Crisis of African youth in T&T … Prof. Cudjoe dead wrong

By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
August 17, 2010

ChildrenThis analysis is a critique of the following articles: Prof. Selwyn Cudjoe, “The Crisis of Black Youth” and Joel Mohan, “Cudjoe Right About Afro Male Youth”, Trinidad Guardian, 12 August 2010, pp. 32-33.

At the outset, it is necessary to issue the following caveats. Firstly, Prof. Cudjoe has uitilized a Euro-centric Americanized analysis/context of the “Crisis of Black Youth” in T&T.

The fact of the matter is that in terms of raw population dynamics, one can speak of White vs Black in the United States; in this scenario, Black Americans are the minority (12%) while White Americans are the majority. This differential American racial hue is very clear.

However, the boundary lines are not so clear in the case of T&T. The stark reality is that T&T does not consist of Black and/or White a la U.S.A. T&T is more polyglot.

Indeed, T&T’s 2000 population census figures categorically state that Africans account for 39.5% of the population, Indians 43.3%, Europeans (as in White) .01%, etc. Thus, the Euro-centric American comparative analysis by Prof. Cudjoe becomes null and void, to say the least.

The fact of the matter is that Dr. Eric Williams became the first Prime Minister of T&T of African descent while Basdeo Panday became the first Prime Minister of T&T of Indian descent.

Now, how is Mrs. Kamla Persad-Bissessar going to be classified using Prof. Cudjoe’s Euro-centric American yardstick?

Indeed, she cannot be termed T&T’s first Black female Prime Minister, Prof. Cudjoe? Historical/ancestral reality suggests that Mrs. Kamla Persad-Bissessar is T&T’s first female Prime Minister of Indian descent. Let us be reminded that Indians are categorized by the international community as Asians.

Now is the time for Trinbagonians to judge/classify ourselves using our own indigenous criteria, albeit ethnic reality and not fall prey to foreign, albeit alien, square pegs in round holes analysis. Or as MC/comedian Spranalang once quipped “mixing roti and egg.”

Prof. Cudjoe needs to understand that this is the Republic of T&T, not the United States of T&T. The majority population of this Republic is of African and Indian descent; ergo, any ethnic analysis must be made within this context, period. Racial divide does exist in the United States; don’t even try to import that kind of mind-set into sweet T&T, Prof. Cudjoe.

Furthermore, it is totally ridiculous for Prof. Cudjoe to speak about “black on black crime”, etc, in T&T. Again, he is imposing/interjecting Euro-centric American sociology on T&T’s milieu. And this alien imposition/juxtaposition must be totally rejected, period. T&T’s problems must be seen through the societal lens of Trinbagonians and not through the lens of American-trained professors.

On the flip side, Mr. Mohan needs to understand that the term/label “Afro” has been expunged from the societal lexicon/jargon of the United States since 1988 – this in 2010 – “get with the program.”

Trinbagonians need to understand that the terms “Afro” and “Negro” are regarded as insulting, denigrating, derogative, demeaning and “fighting words” in the United States. Maybe, Mr. Mohan and the majority of Trinbagonians do not know this but as a retired American university professor, I know that my colleague Prof. Cudjoe knows exactly what the deal is.

By way of elucidation, if one wants to insult/disrespect an American of African descent, then, one would refer to him/her as an “Afro-American” or even use the “N” word description.

The stark reality is that all Trinbagonians, regardless of ethnicity, not race, need to be cognizant of the historical/ancestral reality that since 1988, the descendants of the Africans who were involuntarily brought from Africa in 1619 to be enslaved on the plantations in the United States are now regarded/called /labelled as African-Americans, period.

Ergo, the descendants of the Africans who were brought involuntarily to be enslaved on the plantations in T&T circa 1516-1517 must be regarded/called/labelled as African-Trinbagonians. They did not come from Afro-Land. They came kicking/screaming/fighting from AFRICA, directly or indirectly.

The fact of the matter is that Chief Servant of the people, Makandal Daaga is a proud, revolutionary, conscious African-Trinbagonian leader. This writer sincerely hopes that Mr. Mohan would never refer to Ambassador Daaga as an Afro-Trinbagonian.

