City Paper is not for tourists
By 1995, Jamaican-raised Larry Sindass had grown tired of seeing the same old clichéd television coverage of the Caribbean. Sick of the which-exotic-destinations-are-great-for-tourists, what-islands-are-unsafe-for-tourists brand of fluff journalism, Sindass decided he could do better. He approached his colleagues at the University of the District of Columbia’s (UDC) cable television station, where he had been working since his years as a UDC undergraduate.
“It started as a [school] project,” says Sindass, who in 1994 earned a master’s degree in TV and film production from American University. “There was a new prime minister elected in Trinidad. I thought it was important that Caribbean nationals up here know about [that]. So I put together a panel of peoplesome from the Embassy of Trinidad, some who had contact with the [prime minister]and I went to the UDC television station…and I pitched the idea to them: that I would produce a talk show.”
That was the beginning of CaribNation TV, which, five years and hundreds of episodes later, is now also shown throughout the area on Howard University’s WHUT and on Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties’ public-access channels. Sindass has also distributed the program, which is underwritten by UDC, nationally and internationally. The show can be seen in New York, parts of Florida, and a number of Caribbean countries including Jamaica, Guyana, and St. Kitts and Nevis. Sindass also began streaming episodes on the Web four months ago (at www.caribnationtv.com).
Not bad for what is essentially a labor of love, created when Sindass isn’t busy with his paying gig at WUSA Channel 9, spending time with his family, or writing movie scripts. (He has already written and directed a film called Yadie.) Although Sindass is the show’s guiding force and executive producer, he doesn’t do it alone. In fact, he’s never seen on camera. He’s aided by a team of volunteers, including a rotating group of on-air hosts led by former Howard University and current Claremont University Professor David Hinds, Voice of America’s Derrice Deane, and WHUR’s John Blake.
Although CaribNation occasionally is conducted like a TV magazine (“We went to Grenada last year and looked at woodcarving, documentary-style.”) or features profiles of famous personalities (such as late Jamaican singer Dennis Brown), the program’s core format is people sitting around talking about various political and cultural subjects. The show’s approach and subject matter are diverse: One episode showcased Hinds’ tough-nosed interview of a Trinidadian government official; another featured Deane casually asking a Langley Park, Md.-based financial officer what kind of saving and investment advice she gives local Caribbean nationals. The program has covered “Women and Development in the Caribbean” and has featured interviews with the likes of Rastafarian poet Mutabaruka. Other guests who have appeared over the years have included the late Jamaican politician Michael Manley, Jamaican comedian Oliver Samuels, and Guyanan novelist Brenda DoHarris.
Pleased with the substance of the programs, Sindass is focusing lately on increasing the show’s audience. Long term, he says, “I want CaribNation to be a fixture in the Caribbean community. Right now, we’re just knocking at the door.” Steve Kiviat