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Offline zuluwarrior

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My interracial marraige ...my culture ...my life
« on: September 08, 2014, 07:46:28 PM »
My interracial marraige
...my culture ...my life

By Lorraine Waldropt-Ferguson
Story Created: Sep 5, 2014 at 11:03 PM ECT
Story Updated: Sep 5, 2014 at 11:03 PM ECT
The versatile and talented Lorraine O’Connor- the film producer’s life is like a docudrama, not a movie; it’s not fictional but as real as you would get it. With scenes in China, India and France, O’Connor’s main plot however is her beloved homeland of T&T. Interspersed with cultural mystery and a simple, yet compelling storyline of how a Trinidadian “French Creole” woman carved her name on the local and international circuit in the realms of fashion, film, music, business and the list continues.
Her risqué personality daring to peruse forbidden frontiers of race, religion and career — the mother of three is individualistic and unscripted, a unique woman — misunderstood by many but admired by a whole lot of others.

And so, we are soaking in the sunset at the Waterfront, Hyatt Regency Hotel and the charismatic O’Connor is giving me a snapshot of her life saga. Dressed in a blue, white and black African print dress and matching black shoes, the ice breaker is her simple yet trendy sense of style. “Was this your choice or did your stylist choose this?” I ask admiring the pattern on her dress.”Stylist? I don’t have a stylist darling. I chose this dress, it says a lot about my personality. Simple yet sexy, multidimensional... The patterned centre, the solid neckline, the not too short and not too long hemline... I am a woman of many worlds, my talents are contrasting but they make me who I am and believe me I have never denied who I am, I have never followed a script on life, I have and will always stay true to who I am regardless of the critics,” she opens the conversation.

I don’t know where to begin with regards to her life escapades. Shall I start with a lesson in the Chinese language? She did a Masters in Mandarin. Or her interracial marriage to videographer Selwyn Henry?
Their union continues to draw speculation and even disdain from many Trinbagonians. A white Trinidadian woman with a black Rastafarian man — I could just imagine the jeers they receive from T&T’s socially myopic audience. Perhaps I should zoom in on her trailblazing work in the cultural realm- her magical fusion of music and film through the brainchild companies of Rituals Music and Riddums Productions, her phenomenal contribution to Pamberi Steel Orchestra, her expert talent management of musical icons, 3Canal, SuperBlue and Mungal Patasar to name a few... Oh and her creations: her ground breaking documentaries Calypso Roots (her debut documentary) to her soon to be released Pan—Our Music, a t+t film festival offering where she was the line producer and her son Zion, one of the lead actors.

“Let’s begin with my childhood, shall we?” O’Connor suggests, reading my mind. Scene One — Lorraine O’Connor, a descendant from the Salvatori Family, a prominent French Creole family in a colonial coloured traditional Trinidad and Tobago. “Wait, Salvatori as in the old Salvatori Building which used to be on Frederick Street?” I ask. “Yes. My great grandfather was a Salvatori and came to Trinidad all the way from Corsica. He settled in Trinidad opening the Salvatori and Scott Cotton Company Limited at that very spot. When the store burnt down he built the famous Salvatori Building, which even in its absence today, the spot keeps its original name!”

I learn that the woman with the historical roots grew up with a single mother and strong lineage of powerful independent women- “My grandmothers and mother worked very hard to give their families a good life. Education always came first with my mom. She gave us free choice- I actually chose to study the Chinese language, which she was baffled at but encouraged me to do my best nonetheless. We left Trinidad when I was 11 years old for France. Growing up in France I became fascinated with the fashion business and a French entrepreneur who I married, having my first child, Sebastian. We had a thriving fashion business producing garments in India and retailing them in France,” informs the Fyzabad-born O’Connor whose father was an oilfield worker.
 
“How did you get into the film and culture arena?” I ask, amazed at her occupational debut. The short-haired woman smiles at my question, her engaging eyes light up as she reveals what she terms, “the best part of her story.” Her account takes me from France back to Trinidad courtesy an explorative visit with her French husband and eager circle of French film buddies who wanted to learn more about pan and Trini culture.
 
“When I came back to T&T my friends wanted to film a documentary on pan and T&T culture and we worked with the Pamberi Steelband side to do this. We even organised a European tour for the pan group after the documentary Calypso Roots, spreading the word on pan in Europe. Imagine my contacts to do the film came from an African social activist from France. And that’s the thing, I never knew Trini culture until I did the film. I got introduced to people like Brother Resistance through my African friend. It’s as if I wasn’t really a Trini until I did Calypso Roots!” The cultural entrepreneur becomes pensive as she recalls her choice to return to T&T with her family to start a new life, her pioneering work with her company Riddums Productions, the breeding ground for hot new, soca/calypso/pan compilations and her management stints with many artistes, “We had a store in the airport, The Music Store, it was very popular and successful. I enjoyed my new career path but most importantly I fell in love for the first time with T&T!”

