By Ken Ali
May 11, 2010 – guardian.co.tt
Dr Eric Williams, Trinidad and Tobago’s first Prime Minister and acclaimed “Father of the Nation”, was an apostle of the ideals of Black Power.
Williams spoke and wrote liberally on the subject before and after he imposed a State of Emergency on Monday April 20, 1970, and snuffed out the Makandal Daaga-led uprising. The issue has returned to relevance in light of Daaga’s election candidacy and, especially, Prime Minister Patrick Manning’s stout criticism of the alleged desecration of the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception in Port- of- Spain by Black Power protestors. The Black Power Movement “enlisted the sympathy of a number of people, especially young people, who bitterly resented discrimination against black people, both here and abroad,” Williams told the nation in a television and radio address on May 3, 1970. He added: “This is a legitimate grievance and I would have been no party to any attempt to repress it.”
But he voiced concern that the Black Power slogan “degenerated into race hatred and even attacks on black business in Tobago and Point Fortin.” Daaga and his cronies led public marches for weeks across the country and Williams said he decided to act “when the total breakdown of the trade union movement was imminent.” In a speech on March 23, 1970 —before his State of Emergency crackdown—Williams also upheld the pillars of the Black Power cause. The fundamental feature of the demonstrations, he said, “was the insistence on black dignity, the manifestation of black consciousness and the demand for black economic power.” He surmised: “The entire population must understand that these are perfectly legitimate and are entirely in the interest of the community as a whole.” If that is Black Power, “then I’m all for Black Power,” Williams said. He had made similar points in an earlier article in the PNM’s Nation newspaper.
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