Thursday 18 April, 2019

Artist comments on 'haves and have nots' speech on CNN's Parts Unknown

Spoken word poet and artist Muhammad Muwakil expressed concern at what he called an ‘ugly truth’ on the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ expressed by the Syrian/Lebanese community in Anthony Bourdain’s ‘Parts Unknown’ on CNN, featuring Trinidad and Tobago. 

He shared a shortened version of the episode which aired on CNN last week in a public post to his Facebook page, juxtaposing his comments and that of the Sabga-Aboud family, on the rising poverty and crime levels within the country.

Muwakil, a spoken word poet and musician with local group the Freetown Collective, also appeared in the episode.


In the video, Bourdain sat down to dinner hosted by members of the Syrian-Lebanese community, the Sabga-Abouds, who treated him to a range of Middle-eastern cuisine and explained their history within Trinidad and Tobago.

One family member commented on the country’s present economic difficulties, including that of a dwindling middle class, as citizens struggle to keep up with the rising cost of living and crime.

Muwakil commented on comments made by Rituals CEO Mario Sabga-Aboud, who said that although they are the smallest ethnic group, they are the most powerful.

Another family member commented that the dwindling middle class places the upper classes in danger.

At one time we used to have a huge middle class which was a security in terms of any possible conflict between the “haves” and the “have nots”. But now that’s eroding and they’re getting poorer so they’re starting to get angry," he said.

In response to Bourdain’s question as to the biggest threat, the response was “civil commotion”.

We have a crime problem related to gangs, gang warfare,” he said.

Muwakil said however that although the family member ‘spoke his truth’, he believes everyone has a ‘role to play’ in addressing the country’s crime situation.

His comments are below:

Morning Family, Before all else let this be about love.”

“Now, let me say how proud i am that Granny (a.ka.a juice boss) and I are featured on Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown, I’ve watched No Reservations religiously for years, meeting the man was a daydream come true.”

“Three days ago i watched it for the first time like all of you and something jumped out at me that i just have not been able ignore, the comments by Mr Sagba Aboud have literally kept me awake. If Social media is anything to go on I was joined in this sentiment by Trinibagonians all over the world who watched this Part's Unknown episode.”

“The man spoke his truth, he spoke plainly but I was really taken aback by his description of the middle class as "the security", a buffer zone which exists solely for the protection of the ultra rich and the life they have carved in this Trinidad that has been "good to them". An ugly truth, a truth for him nonetheless.”

“I know well the blindness of the heart that can cause one man to look upon another and not see himself, but it is possible that a man can live one way for so long that he forgets that there are other ways to live. Things can change though, this we believe.”

“I say to you sir that where I come from we have not a moment for anything other than love itself and so let this meet you with such dispensation.

“I want you to know that it is more than within your scope and ability to change the situations about which you lament. And as you rise so will we all.”

“My hope is that you and others of your ilk recognize that you have as much a role to play as we, the powerful, in making this a safe country for all of us.”

Muwakil’s post has had over 50,000 views and over 1,200 shares online.

In the video, Muwakil said, in his view, poverty is about more than crime.

"People say that poverty breeds crime, I don't think that poverty breeds crime in a sense, I think exclusion breeds crime. If I truly care for you, if I believe that you are a part of the thing that I exist in then I won't hurt you."

"When you see that kind of long can people put up with something before they decide 'this is enough'?"

The family, however, did acknowledge their Trinbagonian history, saying T&T has been good to them.

We are Trinidadians too, as much as we are Lebanese or Syrian, we are Trinidadians…Trinidad has been good to us and we know it,” one woman said.

The entire episode can be found online courtesy 13th Street Promotions:

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