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​It’s Not Easy Being Green

My name is Dr Everold Hosein and I am the political leader of the Green Party, the least well known political party in Trinidad and Tobago.

I was born many, many years ago in the small sugarcane village of California, where everybody mind your business. My father, a tailor, and my mother, a seamstress, had six children and a two-room barrack house. No pipe-borne water, no electricity. Not sure they finished primary school. But my father read the newspaper every day and had great debates in his tailor shop and my mother taught me long division with a piece of charcoal and a brown paper bag. We eventually got an upstairs-downstairs house, with water and toilet in the house. Quite an adjustment form the latrine. Every morning I swept the black soot from the Brechin Castle sugar factory off our gallery.

I work now as a consultant to the WHO, UNICEF and other UN agencies. I live now wherever my head hits a pillow. Some nights it is at home in Indianapolis, some in New York. Some nights it is the Chaguanas family home of a Presentation College friend. Some wherever I am working. I have slept in about 150 countries over the years.
I am married to Dr. Barbara Hosein, originally Barbara Hughes from Kansas, a retired biochemist, now an artist. Dr. Megan Hosein, our youngest daughter, is a psychiatrist. I am hoping she will get me into one of those supervised trials on psychedelics, LSD and psilocybin! Our son Jinnah is IT VP at Boeing in Seattle. He was with Elon Musk at Space X. The eldest of our four grandchildren is off to university this year.
I have lived in the U.S. for many years. But still don’t quite understand baseball.

I went to a village pre-school run in her home by a local teacher who taught full-time at California Government Primary. Miss Rose wore layers of make-up to make her skin lighter. The Esperanza Presbyterian Primary school building I left in 1957 is the same building now, exactly the same classrooms, no walls between them. In Trinidad, I learned the f-word was spelt with an "o". In the U.S., they the "o" was replaced by a “u".

I was lucky to get into Presentation College, San Fernando, but my parents had to pay for my secondary school education. I came fourth in term exams and went to 2A. I completed A’Levels in physics and mathematics but my true education was from books borrowed from the Carnegie Free Library. Four family members signed up, meaning I could borrow 12 books at a time.
In my final year I won the Jaycees national public speaking contest. My topic, The Traffic Problem will be just as relevant now.

I eventually joined the International Planned Parenthood Federation in New York. Getting good Roman Catholic women to ignore the church. My son would describe my work as selling condoms.

I remember walking along the road to the California mosques with my father for the two Eid prayers, sometimes for the nightly Ramadan prayers. I remember children shouting "Madinga, Madinga!” Years later, in The Gambia, I realised many African slaves were Mandingo Muslims. How Madinga became an insult for all TT Muslims, I don't know.

A Muslim colleague says there is no such thing but I describe myself as a non-practicing Muslim. Maybe a bad Muslim. I like my rum-and-coke but I do fast during Ramadan to remember my father.

Religion is your human response to being alive and having to die. Whatever you choose to do with that time [in-between] is your religion.

I do 15 minutes of Zen meditation every other day and run/walk 11 miles every other day and I find that relaxing, particularly afterwards! The serotonin and dopamine in the brain are fantastic after a run. Plus, the rum and coke.Last November, I completed my 37th consecutive New York City Marathon.

I try to read widely. The New York Times every day, fully acknowledging their bias. Some fiction. Mostly non-fiction.VS Naipaul is at the top of my list of great writers. I would read anything by John Le Carre.

I have too many “favourite” musicians. David Byrne. Leonard Cohen. Paul Simon. Queen. The Beatles. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Krishna Das (formerly Jeffery Kagel). Bob Marley. Peter Tosh. Lucky Dube. Youssou N’Dour.

I love watching movies, preferably in the cinema. In the old days, pit was my spot. The balcony was too far away. I wanted to be in the middle of the film. My degree in mass communication had a big focus on film. And my dream was to become the best film maker in the Caribbean! The movie that stands out in my mind is The Godfather. But there are many others. Going back to the Ten Commandments!

My favourite directors include Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, Ingrid Bergman. And Jean Luc Godard, who said a film should have a beginning, a middle and an end…but not necessarily in that order.

I have not been to Carnival in almost 57 years. I enjoyed my small California village-level Carnival in California. My next-door neighbour had organised a small steel band in his backyard. They would practice every night. I wanted to learn to play pan. But my mother wouldn’t allow it. Although my neighbours were “good boys,” steelpan was still associated with POS hooligans.

I wouldn’t say I hate modern soca. But, after a few songs, I am a bit tired of it. I am an old man, so my favourite performer has to be the Mighty Sparrow.

A rabbi was asked what was the purpose of life and he replied: Get up in the morning, look around and be amazed. Derek Walcott had a line about looking out on a field and seeing the egrets on a cow and being astonished.

There is much in the world I am sad about. In my work with the UN, you just can’t escape the deep poverty in villages all around the world. What people have to do to find food and water. People being taken advantage of. The violence.

I tried to hit someone once in my life, a school friend and neighbour. He grabbed my thumb and almost broke it. I was about ten. We were walking home from school at lunchtime and talking about a man jooking his thing in a woman’s thing. And then he said that is how I came to be born: “Your mudda and fadda did that nasty thing.” I was horrified. So I raised my hand to hit him and he grabbed my thumb and almost broke it. No more hitting after that!

The TT Green Party is not affiliated with any other Green Party. But we do follow news coverage of Green Party work in a few European countries, like Germany.

The TT party has a concern about protecting the environment and dealing with climate change. Our Green Party priorities are fixing education and health care and economic diversification.

It is fair to say the TT Green Party is directly connected to me, perhaps in the same way the PNM was once directly connected to Dr. Eric Williams. I initiated the formation of the party, with five others serving on an advisory board.

We began the national jog/walk in California, my birthplace, back in October 2019 and got as far as La Brea. I doubt this will lead to a cult of personality. I don’t think I have the characteristics around which a cult of personality can be built. I lack that kind of charisma.

I was hoping the national jog/walk would draw attention to this new Green Party. It did not. But I was also hoping that it would give me a chance to meet with folks. It did. I had great conversations along the way with teachers and school principals and fishermen and health staff, among others. And one got to see and feel the beauty of our land.

I think I understand how politics in Trinidad and Tobago works. And there is not much to like.

The more usual approach is for a political leader to contest a seat and there is part of me that would love to do that. But legal folks have advised I can’t, because of my dual citizenship. We could test this in the courts.

I have worked in about 150 countries. I have seen amazing achievements in some countries. And I can see where we have failed miserably in the same 60 year period, despite our wealth.

Sleeping on pillows outside my land of birth says nothing about my personal dreams for a glorious, fantastic TT and how we can get here. Our leaders sleep on pillows in TT but their dreams are of Brooklyn. Or Miami. Not about fixing education in TT.

I have missed the two-day Carnival over the past 57 years. So what? That does not disqualify me from fretting about why so many of our people are dying from preventable diseases. And our leaders, who have not missed Carnival, travel abroad for better health care. I’d rather they miss Carnival and fix our health system..

Some clever journalist described the Green Party as TT’s least well-known political party. It is funny and true. We are working towards changing that designation.

We have no money yet for the travelling caravan style of politicking and don’t want to go in that direction anyhow. And we don’t have a base to mount mass rallies. We want to try a different style of engaging people. Is the public ready for a different style? Can we go against racial voting and instead seriously focus on how we can become an amazing country? We are going to try.

Two doors from our two-room shack in California Village there was this rich family with an upstairs-downstairs house. They had a generator and electricity. We had candles and then a kerosene lamp. They had a car. My father eventually got a bicycle. They had pipe-borne water. We had to walk to the public standpipe. I was not begrudging them their wealth; I just wanted some wealth for my family. Life is unfair, I realised.

Every time I come back home to TT, I am irritated. My friends are tired of my complaints. But I see no one trying to do something. We stop for our doubles and a beer and life is good. So I decided to create a political party and see if via politics we can move towards progress and growth and less inequality. I know there are a few in TT who think about TT’s development. The question is can we get them to join in the pursuit of progress? We are going to try.

A Supreme Court judge, asked to define pornography, said “I don’t have a definition but I know it when I see it.” I don’t have a definition to what is a Trini but I know one when I see one, especially a Trini man. There is a certain kind of braggadocio, a certain swagger, a certain flair. A sense that one can get away with breaking the rules.

Trinidad and Tobago, to me, means the epitome of being tropical. We have everything – the greenery, the beaches, the mountains, the mangrove, the rains, the humidity, the fruits. And the rich potential to be fantastic. Note the two Ts in fantastic. It is our destiny: to be fanTasTic!