May Their Bread Be Buttered Over

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
Submitted: July 31, 2016
Posted: August 02, 2016

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeTomorrow (August 1st) is Emancipation Day. It’s a day on which the formerly enslaved commemorate their freedom; a practice they have undertaken since 1848 although there have been interruptions over the years. Generally, two different strata (those whose bread had been better buttered and those whose bread have been larded) have celebrated their emancipation in different ways.

On August 1, 1849, when the upper stratum of the black society-that is, those whose bread was buttered–celebrated emancipation, they drew on the achievements of Alexandre Dumas, the black French writer, to demonstrate pride in their people. They emphasized their achievement in spite of the cruelties of slavery. They had done well and were improving the quality of their lives with every passing day.

At the other end of the spectrum were the blacks whose bread was pasted with lard. It couldn’t be buttered with lard since that is a contradiction of terms. But these blacks, especially those who had come from America-the Merikins–celebrated the achievements of Frederick Douglas, emphasizing the need to revolutionize the society from the bottom.

As the society evolved, these strata took different trajectories: those who mastered various forms of book learning (for want of a better term) and became the doctors, lawyers, accountants, school teachers and so on and those who formed a solid peasantry, planting their gardens, working in the fields, feeding the population and taking care of the society’s daily needs. They might be called the soul of the nation.

The PNM came along in the 1950s and drew its strength on the nationalistic fervor of these two groups: the first proving the leadership of the movement while the other stratum followed, providing the fodder as it were for the movement.

The strength and well-being of the first group could be seen in the progressive tendencies of the school teachers, the civil servants and the pharmacists. Their successes were manifested in their commercial enterprises along the Eastern Main Road from Arima to Port of Spain and High Street, San Fernando.

The second group was more grounded. Its solidity and self-respect were manifested in the lands they possessed; their provision gardens; their blacksmith shops, their skills in carpentry, masonry and other such trades. They were also the sugar cane and oil workers and the creators of our culture.

These working people laid the foundation for our prosperity. They personified self-reliance and displayed their activism in the water riots and other social rebellions. These efforts to improve the economic conditions of the citizens culminated in the 1930s when they struck for the social improvement for all. The women were in the forefront of this movement.

Gradually the contributions they made to our development faded within the national consciousness. Today, their bread is not well buttered and, in some instances, they have no bread at all.

In his address to the PNM Women’s League, Prime Minister Keith Rowley assures us he will protect Tobago’s interests by building a Sandals Hotel there. (Express July 25). He is correct to insist on Tobago’s economic development if the island is to come out of its economic doldrums.

But what about those who live in Laventille, Morvant and other depressed areas of Trinidad? They need similar assurances. It is contradictory to suggest that while Tobago needs to improve its economic infrastructure to ensure its continued development that the people of Laventille, Morvant and other black depressed neighborhoods need lectures on parental or even self-responsibility to turn around their economic and social lives.

The economic and social future of these people will be transformed only through significant economic projects and more pointed educational programs. In the same way the Prime Minister is committed to the construction of Sandals in Tobago, he must be committed equally to the construction of large scale economic projects-such as the building of a hospital, etc.,-in depressed black areas. It is the only way the lives of those people can be turned around.

In his response to Sat Maraj’s charges of racism against the late Patrick Manning the Prime Minister boasted PNM spent $2 billion on Caroni 1975 Limited. One wonders how much money was spent on Laventille and Morvant when the Port Authority was mechanized and the workers were sent home to start a new life.

The PNM will have to invest millions in the Laventilles and Morvants of the society. Not only will they have to butter their slices of bread that are now covered with lard, they will even have to provide the bread. If they don’t, the society will eat the bread the devil kneads.

On Emancipation Day we hope the bread of our less-fortunate black citizens will be buttered in all the places that are now larded over.

5 thoughts on “May Their Bread Be Buttered Over”

  1. “The PNM will have to invest millions in the Laventilles and Movants of the society. Not only will they have to butter their slices of bread that are now covered with lard, they will even have to provide the bread. If they don’t, the society will eat the bread the devil knead.”

    The best way forward for Laventille, Morvant is redevelopment. Most major cities after a number of years have undergone a “facelift”. For instance east Toronto resembled Laventille, government housing, drug dens, prostititution, runaway crime and a sense of hopelessness. Businesses along with government undertook the task of redevelopment, tearing down buildings and putting up new buildings with parks, businesses, prominard, schools and recreation centers. The result was a drop in crime better sense of community and greater living spaces.

