‘Dashiki’ Silence Disappointing

National Joint Action Committee (NJAC) leader Makandal Daaga
NJAC leader Makandal Daaga
As an Indo-Trinidadian, I was amazed to hear Mr. Manning speaking ill of the African dashiki on his platform almost a week ago (“Kamla surrounded by strong, dangerous men, says Manning” – Express, April 23). To hear an esteemed Afro-Trinidadian belittling a garment that is culturally identified with my African brothers and sisters is parallel to Mr. Panday admonishing me for consuming doubles. It is a new depth when we as a people are so bent on denigrating other races and ethnicities that we mistakenly miss the boat and begin to attack our very own as Mr. Manning, without thinking has done.

Mr. Manning labels the dashiki as dated attire when he asks, “When last you see a dashiki worn in Trinidad and Tobago?” As a scholar of history, I must admit I was exceedingly proud when our nation declared an Emancipation Day holiday, and proceeded to celebrate my brothers’ freedom. A major dimension of this day – among others – was the donning of African apparel, inclusive of the dashiki. Every year, we see this phenomenon, and even Mr. Manning is frequently featured wearing such, thus adding to the highly confusing rhetorical question on his part. In their obvious decision to turn a blind eye to Mr. Manning’s edict, rather than transcend race and speak aloud to manifest their courage in conviction, will Africans now shelve their dashikis?

Beyond Mr. Manning, I need to register my utmost disappointment in these individuals and conscious-building NGOs (non-governmental organisations) for remaining largely silent on this issue. Where are the pro-African lobbyists in all of this? Why is Gayelle voiceless now when they want me to be pan-African and support their African culture? Why are NGOs, whose members dress in African print all year round, not speaking out on Mr. Manning’s diatribe?

Recently, UWI (University of the West Indies) staged the reflective-thinking “March to Caroni” where the public was goaded into thinking of 1970 and the Black Power Movement in a manner that had the entire cast declaring “Trini have a funny, funny way of forgetting their history”. I dare say that turned out to be a farce, in light of their collective silence on this issue. It would do well, it seems, to forget that year and related events since you – directly affected because of your racial background – choose to forget your identity today! I am further disappointed that these university students have failed to embark on forcing Mr. Manning to retract his statement. It is little wonder that our university students are seen as no more than passive recipients of this history, with no clue as to how to prepare for their future.

In light of the Afro-Trinis’ acceptance of Mr. Manning’s declaration, please understand that you are forcing the Indo-Trinidadian in me to regard your history with little regard. And that, my dear brothers, is the greater tragedy!


St. Augustine

21 thoughts on “‘Dashiki’ Silence Disappointing”

  1. why fret, the man’s face is listed in every dictionary when you look up the words arrogant and ignorant. he is very shallow and has a 2 x 4 mentally. let’s forgive him cause he really knows not what he does.

  2. I do not often hear Indians referring to Africans as their brothers, so I am rather suspicious of your concern about Manning’s attempt to denigrate African culture. The issue you are raising has some validity, but as William Blake said, “A truth that’s told with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent.” It seems you may be solely interested in exploiting this issue to garner support for the UNC; your closing paragraph betrays you.

    Having said that, I am not at all surprised that many Africans have not made much of this issue. African-conscious folks are used to PNM denigrating African culture, especially during the era when NJAC was an active political party. In 2004, Ken Valley shared a similar sentiment. Valley said, “me ent no African nuh.” He further described wearing traditional African clothing as looking like a “mook”. So Manning’s anti-African comments are in keeping with that PNM tradition.

    Ever since UNC attained political governance and following Cudjoe’s return to Trinidad then aligning with the PNM, I am seeing more Africans who claim to be pro-African but they are usually only vocal on African issues in response to perceived racism from Indians or to discredit the UNC and in defense of PNM. I do not expect these Africans to condemn Patrick Manning’s attempts to disrespect African traditions. Their Africaness is being defined in the context of an opposition to Indianess and UNC.

    The traditional African conscious persons are opposed to Eurocentrism, colonialism and neocolonialism. Many in this small group of Africans have reclaimed African names, are not Christians, have returned to more indigenous African religious practices and do not exhibit any resentment towards different cultures. This group of Africans experiences the brunt of racism as they are also negatively discriminated against by other Africans.

    The majority of Africans in Trinidad and Tobago are of the colonial mindset that sees traditional African expressions as backward, and anything that is more in keeping with the false ideals of White elites as progressive. They are disrespectful of African traditions that they were historically cut off from during slavery and then conditioned to view as evil, backward or pagan (pagan has a negative meaning in Western societies but in essence it means “villager, rustic, civilian”). How most Africans were introduced to Christianity heavily contributed to the anti-African disrespect that many Africans perpetrate today.

    Indians too are very pro-White elite and many do consider their traditions to be of lesser value. But because many Indians grew up with their traditions they are less disrespectful of them. Generally speaking, most Indians consider Africans to be inferior to them.

    Your closing statement says much about you.

    You said: “In light of the Afro-Trinis’ acceptance of Mr. Manning’s declaration, please understand that you are forcing the Indo-Trinidadian in me to regard your history with little regard. And that, my dear brothers, is the greater tragedy!”

    If Africans do not respond to Manning in some public manner that suits your agenda, that could cause you to disregard African history? If you could so easily dismiss African history, then you never really held it in high regard. You could be simply a racist masquerading as a friend of Africans for your own political agenda. So what’s new?

