Forty-five-years ago, Rodney Grant sought to ensure that the Pinelands Creative Workshop (PCW) was an organization that countered the stigma associated with the Pine, St Michael area and fostered community togetherness. So much so that he conceptualized the organization’s initial logo, which reflected the motto Together We Strive, Together We Achieve.
“The Pinelands Logo when we designed it actually about nine years after the formation of PCW in 1978 [reflected] our vision of a united Pinelands Community and spoke to a deeper mission to make a positive impact on the Caribbean region and the world. We felt we could roll out a model that at some point would be useful to cultural and social development in other communities across the world.
“It was our mission to start in the Pine but also to branch out beyond the Pine. The chain link that runs at the bottom of the globe in the logo [represents] the motto Together We Strive, Together We Achieve. We knew that to achieve our mission of changing the negative perception of P for Perry, P for Pine, and P for Prison to a more positive image would require us to work together and stick together,” he said.
The Pinelands Development Council (PDC) which started in 1975, functioned like an overarching Government structure and brought all the organizational entities of the Pinelands community under one umbrella. Grant noted that in the initial stages they understood that unless they worked together as a community, the re-development of the Pinelands community would fail.
“We knew we had to work together and that if we sought to do it divided, we would have never reached our objectives. Back then we always saw ourselves as fighting for a cause and a purpose which was to change [how] society saw people from the Pine and that purpose kept us going, it kept us focused and it gave us stability. So we were never daunted by the challenges that came at us,” he said.
Over the years, the organization developed and adopted a mantra that Grant himself developed in Trinidad: Let No Obstacle Be Greater Than The Cause.
His passion to change the perception of the Pinelands Community led Grant to be involved in the Pinelands Community for over 45 years and remain committed to its development.
“I was a part of the Pinelands Social and Cultural Youth Group, which started in 1969. I was also an integral part of the Regents Youth Group in 1972, a founding member of the Pinelands Development Council which was formed in 1975 and then Pinelands Creative Workshop, which was formalized in 1978.
“I was involved in all of those social movements in the Pinelands Community. The Pinelands Creative Workshop was last in that cycle, but it proved to be the most formidable. The PCW became so strong that it superseded the Pinelands Development Council. When we started PCW, it was because the people in the area wanted to do something different since the community at the time focused mainly on football, netball, basketball and cricket and the residents wanted to do something different and they said why not theatre,” he said.
Grant explained that former Member of Parliament for St Michael South-East Hamilton Lashley and Community Development Officer at the time Ralph Walker went to Elombe Mottley, who was Director of the National Cultural Foundation and asked for help to develop a theatre programme. Elombe agreed and sent Dorsie Boyce, Jeffrey ‘Ifie” Wilkinson, Sade Leon-Slinger, all of whom are known theatre practitioners, to develop theatre and dance workshops in the Pinelands Community Centre, which were successful.
“The participants got together after the sessions and came up with the name Pinelands Creative Workshop in 1978. That same year, we did our first production, which was written by Anthony Hinkson called Nigga Yard, and it was filmed on location. I remember the Fire Engine being posted on the pasture at Regent Hill where we brought an old house which had to be on fire as part of the set. Wayne ‘Parks’ Riley was one of the actors that had to run in and out of the house. The late Roy Byer who worked at the Government Information Service (GIS) did the filming, which was also sent to the Cannes Film festival in France and adapted for the stage in the same year,” he said.
Since then, the organization has grown from strength to strength and has not only won countless awards in theatre at the National Independence Festival of Creative Arts but has also pivoted to offer socio-educational courses such as the Personal and Economic Empowerment of Women programme, Career and Life Management Programme and the Multi-Dimensional Approach to Resilience and Adaptability Programme, to name a few.
Grant said his wish for the future development of the PCW as they celebrate 45 years today is that the organization continues to be sustainable. “I think the biggest challenge for any non-governmental organization is sustainability. A lot of the funds that were available then are not now, as the policy dynamic continues to shift. It also means that the issues that were core to you, for example, poverty are not the core issues anymore. The big issue right now is climate change. So, you adapt or you are going to lose out. The organization has to adapt to serve its mandate,” he said.
Grant, who was the Chief Executive Officer of Pinelands Creative Workshop from 1987, wished the organization a happy 45th anniversary and expressed hope that they always remain true to their core values and beliefs as they adapt to an ever-changing global climate. (Write Right PR Services)