Pride in our origins

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
January 02, 2023

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeTwo weeks ago I cautioned the People’s National Movement about the Prime Minister’s desire to foist Stuart Young upon the party as its next political leader. I also asked party leaders to recognise how important black people are to the sustenance of the party.

In his response, Minister Young accused the editor of the Express and me of being racist for publishing my observation. He commented: “The Express editor has taken a conscious decision to use racism as the foundation for an attack against me and I reject this… It is important at moments like this when media and others attempt to attack persons based on race, and a promotion of racism, that we, the citizens, reject them and their messaging, and I do so.” (Express, December 19.)

Black Stalin, whose primary concern was the advancement of black people, left us on Wednesday to join our ancestors. Despite our shared grief, I exclaimed, “How propitious!” Here was the personification of black pride, an advocate for black dignity, one of our most enlightened griots leaving us in our suffering but providing us with a repertoire of wisdom to help us face each new day. As I contemplated his legacy, I wondered if Young and his money-class friends considered Black Stalin a racist because he celebrated his racial origins.

Mia Amor Mottley, the prime minister of Barbados and another proud black woman, captured the profundity of Black Stalin’s work. She said: “Black Stalin was acutely conscious of our shared history, culture, passions and concerns, and expressed them in his songs in a way we never could ourselves.

“In the true tradition of calypso, Black Stalin was also a griot, chronicling the issues and philosophies impacting our daily lives.” (Express, December 30.)

Stalin was black and proud of his blackness, hence his sobriquet, Black Stalin. He excelled at almost every facet of his art, but was at his best when he spoke about the condition of his people. Such a moment was especially poignant when he called on St Peter to allow him to bun our oppressors when they arrived at heaven’s gate. Mottley reminds us: “This was a powerful reminder of the exploitation and the oppression of black people, by whoever and whatever.” (My italics.)

The meaning here is simple. Black people have an obligation to expose our oppressors, whoever they are or wherever they happen to be. He recognised that it was a continuous struggle to which we must dedicate our lives. So when our newspapers and Facebook pages are filled with encomiums of Black Stalin, I hope that no one dares call him a racist.

Black Stalin was made by his society and the pride he felt as a black person, in spite of the oppression that he faced. He spoke about our common historical and cultural origins, convinced that a person who didn’t know his/her past could never discover his/her true identity.

He reminded us that we could make it if we tried. His wife, Patsy Calliste, recalled: “He denounced racism, championed the cause of the underprivileged, and advocated for Caribbean unity.”

The one thing that Young and the PNM leaders do not understand is that in spite of the progress the country has made since its independence, black people (or “the underprivileged”, as his (Black Stalin’s) wife has called us) are still at the bottom of the economic pile. In this context, a consciousness of our origins and our culture are indispensable weapons as we strive to overcome our “little troubles”, as Bob Marley said of our fellow sufferers in Zimbabwe.

At the same time that Young was uttering his inanities, the new United States ambassador to T&T announced her arrival in the country with fierce determination and pride: “The Bond family represents a proud line of black educators, professionals and community leaders.

“Descended from slaves, our family has made meaningful contributions to the fabric of our country. Indeed, our history is a proud American story…

“My mother was an educator who served as president of the St Louis school board–the first black woman to do so–and she served on President Lyndon Johnson’s civil rights commission…

“My parents were both actively involved in the civil rights movement in the US. They were instrumental in the early days of garnering key community and business support that was crucial to getting black candidates elected to political office, to which they had never before had access.” (Express, December 19.)

I hope this declaration of self doesn’t make her a racist.

Eintou Pearl Springer lamented, “the seeming absence of any Ifa/Orisa representation at the recently held National Day of Prayer… Let us not forget that African spirituality was deliberately targeted for dehumanisation of the African during enslavement and colonisation… Ifa/Orisa spirituality must be represented at all national events where religious leaders are invited to speak, to pray.” (Express, December 19.)

I hope she is not seen as a racist.

Black Stalin lamented the oppression of black people, Bob Marley went to Africa in solidarity with Zimbabweans, PM Mottley celebrated the achievements of this “nation builder”, while Springer admonished, “Respect our spirituality.”

It is incumbent upon any conscious black person to insist that we honour our own and demand that our struggles be rewarded in this life, rather than in the other.

