Because, listening to some callers to Power 102 and i95.5fm the morning after the passing of Makandal Daaga, one has to wonder why we bothered changing flags in 1962.
The way many of us analyse –using that word loosely – our society’s economic, political and social challenges with the same mindset (and formal dress styles) as the supposedly departed coloniser, it’s not hard to understand the scornful observations of Naipaul, CLR James and Lloyd Best made about many in this society. There’s very little vision, imagination and independent thought, but a whole lot of ignorance and self-contempt which they are quick to project onto the few who dare to think and act differently.
So it was with Makandal Daaga (who some callers and hosts insisted on referring to by his birth name rather than the one he chose of his own conscious will). Now the Chief Servant made many mistakes in life, certainly some in recent years. But here was someone who, along with others who also dared to dream – and do more than just dream – sought to improve our society. He refused to accept as a given the white supremacist values upon which our social, political, economic, legal and education systems were built and which continue to guide the thinking of many among us regardless of their skin colour. He laboured to forge racial unity recognising the difficulties of doing so given the decades of deliberate actions by the European elites and their local tribal collaborators. He fought to encourage a large section of the population to love and embrace their “Trinbagonianness” by first identifying, loving and embracing their Africanness. And he sought to do this by drawing from the deep well of humanistic African-centred thought from the Continent and the Diaspora, particularly from Caribbean thinkers, going back to at least the 19th century.
But that’s not what you’ll hear from the Jobs, Ramcharitars, Baldeosinghs and Boodans among us along with the slew of self-loathing, ignorant callers to the airwaves. No, Daaga and he posse just copy a setta slogan from dem radical in the States that had nothing to do with us here. Such thinking just exposes those who accept the view that we could only imitate, not initiate. It also ignores the evidence showing that much of the radicalism in the US Civil Rights and Black Power struggles can be traced to Caribbean radicals such as Garvey, James, Padmore, Claudia Jones, even stories of Maroon settlements that Black seamen encountered as they traversed the Atlantic since the 17th century.
I’ve long ceased expecting much from almost all of the 40-80 age group; I suggest you millennials give most of us a wide berth before you become contaminated. However, do try to learn as much about Makandal Daaga as possible – difficult, given what passes for History, I know – and try to stand on the shoulders of at least one giant we have produced.