Similarly, the descendants of the “indentured workers” who came to T&T on 30 May 1845 must be regarded/called/labelled as Indian-Trinbagonians. They came from India. They did not come from Indo; as such, they are not Indo-Trinibagonians. Let’s “get with the program.”

As a corollary, Prof. Cudjoe and Mr. Mohan need to reflect on the historical truism that the seeds of the “crisis of Black youth” were sewn since 1956 by the PNM government under Dr. Eric Williams. And the harvesting has continued until 24 May 2010.

Indeed, since 1956, the policies of successive PNM governments have been to keep African-Trinbagonian youths and young people locked into a state/condition/mind-set of powerlessness, defenselessness and the Euro-colonial “dependency syndrome”, ad infinitum.

In order to achieve these Euro-colonial and neo-colonial goals, then Prime Minister Dr. Eric Williams introduced the “Crash Program”; today, in keeping with tradition, former PNM Prime Minister Patrick Manning introduced/implemented the CEPEP and URP programs. What’s the difference – same dependency khaki pants for the African-Trinbagonian youths. As the adage goes: “the more things change, the more they remain the same”.

At this crucial juncture, my colleague Prof. Cudjoe should recall the then poignant but now apocalyptic prognostication Prime Minister Dr. Eric Williams made in 1962 in regard to the “great responsibility” of the children/youths of this nation. He stated: “On your scholastic development the salvation of the nation is dependent…you carry the future of Trinidad and Tobago in your school bags.”

That was in 1962; however, this writer challenges his colleague Prof. Cudjoe to conduct a “regression analysis” using the items children/youths now carry in their school bags as the variables under the former Patrick Manning PNM government.

What genre of “future” for the children/youths and T&T would have been possible?

In the final analysis, the stark reality is that the policies of various PNM governments have undoubtedly created the problem of the crisis of the African-Tringbagionan youth; however, it is to be hoped that the new visionary policies of the current People’s Partnership (PP) government will be the solution.

Shem Hotep (“I go in Peace”).

Dr. Kwame Nantambu is a part-time lecturer at Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies and University of the West Indies.

23 thoughts on “Crisis of African youth in T&T … Prof. Cudjoe dead wrong”

  1. It seems that the more things change,the more they remain the same. All the naysayers describing the African youth are johnny come lately. They do not live in our communtities so they do not know us. But, I agree with Dr. Nantambu’s analysis. Dr. Cudjoe is an apologist for PNM failures so I don’t take him seriously. When African and Indian youth rebelled in 1970 where was Dr. Cudjoe? When we damanded our share of the nation’s wealth, where was Dr. Cudjoe? I blame the PNM party for the destruction of Laventille and Morvant and the African work ethic. Those two communities were once vibrant until they were devastated by PNM neglect since 1966. It is my strong hope that the PNM never return to office and another party replaces it as opposition. Surely, the PNM has demonstrated that it has no ideas for the 21st century. As far as African youth is concerned, we have to look to the future and not the past. PNM is the past. The People’s Partnership is the future. Enough of race politics.

  2. This Nantambu man also appears to be a part-time/amateur, apologist, totally confused, idiot.

  3. Are these professors/lecturers trying to impose their own crisis of identity on the country’s youth? Do they have solutions to their perception of the problems?

  4. I am making a general comment here based on several comments I have read pertaining to African development.

    There are Indian commentators with anti-African positions who are trying to give the impression of being all inclusive in the hope of solidifying their preferred Indian based party now in power. However, not all Indians or Hindus vote along racial lines and this does not mean that they are somehow better than the rest. They could be more ignorant than most. There are many Christian and Muslim Indians who have traditionally supported the PNM. There are some Hindu groups who do not adhere to the Brahminical teachings and are not supporters of the UNC. They are in the minority. There are Hindu groups with African members that include, as I saw recently, an African guru. Again, this does not make these groups any better than other groups as many simply do not understand how some of their teachings are based on racism.

    While the Indian based political parties have the support of the majority of Indians much like the PNM has the support of the majority of Africans, there are still a considerable amount of Indians and Africans who do not support either party and are part of the swing vote.

    There are African commentators who feel that the response to the Indian based party is to solidify behind the PNM even if the PNM is not acting in our best interest. There are many Indians who act the same way in regards to the UNC. Fear or distrust of Indians and Africans has left people stuck in the rut of accepting corruption and mediocrity.