Sometimes we create enemies when we speak up about our people, but I take comfort from Victor Hugo’s observation: “You have enemies? Good. It means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

Black Stalin gives us the courage to speak up about the need for black people to fight for justice and fairness, and that is not racism. It is called pride in our origins.

4 thoughts on “Pride in our origins”

  1. “It is incumbent upon any conscious black person to insist that we honour our own and demand that our struggles be rewarded in this life, rather than in the other.”

    Black folks are the privilege class in sweet TnT. Out of 60 years of independence, the PNM has ruled for over 40 years. Dr Rowley as the chosen son has been PM for over 7 years. The treasury has been opened to black folks and the 1%. Go into to Barrackpore and you will be shocked at the appalling state of the roads. In Clarke Road, Penal communities have been cut off, by a landslide both PNM and UNC and those who don’t vote suffering. Over two months now and no action. People are spending more money on gas and wasting time getting to their destination…but it is no bother to those in charge. Yet up north they paving road like crazy where nobody lives…

    The sins of the PNM is taking TnT down the road to perdition. 614 citizens were murdered in 2022. A record for the honorable republic. Along came the Prime Minister telling the nation that it happening all over the Caribbean and the world even insulting the people by quoting statistics about how bad it is across the Caribbean.

    This year 2023 will continue with the centralized theme of PNM incompetence aided and abetted by the loyal lackies of the balisier juice drinking brigade. Don’t expect much and you will not be disappointed…

  2. Stalin along with other calypsonians kept the art form alive. He was true to the genre and bought a stylish conversation wrapped in a melody that mesmerize you from the beginning. He knew how to “work” the stage moving from one end to the next as though he was gliding along. Never one to stay in the same spot. Being a Rasta he did better than the current Rasta in charge of National Security.

    Calypso can made a come back, the tents can be filled if the calypsonians become A political. No one wants to be in a tent where the donkey brays and bows to the national Party. People time is valuable. To win though, the judges are not A political, and so writers are oblige to make the PM happy because the pay out is massive.

  3. “SENATE president Christine Kangaloo will be nominated by the government next week to be the country’s next President – the Head of State.” Another one of Rowley chosen women. She is known to “buff up” the Opposition in the Senate, especially in times past Anil Roberts. With the same mental disposition of Mrs. Bridgid Annisette-George. Maximum dictator has centralized power. All he has to now like his friend Maduro is changed the Constitution to silence all Opposition.

    The Rowley administration has done all in its power to stifle and stop the institutions of democracy from maintaining their independence. Chief Justice, President, Prime Minister are all deeply entrenched members of the Balisier Brigade. Followed by a CoP who is to the P.M. liking. Then the EBC has a former Minister niece who has delivered well in the last election. To complete the whole cocondrum is a docile, foot licking media with editors who hold PNM party cards.

    The Presidential institution was brought to its lowest by the current President. She will retire and earn over a million dollars per year of tax payers money. But one must not be too hard on the astute lady who may have not read the public right. After all living in the “big house” with the finest of delicacies prepared each day can cause an individual to become “detached” to the cries of the citizenry.

    But back to the current appointee, she is related to Noel Garcia (husband uncle) a good friend of Dr Rowley. One can anticipate that the meetings between her and Rowley will be like old friends siping champagne and eating caviar. And why not? The Garcia family is the primary consultant on all major projects. So we can safely say the office of the President will be extremely favourable towards the current administration. And for good measure she might at times show her utter disdain for the Opposition. It is a great time to be a PNM and a bad time for democracy…

  4. The good Doctor has touched on various topics in this article, Black Pride, Education, and encomiums for Black Stalin. I have no problem with any of these comments, but his opening point that Stuart Young should not be Leader of the PNM because he is not not Black made me feel uncomfortable and I sincerely hope his racist sentiments are not shared by a majority of the Black Intelligentsia.
    I recall a line in our National Anthem “Where every creed and race find an equal place”. Dr Cudjoe obviously does not support this vision of our country.
    We are on a slippery slope here, which is no different from the ideology perpetuated by the Nazi regime of Aryan Superiority resulting in the genocide of the Jews, Gypsies and other so called inferior peoples.

    As an aside, Dr Williams and other founding members of the PNM were educated individuals who valued getting an education as a means of individual economic progress.
    Unfortunately it appears that the current crop of PNM leaders and supporters seems focused on enriching themselves by draining the National Treasury.

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