Williams, Daaga and Black Power

Dr Eric Williams and Makandal Daaga
Dr Eric Williams and Makandal Daaga
How 1970 uprising changed Government policy…

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.
Full Article : guardian.co.tt

10 thoughts on “Williams, Daaga and Black Power”


  2. We have become a nation of ‘sound bites’ journalism. There is nothing being put into the public media that is illuminating or given to the public for historical upliftment. One decides his or her political alignment and publishes thoughts, history and philosophy that is conversant with that alignment. The editor of newspapers such as Newsday has expressed anti PNM views and the editing, positioning and conceptualization of the news presented to the public represent that sentiment. There is almost no reporter that can honestly be said to present a true point of view that does not take into effect their political affinity. That is BAD for the future of journalism.

  3. but do we have to depend on those taht you all criticise, or will we instead do the research and presents the facts as you see/find it. To simply condemn and not provide info is doing no one any good, is it??? we live in the age of information and I am sure anyone can find the truth.

  4. PM: I was target of armed militants
    Prime Minister Patrick Manning has disclosed he was a target of armed militants in the 1970s. In stating this, the Prime Minister again challenged NJAC leader Makandal Daaga to declare whether or not he supports violence as an agent of social change.

  5. I think it is good that Makandal Daaga and NJAC has taken a more central position in national politics after so many years of laboring in the fields. Such involvement should allow for the events of 1970 to be addressed in the national consciousness and to be included in the school curriculum.

    Our students are taught glorified, incomplete and one-sided versions of the European Industrial Revolution and the European Enlightenment, but little or nothing about the events of the 1970, which were an important step in pointing to the continued colonialism within our society despite the achievement of political independence from Britain in 1962.

    The attempts to address racism, light skin privilege (colourism), the identification of ways in African culture and worldviews were sidelined and vilified, the attempts to address racial insecurities and tensions, the explorations of deeper histories of Africans and East Indians, and the discussions about disempowerment of Africans and Indians are some of the ways that the Black Power Movement contributed to Trinidad and Tobago. Pointing to the colonial nature of the society, and putting a lot of these unaddressed issues of race, colour, identity onto the table was an important step in addressing the inequalities within the society.

    The fact that such an important part of our history is so outside of the awareness of the nation is generally an indication of the general contempt of our ‘leaders’ and successive governments for our history. However, more specifically, we have to consider the fact that the PNM has ruled the country for so many years, since 1970. The sidelining and repression of this part of our history, started with, and was maintained by the PNM, who was never seemed to be seriously interested in addressing the issues that given was raised by Makandal Daaga and NJAC and other Black Power groups such as the National Freedom Organisation led by Chan Maharaj. When the NAR and the UNC got into power, things were little difference in this regard, however the point is the sidelining and dismissal of the history, lessons and ideas of the 1970 Black Power movement is largely rooted in the contempt of the PNM for the Black Power movement in the context of the ruling party being challenged socially and politically.

    The tradition of contempt for Africans who saw it fit to reclaim their culture inclusive of names, clothes etc continues today in Manning’s demonization of Daaga, NJAC (and the wider Black Power movement) and his distortion of the realities and ideas of the 1970 movement. Even so, in the midst of the election scaremongering and distorting, people have the opportunity to reexamine the events of 1970.

  6. A letter from Guardian:

    Teach Black Power revolt in schools

    My wish is that, as a result of the general election, the historical events and the significance of the Black Power revolution will be taught in the schools. For example:

    • Political. Patrick Manning was introduced into Parliament via the safe seat held by Gerard Montano.

    • Employment and upward mobility of people of colour. The Bank of Montreal became NCB and the employment practices and opportunities changed and people for whom employment was difficult got jobs for which they had the necessary qualifications.

    • Pride in their heritage. There were many beautiful garments of African origins that were worn, including the dashiki.

    • Names. We saw a change to African names and people were often able to give their meaning.

    I had arrived in this country less than six months before the events of 1970. There were negative things, there were frightening moments, but a more equitable country has evolved. It behooves our politicians to make sure that the history be told and not extricate only the negative aspects to further their political agenda(s).

    Bruce McIntosh

  7. I agree with what Daaga and Grainger fought for but what is your opinion on his merging with UNC/COP? How is that going to benefit black people, and do you think they would be given a real voice or they would just be used and sidelined like Jack Warner?

  8. Good question Kervin, and you and more than half the nation ,already know the answer. Asking these conniving , intrenched tribalist Trini politicians of all stripes, to change my friend is like ‘dey say,’in wiser circles , asking a cannibal to change the menu.
    Regardless, the UNC leader Madam Kamla, should still be applauded for her achievements thus far in trying to restore some semblance of order within her party, after ousting the Panday political dynasty, and for reaching out to others -such as Mr. Daaga -in attempting to forge a broad-base alliance.
    Hopefully, the electorate as a whole ,can be convince come May 24th,that her intentions are noble, and not merely geared to ‘pulling a fast one on them,’ as was done repeatedly before by her predecessors.
    Now Kerwin, this is only one part of the equation my friend. The other has to do with your PNM led by ‘El Supremo Patrick.’ Do some research Kervin, and show where another country in the entire Commonwealth, had a leader who held an election two years before it is due, and his party , and government are so ill prepared to face the electorate- especially with so many skeletons propping up all over the place, with our objective media doing everything for once to point them out.
    Not even George Chambers in all his ‘duncyness,’ would do something as ludicrous as that. In light of this over zealous arrogance, and or stupidity , let’s also hope that the good folks that can vote come May 24th ,likewise will do the right thing ,and send this misguided ,political , dinosaur to his political death bed.
    Speaking to your question of forced alliances , misuse, and discarding , what do you think is the best way Jack Warner, Daaga , and even Errol Mc Leod ,can really “benefit black people?” Is it by remaining ignored and lost in the political wilderness, or as lifetime Opposition party members? Think big picture , and Keep the faith my friend, for so much is at stake- not only on May 25th , but many decades beyond.
    I wish you well.

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