RAYMOND QUEVEDO (1892-1962)
Atilla The Hun- Activist Calypsonian (1892-1962)
“Atilla the Hun died in 1962 at the age of 70. He began his singing career in 1911; prior to that, he worked on board a ship as a cook. He also worked as a “Tally Clerk” for Archer Coaling Company, Trinidad. He had a College education and was considered very brilliant. As far as publicity was concerned, he was somewhat shy; he preferred to keep a low profile in that respect. Lion knew him well because they were singing partners for over twenty years. They never separated partnership from the time they got together in 1930, until Lion went to London in 1951.
The police in T&T should really adore Atilla considering what he achieved on their behalf. Up to the early 1940’s no locals could acquire the rank, if I’m not mistaken above sergeant. Atilla lobbied for equality in the police service regardless of colour and class and sang a calypso about this blatant form of discrimination criticizing the Colonial government.
The Right Honourable Captain A.A Cipriani, immediately responded to Atilla’s plead for justice and raised the issue of this practice with the authorities in London. It should be noted that Captain Cipriani was a man held in great esteem by the calypso fraternity of the day. They simply loved and adored him and that is no exaggeration. He was known as the champion of the barefooted man and Calypsonians sang his praise in some form or fashion every year.
The result was a change of heart, allowing all local police, based on educational merit and service, to rise to any rank available in the services.That was victory for Atilla and the Police. But there is a continuation to the story. Despite this victory the British had to hold back on a little something and that was the Sam Brown Belt. This piece of the uniform was reserved for British officers. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Browne_belt
Again, Atilla took to the war path and declared in song “Where Is The Sam Browne Belt”? He claimed that the British were still displaying blatant contempt and discrimination for local officers who were deprived the use of the entire uniform. The Captain responded as usual and brought the complaints to the British Government. The result was full uniform for all officers in the services. Victory was theirs.
Kindly ask any police officer you may meet, as to whether they have ever heard of this factual and very significant story concerning their own institution. I am rather sure that the answer is no.
A picture of The Mighty Attila should be hanging at Police Headquarters and at the Police Academy and this significant and factual story should be included in their institutional history syllabus. Do you not agree? This information can be found if the Police Academy researches it and dig into our the Colonial archives. Lion always told me that “Truth has a long shelf life” -:)
This article has been based on Roaring Lion’s literature.
A. de Leon (RLF) Date: 08.01.15.
This was a RLF Facebook post on Atilla from the 23.11.14.
I think that this Carnival Queen Show from Trinidad(1954) reflects fairly well the Color & Class structure of T&T during the Colonial era. It should assist anyone who is interested in our calypso history to understand how and what the Calysonians of Lion’s generation and before him had to deal with in terms of social exclusion. Lion’s generation had to overcome structural discrimination of epic dimension- and they succeeded-:) Attila wrote a song, sometime during the 1950’s, about racism in these Beauty Queen Shows. Attila was fearless.
The song text: Guardian Beauty Contest(1954/55) Attilla
I really have to tell you Evelyn
Girls is only time you are wasting
Why did you enter that beauty contest
Why all this hair do and pretty dress
Evelyn you really cannot tell me
That you don’t know they picked the queen already
For this Guardian Competition
Is nothing but real discrimination
One thing in this world will never be seen
Is a dark skinned girl as Carnival Queen
I’ve seen dark contestants in this country
That were really symbols of beauty
They were gorgeous and glamorous
Some were even prettier than Venus
With more personality than Myrna Loy
And greater attraction than Helen of Troy
With all the passion of this world in their eyes
Yet is a flat back white woman that get the prize
I for one was never disappointed
From the time that the contest started
For I have seen many a brown skinned miss
Who were the quintessence of loveliness
But in the back yard hear a judge remark
She’s really lovely but she too dark is
And it is with chagrin despair and pain
You see another flat back white woman get it again
So it is time that our forces we enlist
And put an end to all this stupidness
Let us tell them all immediately
With protest from all over the country
That when a beauty contest they are judging
There must be no question of colour or skin
And if no regard for our views are shown
Then let us leave the white people business alone