Emancipation Day Special: Part 1
By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
July 19, 2011
As T&T celebrates the United Nations-sponsored “International Year for People of African Descent,” it is a sine qua non to analyze/investigate the crucial reality of being Trinbagonian versus, albeit compared to, being of African descent in this Euro-centric environment.
The stark reality is that the ordinary Trinbagonian of African descent does not regard himself or herself as African. He/she is Trinbagonian, period.
Moreover, he/she would prefer to be called “Afro” or even “Negro”— call them everything else but African.
This unconscionable historical dislocation of Trinbagonians of African descent is shamefully reflected/propagated in headline articles in a local newspaper dated 17 July, 2011, titled “Afro Trinis earning more” and “Caribbean Americans and Afro-Americans”.
The stark reality is that the label “Afro” has been expunged from the societal jargon/lexicon of the United States since 1988; ergo, now is the time for Trinbagonians of all descents “to get with the program.”
The fact of the matter is that Barack Obama is America’s first African-American/ Black President. He is not America’s first Afro-American President. And it would be a total insult and the zenith of disrespect to refer to him as such.
In addition, Mrs. Beatrice Welters is the African-American Ambassador to T&T. She is not the Afro-American Ambassador to T&T. And it would also be a total insult and the zenith of diplomatic disrespect to refer to her as such.
Indeed, there exists an overt, tragic dichotomy between being a Trinbagonian versus being an African. The truism is that 99.9 percent of Trinbagonians of African descent consider T&T as their Home as in Mother Country; they do not consider themselves as belonging to Mother Africa.
The fact of the matter is that this historical-ancestral umbilical cord was severed centuries ago and it has not yet been re-constructed as of this writing.
It must be clearly understood that being an African is an inside job wherein one internalizes one’s Africanness. Celebrating one’s African heritage does not an African make. Dressing in very expensive African outfits does not an African make. Adopting an African name and being fluent/knowledgeable about African history does not an African make. In fact, the reverse may be true and that’s the real situation in T&T today.
The reality is that the vast majority of Trinbagonians of African descent are simply outward and/or “one-ah-Day” Africans— annually on 1st August: so-called Emancipation Day.
To this vast majority, being African is a feeling-good exercise on that day; it is certainly not a liberating, consciousness-elevating exercise.
Inwardly, this vast majority is “Trini to D Bone”, 24-7-365. Ergo, their celebration of “People of African Descent” is being celebrated as Trinbagonians, not as Africans.
As such, this celebration only tantamounts to nothing more than one more full year of carnival mentality.
This Euro-centric feeling-good mindset speaks volumes as to the mental slavery that now afflicts and affects this vast majority of Trinbagonians of African descent.
As deceased founder of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) during the Apartheid era in South Africa, Steve Biko once remarked: “The most potent weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”
Put another way, Emancipation Day celebration in T&T only serves to physically free Trinbagonians of African descent; however, in this celebrative year, these Trinbagonians have not yet emancipated themselves from mental/psychical slavery. This is real.
Maybe, Trinbagonians of African descent have not yet read nor internalize Bob Marley’s memo titled:
“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery
None but ourselves can free our minds”.
Indeed, this year-long celebration will do absolutely nothing whatsoever to transform the ordinary Trinbagonian of African descent into a true internalized African. He/she will still be permanently cemented in his/her Euro-centric Trinbagonian mind-set as at 31 December, 2011.
And this is the endemic problem with the approach to African history in T&T— it is from a Euro-centric, feeling-good perspective rather than an Afri-centric perspective. The Afri-centric perspective utilizes African history as a potent, effective change agent.
From the Afri-centric perspective, T&T represents the Destination of Trinbagonians of African descent while Africa represents their Home as in Mother Land. Africans came from Africa to T&T and not the other way around—- that approach is totally ahistorical and Euro-centric, period. We were all Africans first and then we all became Trinbagonians, Brazilians, Cubans, Jamaicans, etc.
Indeed, it is totally insane, ridiculous and also laughable for any one to be ‘African’ only on 1st August but a Trinbagonian from 2nd August to 31st July annually. Nevertheless, that’s the current and recurrent dysfunctional Euro-centric mind-set among Trinbagonians of African descent.
And the powers-that-be in the Emancipation Support Committee (ESC) have done absolutely nothing nor will the celebration of the ” International Year for People of African Descent” also do anything whatsoever to change this Euro-centric mind-set among Trinbagonians of African descent.
Indeed, it is important for Trinbagonians of African descent to be cognizant of the adage: “Knowledge is power. Information is valuable. A people who are ignorant of their past will defile the present and destroy the future.”
And as the erudite , Afri-centric, African-American scholar Dr. Marimba Ani admonishes:
“You’re not an African because you’re born in Africa. You’re an African because Africa is born in you. It’s in your genes… your DNA… your entire biological make-up. Whether you like it or not, that’s the way it is. However, if you were to embrace this truth with open arms … my, my, my…what a wonderful thing.”
Translation—Mother Africa is born in us; it’s in our genes, our DNA. T&T is just an accident of birth, albeit an indictment /imposition, from Father Europe per colonialism and slavery.
Or as Dr. Hollis “Chalkdust” Liverpool opines in song in relation to the liberation consciousness of Trinbagonians of African descent :”Dey aint see Africa yet, ah lie?”
In the final analysis, the fundamental question/outcome is that as at 31 December, 2011, would Trinbagonians who attended the year-long celebration activities consider and/or refer to themselves as Africans “To D Bone” or would they continue “to run from their race?”
“To be or not to be, that’s the question.”
Shem Hotep (“I go in peace”).
Dr. Kwame Nantambu is a part-time lecturer at Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies.