DIX: REMEMBERING KENDRICK RADIX
by Caldwell Taylor, ©2002
In the great drama of human existence some players are yeast and others are flour. And thinking on that drama puts me in mind of an outstanding dramatist- the late Kendrick "Dix" Radix. Dix took his final bow and went backstage to immortality on November 13, 2001. His stint was radically effervescent.
I first met Dix back in April of 1973. He was a young, sandal-wearing lawyer and I was a teenage rebel in quest of a cause. This 1973 meeting was remarkable if only because it was attended by circumstances that were decidedly inauspicious and, well, excitingly life-threatening.
DUCKIN' BULLETS AT PEARLS
Dix and I met while the two of us were taking shelter against a hail of live bullets fired our way by members of the Royal Grenada Police Force. This was at the Pearls Airport and Her Majesty's peace officers were responding to our protest at their refusal to arrest the individual, a policeman, who had
cold-bloodedly shot and killed Jeremiah "Dummy" Richardson, a young man from Paradise.
The bullets whizzed by and Dix challenged the grammar of gunfire with poetic taunts, and in the cracks of mortal silence -between volleys - he hung painterly sketches of what he called the "new day".... And I thought:
That fella has belly like bolie
For true, Dix had his belly and more.
BUILT LIKE A BOXER, INSTINCTS PUGILISTIC
Dix was built somewhat like a heavyweight boxer: broad chested, thick-necked and tough. His manner was pugilistic. If you threw a jab Dix was sure to pelt a roundhouse in your direction. Dix's prizefighter cast of mind went with a voice which was decanted in cadences that were a hypnotic fusion of calypsonian and storefront preacher man.
And behind that voice there was an acutely sensitive ear. For Dix understood and was able to put to good use the techniques and devices of Grenadian
narrative expression: rhyme, rhythm, repetition, riddle and roundaboutniss. Being the Grenadian's Grenadian Dix knew that our words and phrases were defined in the contours of their sound and that sound often superseded sense.
This being the case, the Grenadian who sought reaction to her speech would ask:/p>
You find ah did SOUND good?
And the Grenadian who didn't like a proposal will dismiss it as follows:
Mistah, ah tellin you flat, flat dat ting doh SOUND good atall, atall, atall
The ability to size-up the Grenadian aural landscape fitted Dix to be the creator of some of our more memorable slogans and chants:
We go be free in 73
No jive in 75
It going to be licks in 76
(This in anticipation of a People's Alliance victory at the polls- that victory eluded the Alliance forces)
The maneuver will never over!
(This one coined from a speech given by PRA soldier Steve "Pellman" Douglas at the old racetrack at Seamoon)
And towards the bloody end:
No Maurice. No work. No revo
Talking about Maurice - Dix and Maurice had a very special relationship. In fact, nobody loved Maurice more than Dix did. Of course Maurice reciprocated and it is easy to see why his cruel execution in October 1983 smothered Dix's spirit.
THE EDUCATION OF KENDRICK RADIX
Kendrick Bernard Radix was born quite literally in the lap of radical politics, in San Fernando, Trinidad, on November 25, 1941. In the nineteen
-forties San Fernando, Trinidad's southern capital, was a hotbed of socialist radicalism and Kendrick's parents, Grenadians Lloyd and Eileen , often
entertained various socialist visionaries who would expound their respective visions of a collectivized future for the West Indies in the Radixes living
Lloyd Radix, a Howard University trained dentist who had experienced the cruel lash of US style racism during his student days in Washington DC, was a
pillar of the San Fernando's teeming Grenadian community.
Trinidad, of course, has been home to large numbers of Grenadians ever since the British conquered the island from Spain in 1797 . Indeed, 'Grenadians' constituted a considerable number of the 18,000 immigrants who poured into Trinidad between the proclamation of the Cedula of Poblacion in 1783, and the British conquest some fourteen years later.
But coming closer to the period under consideration, we are reminded of the fact that hundreds of Grenadians, from the "mainland" and from the sister islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique - were recruited in the twenties to work in the Trinidad oilfields.
These Grenadians were a much-maligned group as V.S. Naipaul, the Trinidadian-born winner of the 2000 Nobel Prize for Literature, made clear in a 1994 called "A Way In the World". Naipaul wrote:
Most of the oilfield workers in Trinidad were Africans from the small island of Grenada to the north. Local people, East Indian or Africans could have been used; but the radical said (and I suppose they we right) that the authorities didn't want to disturb the local labour market and preferred to have an isolated labour force in the oilfields.
