By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
August 03, 2011
If one opened the dailies the day after Emancipation Day one could not miss the photographs of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism sitting proudly in their African threads on either side of Kafra Kambon (Express, August 2nd) with a headline that proclaimed: “PM: No more last minute funding.” Just to reinforce her concerns, she cooed: “As a testimony to the recognition in the Emancipation Support Committee, I have requested a convening of an inter—ministerial team charged with the review of all festival—based commemoration to ensure matters of funding and production will no longer be matters of last minute intervention. We stand committed to the success of this intervention and the Minister of Multiculturalism Winston ‘Gypsy’ Peters will head this very special committee to ensure that you get the funding and support you need at the appropriate time.”
Newsday also reported that several of her Cabinet Ministers Prakash Ramadhar; Stephen Cadiz; Wade Mark; and Anand Ramologan were also “decked out in African attire. It was a festive occasion… The Prime Minister and her ministers also joined in the festivities, chipping to the rhythmic sounds as the procession made its way from Brian Lara Promenade to the Greens on Piccadilly Street” (Newsday, August 2). Surujattan Rambachan, decked out in his African attire, also learned some dance steps from an African sister.
The one negative note amidst all of this celebratory effusion was contained in a Newsday headline that read “Hundreds turn out for Emancipation Day Celebrations” which suggested that in spite of the pomp and ceremony, thousands of Africans voted with their feet and stayed away from celebrating the event publicly. In spite of news to the contrary, African people are much smarter than we give them credit for. They recognize mamaguy when they see it and usually act upon it.
So that while the PM and her party seek to impress us about her care and concern, black people understand that there can be no genuine friendship where there is demonstrated inequality between people. Even as the various ministers of government gambarged themselves in front of the public, African people realized that they were merely “playing themselves,” trying to convince black people that they cared when all of their actions suggest they care only for themselves and their people.
According to the Express, the PM said that the home that her government proposes for the Emancipation Support Committee—not for African people—”will preserve African cultural tradition and history but will serve also as a reminder that Trinidad and Tobago continues to lead the way not only in the celebration of emancipation but it is a place for human dignity for all.” I do not know what all this means but I do know that if the PM’s government is concerned about preserving the dignity of African people it should begin by respecting the dignity of each individual within the group.
I am a self—responsible African man who represents the continuation of a long African intellectual tradition that had its birth in the early nineteenth century. I work with the integrity and aplomb that characterized my foreparents’ speaking truth to power as God gives me the ability to speak and discern the truth.
In October of last year, I sent a letter via FEDEX to the Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism. I am yet to receive an acknowledgement or a response from him. In May of this year, I sent a letter to the Minister of Education with regards to a historical poster, “How the Caribbean Won Its Freedom,” that I developed with a young scholar from London. I await his response.
In July of this year, I was concerned with a particular trend that I saw in the result of the 2011 SEA Examination. I wrote the Minister of Education a letter expressing my concerns. I am yet to get a response from him which raises a central question. Can the PM and her Ministers be serious when they talk about respecting the dignity of African people when they cannot respect an individual within that group.
Is our PM serious when she states that “the heritage of all the ethnicities and the cultures must be preserved in our land where every creed and race must find an equal place?” (Express, August 2). How could we say we respect ethnicities when we show no respect for individual members of that race or ethnicity.
Can the PM and her ministers say they are concerned about African people when they seem concerned only with the ceremonial or the outside coating of a people’s culture rather than the inner essence of that culture which they leave to wither and die.
The PM can provide the most fabulous home for the Emancipation Committee but if her government does not water the inner resources that sustain that culture they would only be spinning top in mud. And while the people would be coming out in their hundreds to celebrate the most inspirational day in their lives the PM and her government will be making a mistake if they believe that we are taken in by their flattery and their ole talk.
Karl Marx observed that “If there were no difference between essence [reality] and appearance there will be no need for science” which suggestz that because appearance is not reality there is and always will be the need for science [systematic investigation] to discern the inner movement in all things. One can play oneself and say pompous things but if there is no respect for the group there can be no tranquility in the society.
Africans in this land need scholarship and science to probe and find out who we are. Let us begin to respect the individuals within the group who have devoted their lives to a study and preservation of the cultural traditions of this group. Without scholarship and science there can be no group knowledge. Without the individuals there can be no group. Therefore to speak of respecting the group without respecting its scholarly integrity and the people within the group amounts to stuff and nonsense.
We will not be fooled.