SANDRA L BLOOD
For the love of children, education, and purpose, teacher/educator and poet "Shakeela-Ria" born Dixie-Ann Joseph, said she’s been out in the trenches for decades helping to improve lives, and for approximately 17 years, she’s gained success via the disciplines as songwriter, vocalist and entertainer.
Respect for education:
Described as very humble yet powerful and fearless, she’s known to maintain the highest regard for sound education, child/human and social development, patriotism, culture, tourism and the arts, and most importantly, giving back.
Consequently, she founded the NGO, BACK-AH-YARD Youth, Cultural and Community Development Organisation in 2013, of which, she is its president and where its poetry, songwriting and creative arts programme has been well received at schools and communities in Point Fortin and environs, Grenada and Germany.
Grenada/Trinidad, same love:
Given ongoing questions posed to her, Shakeela-Ria sought to clarify how Grenada fits into the equation, and explained a bit of history. She said when Grenadians began settling in Trinidad, while many went to the Laventille hills, POS, the majority did so in Point Fortin as statistics revealed.
The diaspora easily gravitated to her works, which opened up a portal in Grenada, so while not neglecting T&T, she also spends a lot of quality time at Grenada schools, and got to realise that there are many Trinis residing in Grenada.
BACK-AH-YARD which spins off from backyard, pays homage to the many artistes who have favored backyard as spaces to show off their craft whether in song, visual art or poetry.
Students are vital:
Shakeela-Ria said she prides herself as being extremely close with and to her students. When they heard her rehearsing a particular song for quite a while, and they got the gist of it, they began to egg her on to complete 5that one. They said they were very happy to learn how to write, create and also perform, so they told her she cannot retire from music. She said their inspiration worked, which saw her rise to the challenge of completing a new song.
She reverted to Come Home, completed it and released it in September of this year.
The 5.21-minute Rhapso-fusion, composed and produced by her, is dedicated to her students and every other Trinbagonian in and out of T&T, she stated.
“I began composing the song a while now. It’s very simple yet educational, but I just couldn’t find a good chorus, until one day while I was soaking my feet in the cold waters of the Caura river, it came to me. My mental block was cleaned up,” revealed Shakeela-Ria.
“It felt good to fulfill my promise to my BACK-AH-YARD Poetry in the Classroom, Community and Online students, to get back in the studio and on stage as my students begged me to.”
To background steelpan music, "Come Home" promotes T&T in a most profound way taking you through a journey of its beauty in totality. For all those who never knew T&T, the picture becomes clear.
Shakeela-Ria said she will continue to make youth and community service a priority; she will always give back!
"Come Home" was recorded/mastered by Shawn Jackie at Jackie's Corosive Recording Studio in Point Fortin.
Musicians: Oslyn Pompie, Peter Alleyne, Keon Cupid and Bunji, and background vocals: Racquel Dove, and it can be sourced on all major streaming platforms, and Shakeela BACK-AH-YARD YouTube channel.
“When I composed Come Home, I did so with great love, respect and admiration for the resilience of my country and its people. The song seeks to generate patriotism for who we are and what we represent, especially among our youth – the future of T&T; the world. My musical style is a melting pot of calypso, rhapso, soft soca, jhamoo, jazz, reggae and soul.0550 “I'm extremely grateful for this opportunity to fulfill the promise I made to the young ones and nations I serve. Ella Andall, Ras Shorty I, Brother Resistance and Black Stalin were my mentors.”
Shakeela-Ria produced albums: Make It With Strings, Acoustic Diary, Four Dollars & Some Sense, and Mixtape for You, and a major hit: Good Morning Love.
BACK-AH-YARD reaches 10 years:
Shakeela-Ria reached back for one of her songs, I Have A Dream, to celebrate BACK-AH-YARD’s 10th anniversary this year, and officially launch the BACK-AH-YARD Point Fortin-Grenada Ancestry Project Year of Return in 2024 from Point Fortin to Grenada, in NY via a Grenada courtesy call, said an excited Shakeela-Ria.
The soft soca tune specifically created for Grenada, that will be officially released on November 15, speaks of not wanting any war, and touches on going back to her African roots, identity and culture from Grenada; T&T and Grenada should jump up and wave up together as one. This is her dream as Grenada is T&T star and vice-versa.
Very passionate about the ties between Point Fortin and Grenada, and knowing the power of walking in the footsteps of ancestors, educator Shakeela-Ria visited a river in the Belmont Estate in Hermitage, Grenada and recalled some more history:
“Slaves on Belmont Estate, Hermitage, Grenada, lived on either side of the river.
Although the water’s flow has diminished, it still flows with my family’s history and I hear them singing their songs; see children play; smell breadfruit roasting. I see them dance, I feel the drums and I know their dream is being fulfilled, for the ancestors in Grenada and for future generations in Point Fortin.”
One of the stand-out educational exercises of BACK-AH-YARD this year, was their Youth Voice Q&A Mentorship Project as facilitated by the deputy mayor of Point Fortin, Leslie Chang Fong. Shakeela-Ria said he first offered some encouraging words: Stay calm, stay focused and stay vigilant. He also served as an advocate for the theme: Healthy Living in Order to Maintain Healthy Self-Esteem.