    The Manning regime felt that they could get away with so much wastage and other forms of corruption because Basdeo Panday was a tainted leader of the UNC. The PNM never foresaw Basdeo Panday being removed from the scene and in such a comprehensive way so as not to give rise to the notion that he was running the show from behind the scenes.

    People have to remember that the PNM government never challenged the racism in Brahminical Hinduism. The PNM in many respects is responsible for the prominence of Sat Maharaj and those who share his brand of religion. They could have opened up the education system and the media to allow for a better understanding of our historical and cultural similarities and differences, and in such an environment racist teachings would have been challenged.

    This argument for opening up the education system and state media was advanced years ago on the radio and PNM’s response was to discourage African historical programs and brand the efforts to raise African awareness as contributing to racism. While the PNM pandered to the worst sects of Indian culture – offering them free radio time to further their agenda – they discouraged Africans from pursuing African cultural development in state media.

    Much of what people perceive as particularly wrong with Africans in Trinidad and Tobago is part of the legacy of the PNM, and until this is clearly explored and realized, solidifying behind the PNM will continually be advantageous to all others with only tokens going to most Africans for their loyalty.

    Africans, like any other group of people, can organize themselves in different ways to advance agendas. Most of the arguments that African activists are now advancing for African development have traditionally been dismissed by the PNM in favour of a type of welfare system. So there needs to be some rethinking about how Africans who are distrustful of Indians advance their political and social agendas.

    Another aspect to consider is the myth that Indians have it much better. Most Indians in Trinidad and Tobago are poor and have less of an illusion of surviving on handouts from the government under PNM rule. Instead many work in family businesses, engage in agriculture (many Indians were settled on agricultural lands) and pursue academic education. Indians are also involved in URP and CEPEP. We cannot fault them for that. Still, the Indian community is quite dysfunctional with much of the same abuses within families, similar to the African community. Indians are also well represented in the drug trade; they commit murder and suicide. Many are corrupt business people. There are more Indian businesspeople than African businesspeople but business and money is not the yardstick of a people’s success and development.

    Contrary to popular belief, even the little White community in Trinidad and Tobago with all their wealth has problems like everyone else; it just goes largely unreported. Wife beatings, drug abuse, theft, and all other forms of corruption exist there. Having money does not make better people.

    The problems within the African community have to be taken within the context of the politics of the PNM together with a realistic appraisal of the social conditions of all other people in Trinidad.

    I could say a whole lot more but… I’ll end here for now.

    1. What you say is not only true, but is also well said, well catalogued. However, your remark that having money does not make better people is idealistic to some extent since having poverty is more than likely even worse. And having money places a people and communities, despite other failings into positions of being able to impose themselves and their ideas on those less wealthy, and even more disadvantaged and dysfunctional.

      You might or might not realize that the negative impact of poverty on the brain of a child is similar to that of a stroke. What T&T is troubled with today is not criminals on the street, but stroke victims without the physical limps.

      Also, the weakness of the PNM, unlike that of the UNC is that its core base–not Syrians, etc–did not share its ethnic needs. Today, that same core base has shifted to the UNC.

      What the future for T&T holds, eespecially for its African-based citizens is dire in extremis, just check out where the flower of their youth now languish: in its prisons!

    2. Hello Heru, how are you?
      I enjoy reading your comments here at ‘Trinidad and Tobago [News] Blog’ very much… There is an issue in ‘Trinidad and Tobago News’ concerning the Muslimeen and an auction… Did you happen to see it in the headlines of our newspapers? I think it would be interesting to hear what many posters on this blog (you included) thoughts are on this matter..

      Thank you very much for you service to the T&T online community..


  5. Mr Nantambu, I can agree completely that Mr Cudjoe is not to be taken seriously in his utterances, though he should be regarded as a serious danger to society.
    It doesn’t add up, however, that you criticise him for applying American data to Trinidad but yet you want to impose American terminology here in Trinidad. I see the terms Afro- and Indo- (with the hyphen) as legal and correct prefixes, and have no problem whatsoever being described as an Indo-Trini (an ‘East Indian’ I find offensive and stupid, though).

