Tag Archives: Selwyn R. Cudjoe

The politics of redemption

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
June 27, 2022

Old pirates, yes, they rob I / Sold I to the merchant ships/ Minutes after they took I / From the bottomless pit / But my hand was made strong /By the hand of the Almighty / We forward in this generation / Triumphantly.

—Bob Marley, “Redemption Song”

PART I

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeIn the 1970s I had the privilege of teaching the late Fr Henry Charles at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. He was one of the most brilliant students I have ever taught. In fact, he was more brilliant than I in certain respects. I taught a course on West Indian literature, and he seemed to know everything about the writers we were discussing. I deferred to him on many occasions when difficult questions came up in class.
Continue reading The politics of redemption

What’s in a slave name?

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
June 20, 2022

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeThe controversy started when Camille Robinson-Regis called Kamla Persad-Bissessar out of her name. Kamla responded by casting aspersions on Camille’s “slave name”, which played right into a deep cultural fissure that exists within our fragile social structure. Whatever the merits of either argument, as my mother would have said, “Is de answer does bring the row.” Hopefully, in this case, the answers should allow us to see our cultural blindness.
Continue reading What’s in a slave name?

Doh mess with ma name

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
June 13, 2022

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeAkan people of Ghana, from which my lineage springs, have a naming ceremony eight or ten days after a child is born. It is called the Outdoor Ceremony, where the child is brought into the outdoors to see the light of day.

During that ceremony, the child is given a name that confers a specific identity upon him or her. Not a tear is shed if that child dies before the naming ceremony. It is as if that entity never existed, so precious is a person’s name in that society.
Continue reading Doh mess with ma name

Origin of Indian indentureship in Trinidad

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
June 06, 2022

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeOn the celebration of Indian Arrival Day, May 31, an Express editorial recounted: “On this day 177 years ago the Fatel Razack entered the Gulf of Paria with over 200 Indians aboard, the first of 143,939 citizens of India to be brought here under a British scheme to deal with a shortage of labour following the emancipation of enslaved Africans in 1834–38.”
Continue reading Origin of Indian indentureship in Trinidad

Haiti, we are sorry

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
May 30, 2022

Haiti, I am sorry
We misunderstood you
One day we’ll turn our heads
And look inside you…

—David Rudder, “Haiti”

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeAbout 22 years ago I was a part of a New England delegation that travelled to Haiti to demand that Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the first democratically elected president of Haiti after years of dictatorship, be allowed to assume the office he had won fairly and squarely.

We met with the United States Ambassador to Haiti, but nothing came of it. Our pleas, like so many others, were like voices crying out desperately in a wilderness of deceit and deception.
Continue reading Haiti, we are sorry

If the priest could play…

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
May 24, 2022

Liberty trains for liberty. Responsibility is the first step in responsibility. Even the restraints imposed in the training of men and children are restraints that will in the end make greater freedom possible.

—WEB Du Bois, John Brown

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeWhen we voted for the PNM in 2015, we felt that we were voting to end corruption and to bring to justice those who had stolen from the State. Unfortunately, we were wrong. Seven long years after PNM’s ascendancy to power, no one has been found guilty of any major crime of corruption, but then again, all those allegations may have been a mirage in our collective imagination.
Continue reading If the priest could play…

A leader of destiny

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
May 09, 2022

PART I

Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe“The greatest supporter of the movement is / A young barrister who has made the workers’ struggle his / I’m referring to Adrian Cola Rienzi / Undoubtedly a leader of destiny / Who is working the workers to agi­tate / To eradicate and co-operate.”

—Attila the Hun, “Trade Unionism”

Last week I concluded my article by highlighting that Independence brought us many challenges. They included fusing the many ethnic groups together, bridging the increasing gap between the rich and poor, and the spectre of corruption in our midst. I hadn’t yet heard Karen Tesheira’s comments on the possibility of the Government’s corruption so I couldn’t comment on it.
Continue reading A leader of destiny

The price of progress – Pt II

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
May 02, 2022

PART IPART II

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeThe general election of 1946 ushered in a new phase in Trinidad and Tobago’s political development, in that it was the year in which universal suffrage was introduced into the island. In that year, Patrick Solomon formed the West Indian National Party with Dr David Pitt, which later became the Caribbean Socialist Party.

Between 1950 and 1956, Albert Gomes, who considered himself “the logical successor to Captain Cipriani”, formed the Party of Political Progress Groups to contest the 1956 election. Owen Mathurin argues, “Gomes’s outstanding ambition was to outdo Cipriani and replace him as the hero in the hearts of the black working class.” Although the Colonial Office saw Gomes as their “blue-eyed boy”, he was not regarded as the champion of the working class, as he had seen himself.
Continue reading The price of progress – Pt II

The price of progress

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
April 25, 2022

A lecture given at The UWI History Fest 2022—April 20.

PART I

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeI have been asked to speak about the “price of progress”, which the organisers of History Fest 2022 suggested should explore some aspects of the political formations of the pre-independence Trinidad and Tobago. While I am not too sure what the price of progress was, I can try to point out a few signposts along that journey and offer a few personal reflections on them.
Continue reading The price of progress

The Slave Bible

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
April 18, 2022

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeIn 1970 while I was a faculty member at Fordham University, New York, I taught a course on the development of Afro-American literature. One of the books I used was William Wells Brown, Clotel or the President’s Daughter: A Narrative of Slave Life in the United States, published in England in 1853.

The novel told the story of Clotel, a daughter of Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, who fathered three children by his slave, Sally Hemmings. Although the white power structure denied this incident for two centuries, in November 1998 the truth of this claim was authenticated by DNA evidence.
Continue reading The Slave Bible