication in 2015, it has been on several journeys and from the response it has been receiving, it is evident that it has also touched many in so many different ways.
Mr Johncrow Alexander- the man with the big voice and the connections, you used them to mobilize the support of your contacts, pull together those events where I had a platform to share my story, my experience. You got in the driver’s seat and helped to steer Force Ripe into a different path, changing the course of its journey. But you did much more than that, and I sincerely thank you and your family. I am full of gratitude. And all of the angels who were sent along the way to lend a hand, to direct and to guide my movements on this Journey. Big Thanks to EVERYONE!!!
Photos from tour.
Ladies of Words – Brooklyn New York
For More photos check out the links below