CANNIS THE REVOLUTIONARY ROTI MAN VS THE BEAST
Real niggaz change diapers. Real niggaz iron school shirts. Real niggaz chop up vegetables, cook up a storm, bag the goods and go out hustling that legal dollar until the sun sets or everything is sold.
Real niggas try to find a moment to pause and read something edifying. (Thank you for coming to our literary show.)
It’s tough out there for a real nigga.
“They hate us,” today’s real nigga says of all seventeen members of parliament in this and the last parliament. “Our leaders hate us. That’s why things are the way they are.
“But we hate ourselves, too. We hate everything that is truly Lucian. That’s why I have to travel around the whole island to sell a few rotis, but KFC is full, the Chinese places are full, all the establishments selling imported food are full. I have the right product, the right idea, but people don’t want the right idea. They want fried chicken and mayonnaise. They want to sit by a big window with a brand name cup drinking watered down coke.”
His name is Cannis and he is one of thousands of real niggas who struggle to hustle the real St Lucian product, while their leaders find new ways to prostitute the island, each other and us.
So basically, he’s fighting an uphill battle to sell an excellent product out of an ice box slung over his skinny shoulder. People tell him his ten dollar rotis are too expensive and then walk into KFC to buy a burger and some fries for $20.
Cannis’ thing is rotis and wraps.
“My vibe is that everything has to be authentic and real and organic as possible. I don’t even use seasonings in packets or flavor cubes or anything like that.”
You wouldn’t be able to tell by sampling his fare.
Although, you would be able to tell that there’s something different going on under his rotis shells and wraps. The first waves of flavor roll on you as you might expect - coconut, onion, garlic, etc.
But then the second wave creeps on you - chichima, otherwise known as turmeric and other little secrets that blind your mind with happiness. And then, under the flavors, all kinds of ancient, futuristic, organic, community building subversive activity is happening.
For most people, making a roti or a wrap starts with a trip to the supermarket. For Cannis, it starts by making a round in Paix Bouche and surrounding communities in search of freshly picked produce.
“I believe in supporting the community you are from, especially when it comes to something like food,” he says. “When you buy a roti from me today, you are eating vegetables that were picked this morning. The person you buy the roti from knows the people who grow the vegetables.”
Without saying it out loud, he telegraphed the message about fast food establishments that Lucians are crack addicted to. When you buy from one of those establishments, you simply don’t know where that tomato came from. Chances are, it might not be a tomato at all. Chances are, it’s a lot more than just a tomato (i.e. fertilizers, pesticides, preservatives, coloring agents, etc). You just don’t know.
What Cannis is selling is not just a tasty turmeric, coconut roti with veggies and the meat of your choice. What he’s selling is a 21st century recipe for revolution and people power that makes the enemy go, “Mmm, mmm, mmm, can I have some more please?”
(He smiles, surprised, when I explain that people go to university to learn what he figured out while washing dishes.)
As a veteran of the construction industry, Cannis is now trying never to get employment ever again.
“One guy offered me a job at Sandals, telling me to do my business on the side,” he said. “But that man cannot be my friend, because why would he advise me to put my own business aside to come and make roti in someone else’s business. He sees me free and instead of helping me, he tells me I should go and be a slave.”
If you read any bitterness in the roti maker, it might be because of the corruptions he was a victim of while in construction.
“I worked on Discovery Bay and the Landings,” he began. “One of them wanted to the workers in US and the other wanted to pay in Canadian. Both times, under two different governments, the government stepped in and told them to pay us less and pay us in EC.”
If the Americans wanted to give them US$50, the politicians would advise them to pay EC$50.
“And then, they get the change.”
Cannis’ bitterness toward these treacherous politicians in both the UWP and SLP is the last remaining obstacle to his success.
“Sometimes, I find myself just vexed and cursing and I know that cannot help my business. Sometimes, my countenance is so dark that no matter how good my food is, I’m just not making any sales. But when I think about my leaders and my people and the foolishness and the selfishness…I mean, it’s so easy to just fix things and balance them out and let people make progress.
“But whether it’s the leaders or your own fellow Lucians, they don’t want you to make progress. After they not buying your roti, they trying to eat your wages on the construction site, they messing you up everywhere you turn.”
But Cannis is determined that he is not going to be another embittered revolutionary. He has a plan. The plan is fool proof. People have to eat and his food is better than most. All he has to do is keeping harnessing the power of his community’s farmers to make the best products he can and try to be where people are when they are hungry.
Oh, and a genuine St Lucian smile. You can’t win when you’re angry. You can’t let them kill your vibe. Your vibe is the future.
The millionaire dinosaurs of the current establishment (you too, Frederick and King) are just mad because they know they’re going extinct. And it’s not going to be some cataclysmic or dramatic revolutionary event that kills them off.
It’s self-sufficient little primates like Cannis who don’t need a damned thing from them that are going to put the old lizards of Labour and Flambeau out of style.