Preparing the Way for Kamla – Pt 7

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
July 18, 2018

PART 7

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeOn July 14, 2003, my mother took her bath, got dressed, went to the polling station located at St. Mary’s Children Home, Tacarigua, and voted for PNM. Two weeks later she was dead. She never voted for any other party in Trinidad and Tobago (T&T).

When Eric Williams arrived on the political scene in 1954 my mother worked in a white woman’s kitchen. When he defied the colonial powers and proclaimed the dignity of black and brown people (“Massa Day Done,” he proclaimed), my mother saw him as a political messiah and PNM as the vehicle to take her out of a house of bondage and into a land of liberty.

In September 1954 Williams directed a show called “Dat Great Gittin’ Up Mornin'” at the Roxy Theatre, Port of Spain. He remarked: “By placing the spirituals against their proper social background, brings out the supreme significance of the songs—the ability of humanity, even in its most abject state—the state of slavery—to rise above suffering, adversity and degradation.”

“The slaves turned from the reality of earthly bondage to the dream of celestial happiness. The rags and bare feet of slavery, become the robe and shoes of heaven, and the earthly cutlass, the heavenly sword. Their material state is not too lowly for the sweet chariot, for their harsh fate on earth they substitute the gospel feast in the promised land” (Guardian, September 21, 1954).

In 1959 Williams delivered an address, “The Political Leader Considered as a Man of Culture,” at the Second Congress of Negro Writers and Artists in Rome. He elaborated upon an earlier observation that Alioune Diop, editor of Presence Africaine, had made: “There is no people without culture. But we lose sight of the natural bond between politics and culture. It is the state [meaning the government] that guarantees a culture, the memories of its tradition and a sense of its personality.”

Williams argued that Diop was “seeking to translate to the African struggle what has already been established on the Indian field of battle. For it is modern India which clearly demonstrates the natural tie between politics and culture as symbolized by Gandhi and Nehru.”

Then he introduced Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana, into the discussion: “We must work a greater glory and majesty, greater than the civilization of our grandfathers, the civilization of Ghana, the civilization of the Mali Empire and the civilization of Songhay Empire. Long before the slave trade, long before imperialist rivalries in Africa began, civilizations of the Great Empire were in existence. And here, you even discover that at one time, the great university of Timbuctoo, Africans versed in science and learning were studying the works translated (from Latin) in Greek and Hebrew, and at the same time exciting professors with the University of Cordoba in Spain. These were the brains, and today they come and tell us that we cannot do it.” (See Cudjoe, “Dr. Williams as a Man of Culture.” )

In September 1954 Williams delivered a lecture at Port of Spain Public Library. It was chaired by Albert Gomes, who eventually became the leader of the POPPG, and attended by Lennox Pierre (West Indian Independence Party), Winston Mahabir (Independent Labor Party and “a close associate of Badase Sagan Maraj”), and Wellington Farrell (Workers’ Freedom Movement). The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation recorded this lecture.

During question time Mahabir asked Williams: In light of “the labor conditions on large plantations, can you tell us if this is one of the causes of the chronic antagonism among the Indians and Africans today?” Williams disagreed with Mahabir but suggested there was “a potential antagonism among Africans and Indians which might lead to a chronic antagonism, but not just yet….(“Office of Naval Intelligence,” November 2, 1954.)

Williams’ response was tentative. The FBI undercover agent noted: “Williams indicated that he was watching his job with the Caribbean Commission very closely, and that he would not say anything which would further jeopardize his tenure. It may be that he permitted another to expound his own views of communism.”

Although this question was raised sixty four years ago, none of the political parties has treated it with the urgency it deserves. Could this inability to attack “the labor conditions on this large plantation” called T&T be still at the heart of the civil unrest in our society today? Is this strategic blindness a contributor to the civil unrest among a certain segment of the Afro-Trinbagonian community?

Dr. Keith Rowley described the shooting at Chaguaramas Boardwalk as “an act of terrorism” (Express, July 10). Does he have to wait until this alienated and vulnerable element of Afro-Trinbagonians aim its guns at members of the police force (which will happen eventually) before he realizes their increasing spiritual and material impoverishment will destroy the nation as we now know it.