    Are you sure either of you are really university professors. Then again, all you need to call yourself a university is a couple of rooms and a licence of some sort. We in Trinidad do not have to ‘get with the program’ of the US – the home of racism in the 20/21st century

  6. This has to be one of the worst pieces of writing I have ever had the displeasure of reading.

    In the first place, Dr. Nantumbu accuses Dr. Cudjoe of using a “Euro-centric American comparative analysis which is null and void to say the least.” However, it is difficult to spot where there is anything like a “comparative analysis” in Dr. Cudjoe’s writing.

    But, be that as it may, the main point which Dr. Nantumbu seems to be making is that the “differential American racial hue is very clear” while in T&T “the boundary lines are not so clear”. The reason the boundaries are clear in the USA is that “Black Americans are the minority (12%) while White Americans are the majority.” T&T’s racial boundaries are blurred because “Africans account for 39.5% of the population, Indians 43.3%, Europeans (as in White) .01%, etc.” Thus, the alleged “Euro-centric American comparative analysis by Prof. Cudjoe becomes null and void.

    The crux of the argument is that racial difference is in some way related to the difference in percentages between races. This claim will result in absurdities when taken to its logical end. But, inspite of the logical problems associated with such a claim, the argument can be shown to be assinine by way of summary. Here is my summary

    “The USA has a lesser pecentage of black youth so therefore, our black youth are not in crisis”

    STEUPS! Come better than that Dr. Nantumbu!

    Any argument which seeks to show that black youth are not in crisis must attack either of the following claims.

    1. Crisis is not what Dr. Cudjoe claims it is. (He doesn’t seem to define, he merely gives examples)
    2. The black youth are not experiencing what Dr. Cudjoe claims a crisis is.

    As long as Dr. Nantumbu does not attack these two premises then Dr. Cudjoe’s conclusion is untouched. But, Dr. Nantumbu attacks neither. At best his argument is that it is not as clear that we have black people in T&T as it is in the USA; which is totally laughable. He instead attacks the PNM. While it is true that PNM has played their role in bringing about the crisis of the black youth, that does not mean that Dr. Cudjoe is “dead wrong” to claim that they are in crisis.

    The rest of the article makes little sense. He goes on to accuse Dr. Cudjoe of imposing/interjecting Euro-centric American sociology on T&T’s milieu. According to him “alien imposition/juxtaposition must be totally rejected, period”. Paradoxically, in the next paragraph he urges T&T to reject the “term/label ‘Afro'” because the United States did so in 1988.

    Please do not inflict anymore of this poor quality on T&T Dr. Nantumbu! Keep your [asinine] views to yourself.

    1. Don’t go too hard on Dr. Kwame Nantambu.. He has produced some classics over the years.

      Afrikan apprenticeship & East-Indian indenture:
      “The Euro-British imposed system of indenture was a concerted, planned effort to cement the East-Indian in a permanent state or status of power. They enjoy this status in TnT today.”

      Now, he wants to park his PP in front meh face… With a big fat bamboo around his waist.. “D big truck mamma”..” (wink).

  7. What of the effects of family, community and religion on the development of psyche and self in the Afro/Negro/Black diaspora? The PNM too has been affected by the very void that informs the consciousness of its main constituents. Politics alone can never rescue the western African. The crisis that we face is all pervasive. The policies of the PNM over the past 48 years have not helped the problem because those policies never addressed the problem. It is a gross mistake to believe that the PNM was concerned with the development of black consciousness beyond the cultivation of voter banks. I still hold that the destruction of the African traditions during the slavery era holds the keys to African redemption. You see, once the system is successful in making a person ashamed of what and who he is, the person automatically looses his humanity. This was the focus of slavery and its effects have been generational. The evidence speaks for itself. Remember….Jesus is portrayed as a white man, while the devil is Black, like me!

  8. Well then, why should we adopt the American ‘programme’, can’t we use our own. Is Dr. Kwame Nantambu ignorantly exchanging colonialism for neo-colonialism and oblivious of the fact? I wonder.

  9. While there were obvious shortcomings in the manner Dr. Nantambu attempted to argue his disagreement with Dr. Cudjoe, I believe he shed light on something important.

