SAINT MARTIN – It is not often that a politician is also a major, continuing patron of the cultural arts in St. Martin. Louis Constant Fleming is one of the few exceptions among this rare grouping in St. Martin, North and South.
For the last four years, Fleming has become the private sector example of a St. Martin patron of the cultural arts through the LCF Foundation’s significant contribution to the annual St. Martin Book Fair.
“The book fair has come a long way, and it is something that should be promoted,” said Fleming about the island’s literary festival, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary in 2017.
Fleming links literature, writing books, literacy itself, and the overall development of society in one breath. “What I want to see is more of the real history of St. Martin written and promoted. Also, I don’t see how you can justify democracy with illiteracy,” Fleming continued.
Fleming hails from a St. Martin family that has been involved in the political leadership of the previous mayoral system and of the current collectivity structure in Marigot for well over 100 years. His family has been involved in island-wide business developments for about the same length of time.
The former senator of the National Assembly of France from the Collectivite of St. Martin is also a businessman He sees the island-wide book fair as an information-driven vehicle of change. “It’s important to educate people on where they came from, and where they’re going,” explained Fleming.
He also commended book fair coordinator Shujah Reiph for his consistency in informing the public through the festival and his weekly Conscious Lyrics radio magazine. Furthermore, Fleming is pleased with the increase of writers on the island because of the many aspects of St. Martin yet to be documented – a gap that he feels the writers can fill. He said, “our island’s history is very unique” and believes in “the need to strengthen the connection between the people on both sides.”
Fleming went on to say that the people of the whole island need to count on themselves, as “the St. Martin people,” and to be more patriotic as “the relationship of France and Holland has put a damper on the patriotism” for the island.
His focus during his stint in politics in the North was to make the territory more autonomous. “St. Martin has a tremendous potential” but people have to be more literate in order to make clear or informed decisions from a young age. St. Martin is ours,” Fleming stated, “and to ensure a better future, more young people need to be educated and involved in events like the St. Martin Book Fair.”
The 15th annual St. Martin Book Fair is scheduled for June 1-3, 2017. Each year the opening ceremony rotates between both capitals of the island. This year Marigot is the host city of the festival. “Art” is the theme, and authors are expected from St. Martin, the wider Caribbean and other parts of the world, said Reiph.
Organizers of the St. Martin Book Fair are Conscious Lyrics Foundation and House of Nehesi Publishers, both non-profit NGOs. The St. Maarten Tourist Bureau has been the dedicated and strategic partner of the literary festival since 2004.
The book fair is also organized in collaboration with the University of St. Martin (USM) and LCF Foundation. Peridot Foundation and SOS radio are among key sponsors of visits by leading international authors and media promotions.