When will our prime minister mobilize the resources of the entire nation to permit this element of Afro-Trinbagonians to rise above what Williams called “the suffering, adversity and deprivation” that it sees as its present lot in life.

Or, is it that PNM does not realize it is failing the people it set out to save in the first place?

3 Responses to “Preparing the Way for Kamla – Pt 7”


  • Dr. Keith Rowley described the shooting at Chaguaramas Boardwalk as “an act of terrorism” (Express, July 10). Does he have to wait until this alienated and vulnerable element of Afro-Trinbagonians aim its guns at members of the police force (which will happen eventually) before he realizes their increasing spiritual and material impoverishment will destroy the nation as we now know it.

    Can we really be 100% sure that these acts are carried out by Africans?

    One can never forget the ‘cover-up’ of the murders of Diane Williams and her ten-year-old son Shaquille Morgan in 2010. When the suspects ‘Anton Goodridge and Shazard Rajack'(one Indian and one African)showed up for a court hearing, Shazard Rajack (The Indian) was hidden from public view. To this day, there is no record of his image.. but we can see what Goodridge looks like.
    If the State can conspire to ‘hide’ Rajack’s ‘identity’ from the public, one has to be cautious of pinning the donkey’s tail here.

    It rather ‘fascinating’ that a political party conceived at The USA’s top HISTORICAL BLACK UNIVERSITY (Howard University) is hijacked by Non-Africans today.
    There is a message in this Trump-Puttin issue for us Trinis to acknowledge, “What the hell the Russians have on Trump?”… We must also ask, “What the hell they have on Kieth Rowley?”

  • Unfortunately the good Doctor Cudjoe still does not get it.
    The only salvation left for the uneducated Blacks of Trinidad & Tobago is to get off their backsides and start doing some serious work. I will give some examples of work they can actually do without much outlay of money. Open a roadside stand/pop up shop in a strategic spot selling coconuts, mangoes, whatever is in season. The roadside doubles and watermelon vendors in Debe have already done this in the past and now they are all millionaires.
    Start your own business cutting grass, cleaning backyards etc for the more affluent. One of my relatives is actually doing this right now and making lots of money. A lot of his clients are women so there are fringe benefits as well a pay. Hire yourself out as a day labourer. I did this myself many years ago and had so much work I had to refuse clients. This actually lead to a full time position with the Ursuline Convent. Become a vendor in the market.There are numerous other ways of making honest money.

    Waiting for the Government to give you free money is not the way to go, it only creates a cycle of dependency. I am not sure why an educated man like Dr Cudjoe would encourage his people to continue waiting for the “Messiah” to feed them rather than doing actual work. T&T is a very fertile country where any seed planted, watered, and taken care of will thrive and yield bountiful crop. The Indians of San Juan, Barataria, Plum Mitan etc have already proven this. Now more than ever is the time for the poor Black Brothers to take up this path and they too will prosper.

    Sorry Dr Cudjoe, waiting for the Government to look after your people is bad strategy. Like Moses in the wilderness, take them to the promised land through hard work, faith and perseverance and not lead them on to the path of bondage from which they were freed by the white man so long ago (1834).

  • Williams became a victim of his own power when he raised the class divisions that existed post colonial period. It was an era of unbridled racism were the simple act of an Indian going to pay land tax was told to come back the next day. If they complained no one paid any attention. A time when Service Commission became an arphateid tool to exclude Indians from the Civil Service.

    It was not so much Williams fault but rather an aggressive power hungry class of PNMites who believed that the Indian place was in the fields not in the corridors of power. To that end all state enterprise were designed to be feeding troughs for party hacks.

    The creation of a me/against them class worked well for the PNM under Williams. At election time it was a known fact that gangs of PNM supporters walk the streets looking to beat up anyone who did not look like a PNM supporter. It was of no use to call the police who would simply say a police car is unavailable.

    The PNM under Williams evolved into a cultist party. There had to be no logic or reason just power. Williams did not like loosing elections so he “gerrymandered” the boundaries to ensure a PNM win all the time. His party hacks identified Opposition supporters and worked hard to bring more PNM supporters into marginal constituencies.

    Williams for the African supporters represent a crusty liberation from the shackles of colonialism and white dominion to the creation of the Hutu/Tutsi class. This division continues to this day, but will one day be eliminated…I hope.

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