Black Immigrant Daily News
HOMECOMING: Hundreds of people accompanied the procession in Black Stalin’s honour in San Fernando on Thursday. Photo by Lincoln Holder
THE streets of San Fernando were transformed into a carnival-like atmosphere on Thursday morning, as thousands turned out to bid a fond farewell to one of the city’s favourite sons, Leroy “Black Stalin” Calliste.
Reminiscent of the Carnival Monday and Tuesday parade route, a procession in which Stalin’s coffin was placed in a glass carriage and pulled by a motorcycle, left JE Guides Funeral Home on Coffee Street bound for the Southern Academy for the Performing Arts (SAPA) for the funeral.
Traffic was backed up for miles throughout the city as people chipped behind music trucks which blared some of Stalin’s many hits while a steelband played on a trailer at the back of truck.
Motorists stuck in traffic did’t seem to mind the inconvenience as some were seen shaking their heads to the music. “Is a send-off for one of our own, so I don’t mind the traffic jam,” a driver said.
A STREET NAMED LEROY: Patsy Calliste waves the flag under the Leroy Calliste Street sign on Thursday during a procession in her husband’s honour. Photo by Lincoln Holder
Masqueraders, iron and rhythm sections, moko jumbies, people carrying the national flags as well as banners of all descriptions, made up the procession which passed through Dr Leroy Calliste Street, onto Harris Promenade, where children from St Joseph’s Convent and Boy’s RC Primary school lined the pavement, waving banners.
The refrain, “Sundar where de song yuh promised me so long,” was heard from one of the music trucks as Stalin’s song, “Sundar” was played. This was followed by “Wait Dorothy” and the classic and ever-popular, “Black man feelin to party.”
Planning and Development Minister Penelope Beckles was among several politicians who joined in the procession, arm in arm with Stalin’s widow, Patsy Calliste.
Naparima College students moved their musical ensemble to the entrance of the college, which is along the route to SAPA, paying homage by playing Stalin’s music.
The glass hearse which bore Stalin’s coffin was escorted by police officers during the street procession on Thursday.
Those who were not in the procession, also lined the streets, some walking with their own chairs, to witness the final tribute to a music legend.
During the almost two-hour long procession, the rains came but did not deter people with some actually welcoming the showers after blazing sunshine.
At SAPA, hundreds who followed the procession were unable to get into the auditorium which was already with Stalin’s family, close friends, dignitaries, calypsonians and others in the local cultural sphere.
Some stayed under a tent where they viewed the procession on a large screen, while others participated in iron and bottle and spoon jam sessions in the courtyard.
San Fernando mayor Junia Regrello described the atmosphere as “electric.”
Former culture minister Joan Yuille-Williams who attended the funeral, said from his signature smile to his humble confidence on stage, “Stalin had us all star-struck. He was the epitome of the Caribbean man, revered throughout the Caribbean and the greater diaspora.”
THE DAME AND THE CHILDREN: A Dame Lorraine interacts with St Gabriel’s Girls RC School students who lined Dr Leroy Calliste Street in San Fernando during the street procession. Photo by Lincoln Holder
She said he was an entertainer with a mission, “using his platform to educate the young, unschooled and ignorant to understand what is needed for Caribbean survival.
“Like other bards of his era, he was an historian, recording the events of our country, region and world in rhythmic style.
Yuille-Williams said Stalin’s mission, however, was singular and greater. “If you study his body of work, his focus was unity. Unity of people, whether family, country, region or race. His singular goal was to inspire us to come together.”