People, Commitment, Success

 Bernadette Hood-Caesar Chronicles her victorious
outcome in her new book, The Courage to go forward


Coming from a prior engagement, I rushed to get to Knowledge Bookstore hoping I was not entirely too late for Bernadette Hood-Caesar’s book reading and signing, and a chance to at least get twenty minutes to talk with her about her wonderful new book, The Courage to go Forward.

I flounced up the dark-paved steps of the bookstore that greatly resembled an antiquated mid-twentieth-century Colonial house. If it had not been for the many books displayed in the window and the couple of purple and white banners with Knowledge Bookstore written on them in gigantic letters, one would not necessarily know it was an actual bookstore. I entered into the warm air of the store and was greeted with a beaming smile and a pleasant hello. “Hi, how are you?” one of the store clerks asked. I must admit I always feel welcome at Knowledge Bookstore. It may be a small space but, to me and I’m sure to many others, it feels like a home away from home. The atmosphere is filled with cordiality, warm-heartedness and a feeling of escapism—the same feeling you get when you are at home. It then became crystal clear why the bookstore had taken the shape of a house and fashioned a sanctuary—little did I know that this has been Knowledge Bookstore’s design from the beginning.

Just like at home, I removed my coat, gloves and scarf and made my way over to the area set up for Miss Bernadette’s book signing and reading, said hello to everyone in attendance and introduced myself to Bernadette Hood-Caesar. Bernadette Hood-Caesar is one of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago’s leading trade unionists and social activists, an active member of the Canadian Union of Public Employees and author of The Courage to go Forward. I plopped down onto a chair and waited for Miss Bernadette to read something from her fast-selling book. Her coifed curly black hair fell to her ears and suited her oval-shaped face nicely. My wandering eyes took notice of the kick-ass shoes (excuse the language) she was wearing—a black suede wedge with gold studs decorating the heels—and I remember thinking, You go girl! Sitting contentedly, she opened the book and said, “I will be reading from page 20.” In a monotone voice, Miss Bernadette read aloud as I sat with my eyes closed to visualize the rippling scene unfolding from the pages of The Courage to go Forward and coming to life in my mind.

“Positive thinking has entrenched itself in my whole life…Yes, I have experienced negative outcomes, but I do not sit and cry over them. Instead, I try to see what I can learn from the experience, and I move on.

“…My thoughts and actions represent me so I am a firm believer that I should shape them to be positive…This comes with practice…Being positive and staying positive take work.”

As she read, I could tell she believed in what she said, in what she had written; I saw her story, heard her truth and tasted her triumph to overcome any negative situation in life no matter what! Miss Bernadette’s short but impactful reading came to a close and I was not going to let “Bernie” (her nick-name) leave without asking her a few questions about her weighty book so I launched right in…

SD:What influenced the title for The Courage to go Forward?

BHC: I was at a meeting in Canada and I saw the word “courage” spelled out which sparked an idea to use it as a part of the title for the book.

SD: The Courage to go Forward is based on your personal experience. Please explain.

BHC:Yes, it was. It made history in 1987 in Trinidad and Tobago and marked an historical national-scale movement. I chose to take a stand in a class action against the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago on behalf of some 65,000 public servants and successfully sued the Government which had cut public servants’ salaries by ten percent and removed their cost-of-living allowance.

SD: Why did you want to write this book?

BHC: To speak out against the infringement of rights in the workplace. A lot of people do not know there is strength in numbers…

SD: What has this historic experience taught you?

BHC: One thing my experience has taught me: I can do anything without being fearful.

SD:How did it feel to publish this book?               

BHC: I felt a sense of achievement and accomplishment.

SD:Was the book well received?

BHC: Yes, it did well at both book launches in Trinidad and Tobago and in Toronto at the Consulate General of The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

SD: Do you have any plans to publish another book in the near future?

BHC: I am considering the offer to have a documentary done about me.

I finished off the interview chit-chatting with Miss Bernadette; we sounded like two young high school girls without a care in the world who giddily trade stories about their unripe lives until it was time for the bookstore to close for the day. Talking with Miss Bernadette was effortless, I felt like we had known each other for years. Being in the earnest atmosphere of Knowledge Bookstore can do that to you, truly.

By Simone Da Costa

First published by Knowledge Bookstore’s Ujamaa Nation



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