‘Although we may still have issues, people don’t look at the Pine in the same way. I think people from the Pine can safely go and get a job; you see more young people now going to universities.’
Many years ago a politician asked, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
It was the Pine to which the politician was referring. Rodney Grant and his Pinelands Creative Workshop have emerged as standard-bearers for the area and an example of the good that can come out of a community once stigmatised by a negative public perception of its residents.
Grant, chief executive officer of Pinelands Creative Workshop, has been a Pinelands resident for more than 40 years.
“I think the Pine has grown significantly and the people have addressed a lot of issues that affected them over the last 30 years,” he told the WEEKEND NATION.
“When we started out 37 years ago, it was to mirror the issues in the Pinelands community and to use theatre to get people to understand the issues that they were grappling with and to find some resolution in terms of stage.”
Grant explained that when the group started in 1978, there was a stigma attached to being a resident of the low-income community and people from the Pine found difficulty securing employment once their address was given as Pine, St Michael.
“We sought to change the reaction to us, using theatre,” said the community activist as he reported “a lot of significant changes in the way people in the Pine behave but also in the way in which people react towards the Pine.
“Although we may still have issues, people don’t look at the Pine in the same way,” he added. “I think people from the Pine can safely go and get a job; you see more young people now going to universities getting higher education and in the early days this is something that would not have been so prevalent.”
Grant explained that the Pinelands Creative Workshop presented the issues to the community in the form of drama from the outset.
“Once people are aware of the issues it puts them in a better position to act, and what we did over the years was to bring those issues that affected the community more in focus.” he said.
The design of high-rise housing in the Pine back then was thought to be a con tributing factor to the social problems and the workshop addressed it in one of their earliest productions entitled High Rise. The aim was to create more social cohesion.
Another PCW production, Nigger Yard, addressed the kind of class bias and profiling associated with people from low-income communities, particularly with people wearing dreadlocks in the 1970s.
Grant is satisfied the outreach presented people in the community with a mirror image of themselves, made them aware of public perception of them, and helped to create social awareness among them.
“Definitely I think the Pine has grown significantly and the people have addressed a lot of issues that affected them over the last 30 years,” he said.
He spoke about the effect the Pinelands Creative Workshop has had on the Pine community as a New York theatrical group presents the play Coyote Dreams at the Parkinson Secondary School this weekend. Opening tonight and running for the next two consecutive nights, the free production will give audiences an insight into a female drug gang on the run from the FBI and infighting among the gang that leads to its disintegration.
New York’s Nia Theatrical Production Company is teaming up with Barbados’ KickDust Productions and Pinelands Creative Workshop to present the play.
“We think that this would be an interesting production because of the issues that it will explore in terms of the whole thing of gangs and drugs,” said Winston Farrell of KickDust Productions.
“I think the partnership with the Pinelands Creative Workshop is good because over the years Pinelands has been working specifically in this community and they have a national profile as well.”
Grant added: “I think it speaks well for what is happening in Barbados socially. Theatre is a mirror of the society in which we live and I think one of the most important things is that we must be able to encourage theatre because we see ourselves played out in terms of what happens on the stage.”
Of his community, of which he is evidently proud, he quipped: “Now you have something coming out of Nazareth that you can be proud about.”
Reproduced from the Weekend Nation, Friday May 22nd, 2015