Local people told stories about the poverty and ignorance of the Grenadians. A story I heard as a child (without fully understanding it, or knowing at the time who or what Grenadians were) was that they lived off Ground provisions, which they cooked in a "pitch oil" tin.... They were too poor to buy proper enamel or black-iron Birmingham- made pots, like the rest of us; they cooked in tins that the rest of us used for pitch oil.¹
Calypsonian the Roaring Lion piconged these Grenadians. In a nineteen-forties composition. Said the Lion:
If in this place you could use a gun
Well every blooming Grenadian will have to run"!
In the same song the Lion ridiculed the Grenadians for their "gun-mouth
pants" and their ugly accent of speech.
Incidentally, the Lion visited Grenada in 1941, the year of Kendrick's birth. Lion performed in St George's and at Grenville's Eastern Theatre.² Kitch and Pretender were also on tour with Lion.
When Kendrick was a toddler his dad often enjoyed the company of David Pitt, a fellow Grenadian and San Fernandian.³ Pitt (1913-1994), a British- trained physician who made Trinidad his home in the forties, was the leader of one of the radical socialist currents operating in Trinidad. Dr. Pitt won a seat on the San Fernando Borough Council in the year of Kendrick's birth, and one year later, 1942, he founded (with Roy Joseph) the West Indian National Party (WINP), a professedly "socialist" organization. Formed essentially to challenge Cola Reinzi's Socialist Party of Trinidad and Tobago (SPTT), WINP billed itself as the "real socialist party", a one that placed class, rather than race - at its fulcrum.
Here, Pitt and his cohorts were making a claim to Marxist purity: Marxism is premised on the "inevitable overthrow" of the "exploiter classes" by
the "exploited". This idea of a historically determined 'turnover' must have had a very special resonance among a people who enacted the overthrow of its
'big pappies' during its annual pre-Lenten Carnival.
In keeping with its Marxist outlook WINP in its 1942 platform called for: the 'nationalization' of oil and other commanding sectors of the economy; land for the landless poor; diversification of agriculture; universal adult sufferage; and the 'immediate release' of Tubal Uriah Butler (1895-1977), the Grenadian-born hero of the Trinidad and Tobago working class who was jailed for 'reasons of security'.
But a mere five years later a disillusioned David Pitt left Trinidad for the UK, where where he championed the causes of Britain's African and West Indian communities. Pitt remained an important influence on Trinidad politics and for many years he remitted money and ideological advice to people like Partick Solomon and other "fellow socialists". Pitt, a life-long Labour party activist, was elevated to the House of Lords in 1975.
Young Kendrick Radix was susceptible to some other influences, for the political crusades of Pitt, Butler, Reinzi, Elma Francois, Jim Barratt (Francois and Barratt were both leaders of the Marxist Negro Welfare Association) and others, were paralleled by a literary movement that drew inspiration from the Russian Revolution, the Harlem Renaissance, the theories of Negritude, the Indian nationalism of Gandhi and Pandit Nehru, and the anti-colonial stirrings that were taking place elsewhere in Asia, in Africa and at home in the Caribbean.
This literary movement bred novelists, poets, and writers who sought to "write from below" These pioneering efforts gave rise to the so-called
"barrack-yard genre" and were "led" by CLR James, Alfred Mendes, Albert Gomes, Jean de Bossiere, among others. James's "Black Jacobins" (1938) remains the most celebrated of these early documents of 'social history'. Eric Williams's "Capitalism and Slavery" (1944) is also among the seminal treatises of the time.
Carnival and calypso also helped to school little Kendrick. Carnival is of course a season of unbridled expression and a time when the folk overturn the world of their social betters. The calypso, on the other hand, is the sung newspaper of the masses - the calypsonian being editor. In the decade of the forties the calypsonians had much to "report" as the country sought to come to terms with new social, political, cultural and economic realities. Racism was one of these realities and it was an the Americans who opened a military base at Chaguaramas in 1941. Lord Pretender's 1943 calypso titled "Nobody Better" was most likely a response to the American-imported racial discrimination. "Preedie" sang:
God made us all and in him we trust
Nobody in the world ain't better than us
And did the young Kendrick Radix hear hear Attila's scathing denunciation of "capitalistic exploitation" in Trinidad?
¹ V.S Naipaul, A Way in the World (London, 1994),pp 77-78
² The Eastern Theatre was Grenville first cinema. The Eastern was at the site on which the old R.M. Bhola shop stood.
³ David Pitt was the winner of the 1932 "education lottery", the Island Scholarship.
The first name of Kendrick Radix can also be spelled as "Kenrick".
© 2002 Caldwell Taylor. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED