Brek-UP, Brek-DOWN Society – Part 3

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
June 05, 2017

PART 3

Jasmattie live in bruk-
Down hut big like Bata shoe-box,
Beat clothes, weed yard, chop wood, feed fowl
For this body and that body and every blasted body
Fetch water, all day like if the
Whole slow-flowing Canje river God create
Just for she one bucket.

David Dabydeen, “Coolie Mother”

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeAll of us in Trinidad and Tobago were nurtured in Bruk-UP, Bruk-DOWN huts, big like a Bata shoe-box as David Dabydeen’s Guyanese example suggests. Even Eusebio Atanasio Valerio, an exemplary Amerindian ancestor, who documented his life in Sieges and Fortunes of a Trinidadian, lived in a hut in forested Arima. In Tacarigua, up until the 1960s, an Indian barracks stood at the back of the Orange Grove Sugar Estates (OG). Twelve of the first batch of Indians who came to Trinidad in 1845 were sent to OG where they joined the 265 African workers who were employed there at the time.

Growing up, I remember seeing Indian men with their wives walking several feet behind their husbands going to the estates at five in the morning to begin their daily labor. In many instances, they performed “task work” that enslaved Africans had initiated after slavery to relieve them from working from sunup to sundown. During crop time Indians and Africans worked around the clock to ensure the factory produced its sugar quota.

I attended Tacarigua A. C. School that was built by enslaved Africans in 1837. Kumar Dabooran, one of my classmates, sat between Roy Sobers and me. We shared our lunch with one another. Sometimes Kumar came to my house; sometimes Giles (Bernard Bailey) and I went to Kumar’s house to play. Roy and I protected Kumar from the taunts and physical abuse that were meted out to him by some of the African students.

During those days, we shared in the lives of one another. Racial distinctions were irrelevant. Indian families lived around us. My grandmother, Tan Darling, and Eren Stephens, David King’s grandmother, were wet nurses (or midwives) of the village. They delivered Indian as well as African babies. African women even sold their prospective children to Indian women when they were unsuccessful in becoming pregnant or had too many miscarriages.

When these women had successful deliveries because of these interventions, the children were given to these Indian women who acted as their parents and were given Hindu names. Although these children stayed at home with their African parents, they spent a lot of time with their Indian mothers, participated in Indian ceremonies and learned Hindi as well.

The late Violet King and her brother David, the keeper of our local history, were products of this sacrificial arrangement. Violet was sold for three cents and David for two cents. Ma Sookie, their Indian mother, named Violet and David Rookmin and Bater Lal (“Golden Son” in Hindi) respectively. Violet and David inherited two sisters, Bass and Palma, in the process.

David attended Tacarigua Canadian Mission School that was named after Miss Blackadder, a Canadian missionary, who started the school in 1884. My father, Lionel Reginald Cudjoe, was a pupil teacher at that school. David also attended Tacarigua EC School where Alphonso Nurse, George Padmore’s father, taught for a while.

A year ago Violet passed. She had one son, Elton Frank King, who was fathered by my uncle, Niles Cudjoe which makes Frank and I first cousins. Frank lives in Tobago. David is still going strong. On November 8, “if God spare life,” as he says, he will be 90 years old.

In April of this year Jessie Chase held a birthday party to celebrate her father’s (Donald Chase) 90th birthday which David, Giles, yours truly and a few other districkers attended. Chase worked at OG as a pan-boiler for about 40 years starting in the 1920s. A pan-boiler, a skilled worker, determined the quality of the sugar that was produced.

Trinidadians and Tobagonians have lived complicated lives. In most instances our lives are intertwined with one another. These deeply-rooted bonds hold our society together even if we are not always aware of or talk about them.

We celebrated Indian Arrival Day a week ago. While many commentators talked about the contributions Indians made to our society, few spoke about the ties that bind us together as a people.

In the Ramayana, after Ram defeated Ravan, Sita had to prove her chastity by undergoing a trial by flames after she had been faithful to Ram for fourteen years. She sang his praises as she walked through the flames. Ram, however, had secreted her in a protective fire. Gaiutra Bahadur, reflecting on his episode, tells us: “The flames incinerated the shadow and ‘stigma’ of her stay with another man. It satisfied public opinion, which would have pilloried Ram for reclaiming a wife kidnapped by an enemy in war. Burning up the shame and the shadow, the fire released the real Sita, unharmed” (Coolie Woman).

How I wish we could burn away the shame, the shadow, and the stigma of our past and thereby release ourselves into a new future to celebrate those acts that have kept us together as a society. Such an act would usher in a creative period in our history.

13 Responses to “Brek-UP, Brek-DOWN Society – Part 3”


  • A very well written, honest and inspiring piece of writing. Succeeding generations seem to be drifting apart with materialism as their primary goal.

  • “We celebrated Indian Arrival Day a week ago. While many commentators talked about the contributions Indians made to our society, few spoke about the ties that bind us together as a people”. This truly holds for us in T&T. This is more so in T&T as a small island in comparison to Guyana being a large country. Your opening of this dialogue was a poem quoted by a Guyanese of which I do enjoy immensely, especially
    “To hustle save she one-one penny,
    Because one-one dutty make dam cross the Canje
    And she son Harrilal got to go school in Georgetown
    Must wear clean starch pants, or they go laugh at he,
    Strap leather on he foot, and he must read book,
    Learn talk proper, take exam, go to England university,
    Not turn out like he rum-sucker chamar dadee.
    But do not expect to find it
    where its seeds were sown
    and life experiences”.
    I can relate to Cudjoe’s submission and our Coat of Arms “Together We Aspire, Together We Achieve”. It has me thinking a bit about Guyana’s Coat of Arms, “One People, One Nation, One Destiny”
    All of us have a story to relate and tell, bordering on social integration but there are comparisons to be made between the two lands.

  • Yoruba Israelite

    This is an excellent article, well timed to remind us of the peace and tranquility we can enjoy in this land.

    Buttt… as long as we have Indian leaders that talk of blood will flow, as if anyone has wronged them, we will have problems. As long as we have active sabotage being perpetrated, we will have problems. As long as the Indian in this land have it in their mind that they must “make the niggahs their slaves”, we will have problems.

    From the Negro side, such thoughts have never entered anyone’s mind. And this personal testimony from my brother Selwyn is evidence.

    So I commend this piece to the angry insurrectionists and saboteurs who have been sucking on some kind of satanic teat, that they cease and desist that their leaders’ threats of BLOOD will flow not become a nightmare reality in this land.

    I commend it also to the legal warriors on the other side, who are like the proverbial rebels without a cause, like Quijote perpetually tilting at legal windmills, seeking to ignite a conflagration and bring devastation where before there was peace. The legal system is continually and systematically being abused in pursuit of a satanic agenda. They should stop it.

    When one stands at the edge of an abyss, it is a good idea to check one’s forward movement. Word to the wise.

    Shalom.

    “Deliver me, O Most High, from the evil man: preserve me from the violent man; Which imagine mischiefs in their heart; continually are they gathered together for war. They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; adders’ poison is under their lips. Selah.” (Psalm 140:1-3)

    • Yoruba, after being away from the board a few days I came back to find it packed with comments and ideas which are all topical and current. But I must say in all sincerity, yours and Cooper’s are the only ones that speak on the reality of our situation. As Trinidadians, our favorite form of entertainment must be magic. Why magic? It allows us to see something and think that it is something else. As a person of African descent, part of my growing up was filled with proverbs. It was the way our ancestors used to instill in our minds wisdom which were passed down to them from the time of the griots. It is from them we learned that “when our neighbor’s house is on fire, we should pour water on ours”. It is from them we learned that “it takes a village to train a child”. It is from them we learn that “the wise create proverbs for fools to learn, not to repeat”. It is from them we learned that “By the time the fool has learned the game, the players have dispersed”. It is from them we learned “Ears that do not listen to advice, accompany the head when it is chopped off.” In this respect, we too must be vigilant in interpreting events and cognizant enough to extract wisdom, especially when so much is happening in our midst. Permit me to provide the dictionary meaning to a word that you purposely used to describe what is happening in our nation today and when you call it out, there are those who are quick to call you names which are more aptly representative of themselves. That word is described in the dictionary as:

      “sedition |səˈdiSH(ə)n|
      noun
      conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of a state or monarch.
      ORIGIN
      late Middle English (in the sense ‘violent strife’): from Old French, or from Latin seditio(n-), from sed- ‘apart’ + itio(n-) ‘going’ (from the verb ire).”

      I am not surprised that many find it offensive to mention that word, but when faced with the reality of what is being said and done in our nation, how can one escape that it is exactly what is happening? I shall state a few events in our recent history that any fool can identify and if they come out not knowing what is going on, then we really have fools in our midst:

      1. The trial of Dr. Rowley by the Legislature
      of Trinidad and Tobago by the PP Government
      to thrown him out as a member of Parliament
      and Opposition Leader. In the process
      fixating on his birth and young adult life
      effectively calling him a rapist.
      (First of its kind in our history by a sitting
      government).

      2. Cancelling the purchase of three
      state of the art security equipped ships,
      intended for surveillance and protection
      of the boarders. At the same time nullifying
      the skilled training of hundreds of
      personnel to man and operate the ships.

      3. The firing of the most qualified head of
      the intel staff in the person of Col.
      Joseph only to be replaced with an entry
      level clerk in the name of Reshmi Ramnarine.

      4. The extension of service beyond retirement age,
      of General Ken Maharaj to head the Defence
      Force. (I am very familiar with the Defence
      Act).

      5. The naming of nations such as Russia, India,
      and far away nations as not requiring visas
      to enter this country, while at the same time
      requiring Caricom countries and neighbors
      such as Jamaica, Grenada and others to get
      them.

      6. The blimp, which was a useful element
      in gathering intelligence information on
      criminals and unlawful activities in the
      country, was put out of service by the PP
      Government without an explanation.

      7. When the Prime Minister was eagerly engaged
      in seeking to have a permanent Commissioner
      of Police appointed, the Opposition Leader
      blocked his attempt by having a willing
      judiciary prevent him from so doing.

      8. Creating a ‘Children’s Fund’ to help
      ‘little black boys’ by awarding a
      ‘contractor’ as much as $34M and appointing
      a board staffed by 70 per cent hindus.
      A board that had to be disbanded because
      of the stench of corruption.

      9. Section 34 fiasco.

      10. Calling a State of Emergency for no
      qualified reason and in the process arrested
      and imprisoned over four thousand African
      males as insurrectionist suspects. Coupled
      with that a hyped up charge that some of them
      conspired to kill the then Prime Minister
      Kamla Persad Bissessar. Of course not one
      person was guilty of the charges.
      ………./continued

      • This is an easy game to play. Reviving the talking points against the previous government serves no useful purpose, since one can easily refute each point with logical excuses and rationalizations.
        Let us begin the evaluation and assessment of the present government, a more relevant and timely process.
        In their short time in office, one can easily enumerate the multitude of errors, incompetent dealings,and corrupt practises made an inexperienced gang of unqualified upstarts, the PM included.
        It is an easy game to play, but quite useless and pointless.

        • I reiterate my quote of the African proverb “Ears that do not listen to advice, accompany the head when it is chopped off.” Because it is pertinent to exactly what we are discussing and see happening before our eyes. I wish it was that easy to forget the evils of the PP government and now just concentrate on the “evils” of the PNM Government. The problems with that is, that the UNC strength does not just lie in its ownership of government. It would be easy to control if that strength just resided in the appointments of ministerial positions. Power of ownership appears to be more aptly relevant when one considers that the Executive branch of the government IS NOT ALLOWED TO ENACT LAWS PASSED BY THE LEGISLATURE, without a successful challenge of the Opposition using its ‘strength’ (via the judiciary) to ensure failure on the path of the government. Just imagine, the President CANNOT appoint judges without a challenge, even though the power lies in his hand to do so.
          It is the power of the UNC to disallow that to happen that makes the case for sedition so consistent and contentious. One can even consider SABOTAGE if the culprits were to be identified.

          What I quoted was not talking points, they were FACTS. And the events were real. It is for this reason the proverb “Ears that do not listen to advice, accompany the head when it is chopped off.” must be present in my memory, because the advice is forever present whether they control government or not.

  • Those were the days. My mom best friend was a negro lady. Whenever we journey to see my grandparents on my mother side of the family she would stop at her home face beaming to go and see her friend walking in this girlish childish way. It was amusing to watch. She always talk highly of her friend and the fun they had in school.

    Yes there were years of innocence in the history of TNT where neighbors were good friends. Myself I had a friend lovely young lady pleasant smile from the islands. We would sit and talk about everything under the sun. Didn’t matter our ethnicity. We had great times of fellowship. To date I believe ethnocentric pride is superficial at best. Quickly erased when we get to know each other. And try to see the best in each other.

  • I dont understand why my continuing blog is being stopped and not published.

  • There is an old Swahili saying “when two elephants fight, the grass gets trampled”. In this case, the only victims will be the people of Trinidad and Tobago.

    Of course, these are just a few of the dastardly acts of a government that was too dangerous to be trusted. In any semi serious country those responsible to those acts would be called upon to be made responsible. There are laws on the books that are against these same acts but no one is called to be accountable. WHY? WHY? WHY?. But here is Trinidad, it is becoming abundantly clear that the Opposition does not need to do its work in parliament. WHAT THEY ARE UNABLE TO ACHIEVE IN THE PEOPLE’s house appears to be easily accomplished by finding some in the judiciary to fill in the blanks.

    Every event stated above is real and occasioned by those who are now in Opposition. It is fair to say, as Yoruba has stated that each and every one of them is seditious in nature. It is therefore not improper to label each and every one of them in seditious terms. For anyone looking at those factual events to blame those recounting them, as “racists” or seditious theorists, is like looking at a glass of water and calling it white wine. Those identical things happening in any other country will find the actors in serious jeopardy.

    • Kian:

      Thanks for reminding us of some of the misdeeds of the previous Government, and how those align with their sedition in Opposition.

      And thanks for the dictionary meaning of the term. But we actually had a discussion thread some months ago where the LEGAL definition of sedition was parsed, to show the actionably seditious nature of the Indian Policy document. The only piece missing was to tie it in evidentially to the guilty parties. I can’t imagine some aggressive police work could not unravel the whole thing. Especially nowadays when the means of electronic surveillance are so commonplace.

      In any case, it is clear they have gone beyond seditious utterances to actual SABOTAGE. The evidence of sabotage at the Brian Lara Stadium was clear. The evidence of sabotage affecting the inter-island ferries likewise was clear.

      The only thing now is to find and charge the miscreants. Again, it shouldn’t take too much police/intelligence work to do so.

      I understand why our Government would tread carefully and gingerly in these matters, because one might cause exactly that which we seek to avoid. But I for one would act boldly in defence of the nation in the face of the clear and present danger posed by this seditious and insurrectionist threat.

      We may not have to go the way of Duterte in the Philippines, who has given his police and military carte blanche to basically kill whom he rightly perceived to be a threat to the nation (the drug lords and drug pushers). That way is dangerous. But for sure, in the present context here in T&T, we can nab the ringleaders and lock their a$$es up. The charge sheet and evidence that may be drawn up against them is in my opinion too substantial and undeniable to trigger any serious backlash either locally or internationally.

      Btw, the Duterte approach may be what we have to do to deal with our drug-lord “big fish”, which might well intersect with the sectarian minority pushing sedition and sabotage. See the work of Daurius Figueira, who was fired from the HUWI when he went public with some of his research on the drug trade and human trafficking.

      Shalom.

  • I just want to make this VERY CLEAR, as part of our democracy the JUDICIARY serves alongside the same level as the EXECUTIVE and LEGISLATIVE branches of government. Therefore when the term ‘government’ is used, it should not be assumed that it is UNC or PNM. The Legislature make the laws of the country. The Executive operates on condition of those laws and the JUDICIARY interprets the laws as it is written in the CONSTITUTION. Therefore in the governance of a country, its priorities are;
    First – THE CONSTITUTION
    SECOND – THE LEGISLATURE
    THIRD – THE EXECUTIVE
    FOURTH – THE JUDICIARY
    Those are the basic components of governance.

    I wanted to make this abundantly clear before making my points, because it can be easily ascertained by writings that I may be against the Judiciary per se. Far from it, in order to maintain checks and balances, the judiciary must be utilized. But it should not be mistaken with the incessant rumblings within the UNC going to the Courts because they want to make the country “ungovernable”. Whilst it is within their rights to do so, content and context must be observed and taken within the context of “what the people want”. In this respect, we MUST look at the major issues being presented to the Courts in the cloak of the messages of “the people”.

    Let us look at issue number ONE – the case of the Property Tax and number two the swearing in of two judges. To be objective about these matters, one must first put down their ‘party hats’ and establish ‘the rule of law’ as a guide. IN these times of heightened partisanship, it might be difficult to establish what is lawful and what is not but be it as it may; let assume we are not operating with party convictions, we can make reasonable assumptions:

    Property Tax.
    This issue is a UNC legislative issue which they were unable to convince the Legislature that their views were pertinent to what was being proposed. However, it is being contested as an issue “of the people” in the person of Devant Maharaj. A relevant question to ask is ‘Did you UNC consult “the people” to get a consensus to make this an issue? If so, where is the plebiscite?

    Contesting the issue of the two judges.
    Again, the UNC is contesting in our Courts that the order in which it is being done is either unconstitutional or inconsistent with the norm. But the question is where did Devant Maharaj get the authority through plebiscite to go to the Court.

    What all of this means is that the UNC is operating on our behalf to make these challenges. If polls are to be taken from ‘the people’ I doubt very much that MOST people consider these challenges an issue at all.

    This is the context in which I purview my writings on the matter which might run quite contrary to both the UNC and the
    Courts as presently constructed to adjudicate on these matters.
    I wish to reiterate, that I am not a lawyer, nor have I ever be trained in law, however, there are concepts and precepts that can be proven that these two cases are NOT properly stated as representative of “the people”.

  • We need to be serious in this country. The whole judiciary is in turmoil. There is clear indication that there is a rift within the walls of the judiciary. It would appear from my point of view, that the unseating of the Chief Justice and shaping the policies of the JLSC is at the heart of their grievances. No amount of masking can hide that intent. Most of what is happening is racist in nature, but it is being cloaked in the principles of law to allow itself to be aired in public. The government is trying to fight crime, but the Opposition will fight tooth and nail to make sure it does not happen. The Opposition operates an a party certain of the assists it can gain from friends in the judiciary.

    Democracy, as we know it, is threatened when these matters are allowed to be tested for sectarian purposes of gaining power. Albeit, through means that might appear on the face of it to be normal. This my friends, is the true nature of our current situation. A government with a dysfunctional judiciary, an Opposition not willing to settle issues in the People’s house and an Executive working to work for ALL OF THE PEOPLE must be somewhat perplexed in its desire to serve. A seemingly permanent acting head of the Police Service and a PSC not at all bothered by it. We should NEVER be comfortable with a Police Commissioner in a permanent acting capacity. While those who want to keep us unstable may want it so, it is an undesirable way to respect people who want to be called ‘honorable’. For most of us who want our country to be stable, we hate it when those who are supposed to lead us want to make our country “ungovernable”.

  • It is interesting to see how members of the judiciary is quick to come to the defense of Judge Frank Seepersad after he made complaints to the Chief justice and Commissioner of Police.
    It is true this fraternity of law makers belong to a respected group of individuals who are commissioned to interpret the constitution and give counsel to us lesser precepted individuals, but that is not to say that our collective voices are null and void. If this group of esteemed individuals were so perfect and
    without flaws, then why is it that there is so much confusion about appointments, resignations, re-appointments, second guessing, qualifications, mistrust, inward power play, accusations, hate and racial tensions among this same group coming to the defense of Justice Seepersad? Problems are manifestations of things gone wrong. It happens in every day life of all groups of people and the magistracy is no exception to this rule. When the public senses a problem, it is not without cause or effect. We, the public do not have the platform in which to define and fix the problems, but we know when it exists. Judge Seepersad’s conduct is the epitome of such a situation. We know that Judge Seepersad’s behavior identifies what is wrong with the judiciary and maybe personifies what is wrong with our society, especially among those few among us who are empowered with authority to make judgement of us less mortals.

    We expect those of the calibre of Judge Seepersad to be beyond reproach. We expect them to be Solomonic in their approach to making decisions that affect ALL of us. So, when members come to his defense, they must tell us why are we so uptight, why are we so unhappy, why are we so disgusted with the judgements he has handed down to us? We do have a collective sense of fairness when it is administered. Similarly, we also have a sense of unfairness when it is handed down to us from the benches of the magistracy. What members of the judiciary are doing, is exactly what is wrong with our society at large, they are being hypocritical about what is happening in their profession. There are problems in their fraternal group. They need to get together and find means of fixing it, because their lack of unity and cohesiveness show and we become victims of their inability to be unified in the approach to their jobs.

    We vent our feelings about Judge Seepersad because he identifies with what we see, hear and feel everyday and there is no willingness in the judiciary to rectify their own divisions.
    The Property Tax and Swearing of the two Judges issues are symptomatic of these deep divisions in the judiciary itself. But the victims are the population who have to abide by the frailties of judicial mistakes. Therefore we, as a powerless group must vent what we see, know and feel and that is unfortunate.

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