Eulogy, Features

Ode to Leslie Charles!

By Earl Bousquet

I hardly run out of word, but for now, I just haven’ been able to gather the words to pay tribute to my age-old friend and colleague, Brother and Comrade Leslie Charles.

I can’t even remember exactly when we met, but our encounters were always fleeting, in keeping with his apt nickname ‘Scarce’.

He was always associated with our generational peers in the Workers Revolutionary Movement (WRM) from 1976, associated with the early formations of the Folk Research Centre (FRC) and worked alongside Henry Charles and other pioneers of the progressive post-colonial national youth movement at the Beausejour project in Vieux Fort in 1979 aimed at encouraging young people to see agriculture with new eyes.

We collaborated for the past almost five decades on issues of culture and politics, including in the FRC and the National Reparations Committee (NRC).

‘Scarce’ moved to Guyana and it was only there, quite recently, that I realized he has a deadly health issue.

We’d been talking almost weekly on various issues, from his participation in the 1980s in an international youth conference in Pyongyang, North Korea, to his eternal advocacy for Haiti – particularly to work in agriculture to help solve the region’s Food Crisis.

Whether when George Odlum wanted to invite Haitians to work for lower wages on local banana plantations in the 1990s or when I suggested last year that Saint Lucia could outsource banana production to Guyana, he always rejected my assertion that Haitians do not want to leave their homeland to search for opportunities in other poor countries.

When I last saw him in Guyana, Leslie was like withering away slowly, but I realised how bad it was when he called from a local hospital to ask what I could do to help him secure urgent overseas medical attention that would obviously have been too late.

I would learn he’d been silently and bravely battling a blood-related ailment for about a decade, but never associated his ease of doing everything to anything but his seeming laid-back approach to life.

I knew of his association with Piaye and he was present when, as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the FRC, I delivered my first Jounen Kweyol address in Anse La Raye, memorably reviewed Leslie and Mon Repos school principal Armelle Mathurin.

Leslie was also present – whenever time allowed – when we hosted annual pre-Christmas ‘Sewenal’ sessions Eliza Maxwell’s Goodlands home, as his work in agriculture kept him closer to the land than everything else.

Our last year talking and Whats-Apping between here and Guyana came crashing down when he called from a hospital here, asking me to help him stay alive.

It was only then that I realized it was much-too-late to do anything to help my lifelong ‘Brother from another Mother’ live longer — for even another minute later than due — for the benefit of Saint Lucia and Humanity.

Leslie is gone somewhere, but ‘Scarce’ is always here, there and everywhere.

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