    It is no secret that most people are moving away from the city. And that trend will continue over time unless there is a rejuvenation as was done at the Port of Spain waterfront and the work that is in on going in Chagaramas.

    The government have to move with business and discuss the best way forward for Laventille. They have to identify areas for redevelopment. Then begin the process of moving forward in creating a better urban culture.

  2. Mamoo, you are no TMan. You write as though you just came from a doctrinaire sermon from the maunder you attended this morning.
    You are sold, back front and center on the notion that black people are made of a lesser fibre than you and so you go on and on with your diatribe of what you think is good for bad black people. Laventille has over the years managed to denigrate from a place where ‘the pan was born’ into a place or wanton destruction and inevitable poverty. It is ‘Babylon’ as the pasta man would call it. In every country in the world such places exist, but history has also shown that sometimes these are the same places that make contributions to our developments. Your suggestion of ‘development’ is by your standard development by rich (maybe Indians) using their money to construct new buildings (of course to show that they have money). There are many good people in Laventille, only that we never get to know them because detractors like yourself would rather have us believe that it is a place on for the abandoned people of this country. Many good people have come out of Laventille and we must not forget that. This is not to say that this is aq lost cause. What Laventille really need is not development in the sense that you have advocated. What is really needed in Laventille is a renaissance. A renaissance is the purging of one’s ways and adopting new ideals to please the bad and feed the good within. There have always been good people in Laventille, but the bad ones have what it takes to create the havoc and self-defeating ways that have befallen them. All it takes is one determined person to change those values. I observe that Sahron Rowley, the wife of the Prime Minister is taking steps to create the kind of renaissance that I am talking about and that is healthy. God knows that we do not deserve Mamoo to inject his indoctrinate Indian policy on us.


      All cities undergo rejuvenation Kian. It brings new life and energy to that which is decaying or dying. Laventille, Beetham, Morvant are all cesspools of indignity to the black experience. People living in those areas are preyed upon by gangs and goons who mission is to destroy.

      These areas can become places of good repute if a development plan is put in place by private, public partnership. They can become like Westmoorings with good investments. Or they can remain garbage dumps of unfettered licentious living, soothed over by the kind words of a loving Prime Minister. Who bread is buttered and life settle by the millions in off shore accounts.

      When Laventille rise as can happen, the US ambassador is one of the most famous sons from the Laventille. He worked hard to assume one of the most prominent post in recent times. Trinidad will rise as Laventille rise. Dr. Cudjoe vision for Laventille must be properly “fleshed out” along this backdrop of a changing world…

      1. I find this piece a well thought and well written contribution. There is good and bad everywhere. In placces like Laventille, we are used to more stories of bad emanating from its location. But the qualities of good and bad DOES NOT, I repeat DOES NOT just come from a location. The location bears the fortunes of those who inhabit it. Unfortunately, those with the whereitall to distribute the evils of drugs, prostitution and hopelessness do so with the aim to make profits. Not to be a model for society. Profits, whether gained from manufacturing goods or manufacturing drugs in cans, bottles or paper bags are done with the same intention – making themselves rich. Laventille becomes a better place when it is made uncomfortable for such people to survive there. Most of the beneficiaries of those profits live in comfortable neighborhoods like Westmoorings, the place that you so admire and feel comfortable as a venue of wealth and admiration. Laventille can get its own admiration when the habits of the people use it as a base for profits are made to pay for their evil deeds.

        1. Again Kian your low level of understanding and reasoning get the better of you. When the PP assume power they found people were still using latrines and throwing their business in drains, plastic bags the medium of exchange.

          What this tells me as it does many others in an oil rich nation such as Trinidad, too many missed the boat while other came and pillage the boat. The islanders came and got jobs as nurses and police officers while those who lived on the hill languished in the primitive environment without real change. Change has defied people like you Kian because you view it with deep seated fear, in your mind you see Indian business men get a piece of the development pie and it cause an immediate feeling of gastro. But you always get the right people regardless of ethnicity to do the job and all will be happy.

          Nothing happens unless there is an intentional effort to change. Change is the only constant we have… As the nation leap forward vision must become reality. Without a vision we all perish. And so the powers that be can take a broke system and inject new life. That can happen in Laventille, Beetham, Morvant.

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