As we sit and chat about later life scenes of her divorce from her French husband and her developmental work with Pamberi panside and pan in general, O’Connor’s tale takes an unexpected twist. It illustrates a whole new picture — a Trinidadian white woman with a thirst for adventure and discovery, her creative space is a pan yard in a back road in Port of Spain, certainly not a place for a woman of her “colour” and lineage. The people in the panyard are fascinated with her sincere love for music and culture and they are grateful for her input which places them on the map. The people in the streets, however are critical, especially when she makes the cardinal mistake of falling in love and “in life” with the equally talented six pan player and videographer, Selwyn Henry.

Her family can’t understand her interest in this black rasta man and the prying public can’t understand his interest in a “tourist whitey lookalike”. “We were teased so much, Selwyn and I, that we opted to stay home a lot and not go out into the public eye. ‘Rasta where you pick up this whitey, yuh reach!’- were the rants, and many more. I remember a man walking out of church one Sunday in west Trinidad and when he saw us he hurled some of the most degrading insults. I was amazed. I couldn’t understand how a country known for its rich diversity and integration harboured so many racist skeletons. I didn’t grow up in T&T so this racial divide between white, red and black was unknown to me. In those days I didn’t fit in anywhere but in my artsy, cultural space of the panyard. To me I wasn’t a ‘white Trinidadian woman,” I was a Trinidadian woman while everyone else drew the lines of differentiation!”
O’Connor gesticulates as she exudes that one should seek joy in everything they do and live life in the now, cherishing each moment, good or bad. An optimist, she never let the stares of scrutiny stop her beautiful relationship with her soul mate nor did she allow the contrasting colours of their skin and differing textures of their hair to become obstacles in their union which gave rise to a son and daughter who also embrace their mixed ethnicity.

The mood now of the interview is filled with reflective love as the yoga instructor and owner of Bliss Yoga Studio blushes as she reminisces on her wedding day. “We have been together for 20 years now. Selwyn and I balance each other; we are complementary opposites with a mutual passion for culture. We got married under Hindu rites; the Swami from the yoga institute where I trained did the ceremony. We rode off on a buffalo to the sweet rhythms of 3Canal, serenaded by a young boy playing a cuatro. What was so weird to others was so magical to us!” Hindu Rites? Hmmmm...O’Connor explains that she was raised a Catholic but believed that spirituality can be packaged in many forms.

“I actually baptised my first child in the Orisha faith. With the help of calypso songstress, Ella Andall, I made my way to Matura and did the ritual,” she inserts laughing at my wide-eyed astonishment. An Orisha baptism? A Chinese native tongue? And then the woman of diversity tells me that she forgot to mention yet another side to her kaleidoscopic personality- her nurturing side. Indeed, the resourceful Lorraine O’Connor is also a doula, a skill she embraced after living and learning from her grandmothers as a child. A doula with the Mamatoto Resource and Birth Centre, she expresses her desire to build a community of mindful, conscious women who love and embrace their body and their identity.
This chat is so strange, I cannot categorise my subject but then again why should I; with some of us beauty lies in the enigma of the puzzle of many pieces.
 
And, now it’s time for my last questions. “Do you get icy stares and abusive comments from Afro-Trinidadian women?” I ask this in light of the retort of many Afro-Trinidadian women that black men are “stolen away” by white women, a perceived ill in the romantic rules of race.
Responding very calmly O’Connor states that this attitude is a manifestation of hidden insecurities and she argues that women of all races should rise and feel comfortable in their skin.
 
“Trinidad and Tobago has a serious race issue which erupts from time to time. We need a roundtable for women to address their real issues which retard their development and prosperity in life,” declares the resilient woman, comfortable in her own skin.
As for her future plans in the cultural realm, in addition to her many hats, she has assumed her recent role as special projects manager, European Development to legendary soca ambassador Machel Montano, a journey which she is enjoying immensely and yet another one of films, ART CONNECT will soon be released at the t+t film festival.
 
“When will you film your own life story?” I close, impressed by the modern day empress. “Not very soon my darling, but it will be released!” she assures looking reflectively into the sunset. Uncut, real, a versatile fusion on film... a box office blockbuster...the bizarre but beautiful life of Lorraine O’Connor, stay tuned for further details.


After reading this I ask myself if  the people was racist or just jealous .
.
good things happening to good people: a good thing
good things happening to bad people: a bad thing
bad things happening to good people: a bad thing
bad things happening to bad people: a good thing