New US Ambassador sees opportunities for T&T music, culture

Prior to taking up her post as the United States Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago, Candace Bond was not familiar with soca music.

Now, after her first Carnival experience, Bond says soca is now the soundtrack to her home.

Bond took up her first-ever ambassadorial assignment back in November just in time to experience our world-famous Carnival.

She participated in J’ouvert and played mas on Carnival Tuesday.

“Carnival was fantastic, unlike anything I have ever been to in my life. It was beautiful to see the joy on the faces of everyone, dancing, happy and free. It was a wonderful, beautiful experience,” said Bond in an interview with Loop News last Tuesday.

The mother of two shared the experience with her husband Steve McKeever and daughter Maddox.

Immersing herself in the culture early on in her assignment was fitting for the businesswoman.

US ambassador Candace Bond enjoyed Carnival activities in T&T

Bond once worked as vice president of special markets and catalog development for Motown Records and vice president and general manager of entertainment for Essence magazine, where she oversaw the development of all branded business and marketing initiatives in the areas of film, television, DVD, music, radio and live entertainment. She also served as executive producer of the Essence Music Festival and the executive in charge of the production of the Essence Awards. 

Her husband is the CEO and founder of Hidden Beach Recordings, an independent record label based in Los Angeles, California. He also worked at Motown Records, where he served as Executive Vice President of Talent and Creative Affairs from 1993 to 1995 and Senior Vice President of Artists and Repertoire from 1991 to 1993.

He also created MoJAZZ Records, a subsidiary of Motown Records and served as its President.

With their collective experience in music, Bond and her husband have taken a keen interest in the music and culture of T&T and are looking at ways to strengthen bonds with the US through this avenue.

“I came to this job as a diplomat so I am always looking at diplomacy and I always considered entertainment, music, the arts as a form of cultural diplomacy,” Bond said.

“My husband is in the music business, we are excited about using cultural diplomacy as a way to strengthen the bonds between the two countries. We would like to bring artists here, would like to have artists here go to the US, and use our combined decades in the music business and the arts to build a stronger bond between the two countries,” she said.

Human Trafficking and Venezuela Relations

In addition to her love for music and culture, Bond has experience and interest in other areas.

She served on the board of the Los Angeles County Office of Education, the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science and as vice chair and secretary of the Martin Luther King Health and Wellness Community Development Corporation.

She stated upon her entry to T&T that her focus would be on economic diversification, relations between Venezuela and T&T, and working to help vulnerable groups.

On the issue of Venezuela, she referred to the US’ recent issuing of a license that gave T&T permission to develop the Dragon gas field that lies in Venezuela’s territorial waters.

She said the move was in keeping with the Biden administration’s view of T&T as the leader in energy security in the region.

“When I first came here my main goal was to strengthen the bonds between our country and this is an example of how we can do that by beginning with this deliverable,” she said, noting that it stemmed from the PACT 23 agreement.

PACT 23, she said, has four pillars – improving access to development financing, facilitating clean energy projects, enhancing local capacity building, and deepening US collaboration with Caribbean partners.

While she couldn’t speak to the details of the Dragon Field agreement, Bond did say that they are very clear about their mandate to the return of democracy to Venezuela and the return of free and fair elections there.

US Ambassador Candace Bond

Helping the Venezuelan migrants is key that thrust and the embassy is working with the T&T Government on a number of programmes.

One such programme is the USAID Heal-Empower-Rise Counter Trafficking in Persons (HER-CTIP) Project at a cost of US$950,000. The programme will run for 24 months and the objective is to strengthen and expand support services to victims of trafficking in T&T.

On the law enforcement side, there is the USAID CariSECURE 2.0 Project with a total project cost of US $13 million of which US $1.2 million will be used for TIP support to four countries: Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Lucia.

The programme, scheduled to last 48 months aims to improve the identification, screening, arrest, and prosecution of TIP cases

The US Embassy has also recently awarded US$69,845 in grants to support the Venezuelan migrant community, including a project to address specific socioeconomic and psychosocial needs of Venezuelan migrants and a project to provide Venezuelan migrants with the opportunity to develop their life skills and English language skills to integrate into Trinbagonian society.

There is also a project to build capacity in the areas of self-defense training and education and engagement for Trinbagonian nationals and Venezuelan migrant girls and women, and a project to address the educational needs of Venezuelan children in Trinidad and Tobago.

Bond, who served on the school board of Los Angeles county, said education of school-aged children of migrants is important but those efforts take a great deal of infrastructure and planning to be successful and sustainable.

The Influence of China

While Bond is here to strengthen the US presence and relationship with T&T, she is very aware of the growing influence of China in the country and region.

“China has a history in Trinidad and Tobago but ours is longer and stronger,” she said with a laugh.

“I think what makes the United States unique is that we have a large, shared diaspora. There are 250,000 Trinbagonians living in the United States, we have cultural ties, we have families going back and forth… we understand each other and we are the largest trading partner for Trinidad and Tobago. Last year, statistics show that we have a trading relationship of over nine billion dollars so we are by far the best friend to Trinidad and Tobago over any other country,” she said.

“We don’t believe in confrontation but if it is about competition, we’re all about it.”


This article was originally published on Loop News (

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