    There is an existing tendency within the TNT intelligentsia to utilize terminology taken out of the American lexicon. Even more damning, is that they ignore the historical, social and cultural context of TNT and rush to offer “solutions” that have no relevance to TNT. Finally, they are unable to provide even a modicum of evidence that any of these programs and “solutions” even worked for the intended youth within the USA.

    I credit anyone, including Dr. Cudjoe, who even recognizes that there is a crisis among the youth of TNT and sees that there is an urgency which requires government’s immediate and massive response. Time is running out.

  10. In the final analysis, the stark reality is that the policies of various PNM governments have undoubtedly created the problem of the crisis of the African-Tringbagionan youth; however, it is to be hoped that the new visionary policies of the current People’s Partnership (PP) government will be the solution.

    This is indeed a bias statement.

    Most of the nasty vicious crimes (kidnapping/ransoms) are being committed by people of Indian descent. The “African-Tringbagionan youth,” crimes stems from the division imposed from slavery.

  11. In the days of Dr. Williams Trinbago had the badjons Dr williams found A way o elimate this problem This P.N.M GO.has let get to the point ware the youth has lost all respect for Law Government Family friends When bands like Despers have to move from the place that they were One of the most Feared group in the old days now they has gain the respect the new government may want to look at how this was achiev .

  12. If parents don’t teach their children, what do they want from government? Slavery ended long ago and children 40 years ago where more law abiding than children of today. Stop letting them watch BET and teach them to have pride in who they are, the community, and the nation. A lack of parenting or bad parenting is the root of the ills that affect the community today not slavery. Most of these kids know nothing about working hard not alone hard work.
    The government cannot raise children nor should it. Being poor is not an excuse to not be decent. Parents need to make their children kneel with both hands in the air if they don’t want to spank them. One thing is certain and that is that strict discipline must come back to the home.
    The government is still responsible for providing community based programs to keep communities together, clean, and healthy, but parents have to be the most important influence in the community. Te community has to work with the government and vice versa. We have to keep it simple and do everything that we can to better our own situation before we blame others and the Government.
    “There can be no peace without equitable development; and there can be no development without sustainable management of the environment in a democratic peaceful way. This shift is an idea whose time has come.” – Dr. Maathai, Kenyan 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner

  13. “The government cannot raise children nor should it”.(Curtis) this is one of the most uninformed statements I have seen for a very long time.
    Do you realize that the average school aged child spends more time per day with teachers than with his/her own parents?
    No one denies the role and responsibilities of parents in raising their children, but that responsibility is shared by teachers, schools and therefore the government.

  14. Teachers are not parents. It’s irresponsible for parents to expect teachers to babysit. Teachers are government employees. Why not just place your children in a government foster home or military academy?
    Teachers teach my children part of what they need to know. They aren’t away from me more than eight hours a day.

  15. Why is it that so many of our children are wandering off into the pubs, night clubs, drinking bars, and drifting away into infidelity—going down to a dishonored grave?

  16. It’s because you Dr Jlmiller , and others of the moral police religious/ wider social system, have repeatedly failed them ,by allowing too many to loose hope , and so they must of necessity, resort to escapist mechanisms, so as to maintain some semblance of sanity.
    As a caveat , let me add some words of the wise one that was given to me freely decades ago . It is that” banana can’t bear plantain.”
    Got to keep it real doctor! The savvy kids of today would not be bamboozle/ hoodwink/ by successive ,conniving ,elitist political leaders, in similar manner to their gullible adult parents.

  17. ‎”Men must act and whenever they act, there are consequences.”
    Oliver Wendell Holmes
    Unfortunately there are too many men only acting a fool rather than take care of their families. They want to lime with their drunken homeboys and mimic dysfunctional stereotypes broadcast on BET. Until they stand up and place family first no matter what, this will continue. Teachers, police, and politicians cannot and should not be the ones raising children.

  18. Don’t forget to check your Islamic Madrases,Hindu temples, and Christian churches as well Curtis, for you will be surprise as to how much dysfunctional behaviors all of our kids usually can pick up there. One group is taught the tricks on how to be human bombs , so as to get a change to quickly meet non existent virgins in the sky. The other is taught the merits of classism ,European butt kissing , and selfishness ,along with an overwhelming hatred for any group it naively feels it’s inferior. Finally, the last is told that all wars are just, God enjoys seeing some folks live a great life at the expense of the other, and we have dominion over the earth to destroy , and abuse as one deem,\Africans would be fine – including the clueless that never left continent, or was subjected to white , savage , European barbaric slavery- the day they decide to revert to their own ways of life, and true traditions, as presented to them by ‘The BlacksunGod.’
    Sometimes I wonder where the rest of these fringe races would be in terms of issues grapple with , and or babble aimlessly about daily, if African folks were not on the planet.
    What is even more comical for me is the fact that these deceptive frauds, and so called concerned, hypocritical moral police , are misleading the kids of said non Africans ,into this stupid notion, that all is well within their social enclaves.

  19. Dingolay Panjumbie, if the Peoples Partnership is the future of politics in Trinidad and Tobago, that is not a very bright future. But you live in Brooklyn USA so you don’t have to live with their policies. I suppose you also think that Sat is right for Trindad and Tobago too. Now go back to the chat room at C-News and continue to bully the gang over there.

  20. No Iyke, you were extremely hash on our good brother , or is it sister Dingolay. One can never tell with some types, as they try to hide behind these not so revealing pseudonyms.
    You however misinterpreted most of what he had to say on the subject at hand, but fortunately you have me , our resident voice of reason to set the record straight, yes? Here is everything again , in his own words, and I concur with every utterance with the exception of number one.
    1.“African and Indian youth rebelled in 1970? “
    No Dingolay, there is no word in the Indian vocabulary for rebel, and so it’s an alien conception since many , particularly accept their disgusting fate , as part of their Kama.It is Africans who placed their blood on the line to ensure that our neo colonial puppets , led by the so called Father of the Nation , do the right thing.
    2.“I blame the PNM party for the destruction of Laventille and Morvant and the African.”
    I agree ,and think that not a single PNM political member-including of course Kamal Mohammed, and Errol Mahabir-or their remaining families still living ,should receive a pension,or any national awards recognition, for what they allowed to occur to all Africans in that underachieving country of T&T , after having a stranglehold on power since 1962.

    3.“We have to look past the People’s Partnership,and the PNM,that obviously has no ideas for the 21st century.”
    You won’t get any arguments from me there my friend. In the absence of a slave oriented typically useless African father , I happen to grow up with a closet philosopher , or perhaps the wisest woman that ever lived , with more knowledge in her big toe, than King Solomon, Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates all put together. She would describe the PP succession of the PNM as simply “ 6 of 1 ,and half a dozen of the other.” I’ll say that’s most appropriate for depicting these two 14th century political parties, yes?

    4.“It is my strong hope that all the naysayers, and People’s Partnership apologist in our communities know, we have enough of race politics!”
    Good , and that would be a positive change for the best, as some still subscribe to the well proven truism , that asking a ULF/UNC/COP/Club 88/or PP to change , is tantamount to asking a cannibal to change the menu, agreed?

    5.“Seriously, where is The People’s Partnership change for Laventille and Morvant African? They and all African youths demanded a share of the nation’s wealth.”
    Now if they can shift the paradigm a bit, and show some socio economic ,equal rights and justice luv ,for the big butts, kinky head, thick lips , much maligned folks ,then we might make some progress, and won’t need to reintroduce hanging, or import the rest of the British , Canadian Police Service to keep our crime figures from surpassing UNMENTIONABLE ,resource deprived regional neighbors , agreed?
    I am an optimist ,and fervently believe that folks whose ancestors built this country freely with blood ,sweat, and tears, on behalf of savage and conniving Europeans slave owners, with no compensations in the end, can work together with others that share our noble dreams ,and aspirations , and ideals ,as laid out in our Motto & Anthem which states, “ Together we aspire , together we achieve, in a nation ,where every creed, and race ,finds an equal place, as DeBlacksunGod bless us all, ent?
    As a political animal myself ,with a global humanist mindset , and ardent observer of historical trends across the global village , I however shudder to think of the long term consequences for failure to adhere to a more progressive form of politics , outside of what I sometimes refer to as the “me, me, geme, geme, dog with a bone , selfish operation,” that depict politics by neo tribalist , on both sides of the ‘so called divide,‘emphasis should be noted, hummm?
    Love country over tribe my friends, and if there be any virtue then respond in kind.
    De Voice of Reason.

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