  3. On point Heru!!!
    There isn’t much more to add to such an articulate response. I read the very same article in one of the Daily Newpapers….. It jsut saddens me that aside from the issue of race raised.. it seems that we are expected to become overly excited by the picong that is thrown at us like hungry dogs fighting for food….. That Manning disrespects the Dashiki is bad enough but his actions does not affect me it makes him look rather stupid un-informed and down right ridiculous because come August 1st and 31st… what clothing will he wear to al the Emancipation and Independence Day celebrations!

    Clothes do not form me, they do not make me who I am or speak of my talents…. they are articles that cover my body.. Why i take pride in ensuring that I am dressed properly at all times…. So that someone’s opinion of my clothing does little to bother me.

    More important to me is what clothes my mind. It is sad that so many poeple will use Manning’s comment to see race, when it it simply the rantings of a man who is careless with his speech and his actions.

    1. Why are you suspicious of the guy people. I think Trinidad is old enough to relate to every creed and race as one people.
      My wife wears African Garb, Chinese Garb, and Indian Garb. I don’t act suspicious around her, I don’t sound suspicious either. Why are we so untrustworthy? I have mixed children, my wife is mixed and I am an ………

  4. The important thing is who made the comments – If an East Indian made those very comments, there would a response from all and sundry but since its Brother Patos – there is no harm done.
    But thats besides the point – it would be nice to stop using words like post colonial and neo-colonial and Euro-centric, etc. One’s race or religion is not something that we should be proud of in much the same way that you would not be proud about being born in a certain hospital – its a freaking accident – that you are born as indian or an african, chinese or white – as Milton said: Death be not proud (to quote a another poet) – similarly of your race, do not be proud – you had nothing to do with it and as such, you should not be overtly proud. Its not an issue, its not relevant: we are all human beings first and foremost – and when someone is robbed or killed or maimed in T&T – its not because they are PNM or UNC or african or indian – that is irrelevant. People who have too much time on their hands and have nothing better to do and are really misfits in society push race talk and give all sorts of reasons why things are the way they are and how their ancestors have been oppressed, etc, etc. Ancestors oppressed probably but not you – you are carrying a burden you do not need to carry. The key to this life is to understand why you are here as a person and not to look for reasons why you are different from other humans. All humans of various cultures have contributed to the advancement of mankind and the kind of life that we enjoy today – be proud of the total contribution of all peoples – not only you own race – because race really does not exist – it is a concept that is created by fools: Humans only look different from each other because of skin colour and hair texture – that originated in the last 50,000 years when man left the African continent and travelled to different lands: those on the coast ate fish, got their vitamin D through that source (darker complexion) and those that journeyed into the mountains and interior and got their vitamin D via sunlight, developed lighter complexion – another freak of nature. Human civilisation is just about 10,000 years – Sumerian, Babylonian, Egyptian, Indian, Chinese, Mesoamerica, etc, etc. Be not proud of your race – but use your time on this earth to understand why you are here and who you are – and do not let religious talk fool you either – we are animals first and foremost and share genetic information with all other life-forms on this planet – be they plant or animal. 99.9% of our genes are identical to chimpanzees and bonobos – Just food for thought and understand who the hell you are – very important, nobody else will tell you of this. Cheers.

  5. Heru’s insightful analysis of Manning’s comments and his thoughtful and possibly provacative explanation of the respondent’s comments (Brian Mohammed),summarise this issue more than adequately. Enough said.

  6. Thank you Heru and Empress for thought provoking comments on this blog. It seems like we have degenerated during this election time to contend with folk who simply refuse to put their brain in gear before they begin spewing out their illiterate comments. This should be a time when all sober minded Trinidadians and Tobagonians should be in the posture of serious thought and reflection. There is a choice which has to be made on May 24 which no matter which way the pendulum swings will have dire consequences for our people and our nation as a whole. There are hard choices to be made, on one hand we have coming before the electorate an accomodation, a marriage of convenience disguising itself in a costume of unity, now anyone who knows anything about marriage knows that it takes time, patience, love and understanding for it to work, a developed chemistry which do not happen overnight. For this reason alone we should be very wary of this accomodation, on the other hand we have an incumbent party which has mismanaged over 400 billion dollars in seven years, an organisation which has disrespected and dishonored the trust placed on them by the people of this blessed nation where a decade into the twenty first century a country which was awash in petro dollars cannot provide the most basic amenities to make life and living bearable for it’s population. So far none of these entities have produced a manifesto as to their intentions once they retain or assume power so we are left in the dark to ponder and consider who said what about whose clothes, and foolishness about race war and other jackassness, it continues to boggle my mind that 40 years after Valentino sang his song “Trinidad is nice Trinidad is a paradise” that the song is still relevant today.

  7. No matter how much you undercover UNCERS spin it, Makandal Daaga is a unique rabble rouser who in the 1970 nonsense now called “revolution” by leftwing fools copycating students worldwide, In my opinion 1970 “rukshun” was one of the worse things to happen to T&T it miseducated an entire generation of usefull fools like Daaga.

    It makes me very very suspicious that Daaga, and a chort of extremist like Abu Bakh,(converted in 1970) Stokely Carmichael etc is embraced by an Indian based party with leaders who are practicing hindus and lawyers etc?(ANYONE RECALL ONE OF BAKH’S DEMANS DURING THE “COUP/HOSTAGE” OF 1990? I WILL REFRESH IT FOR THOSE THAT FAIL TO TAKE NOTES IN HISTORY……”MR ROBINSON MUST RESIGN AND IN HIS LETTER OF RESIGNATION APPOINT MR PANDAY AS THE NEW PM”) Hence the venom of propaganda after Panday and Bakh fell out! why did Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj spend tens of thousands of dollars to spring Bakh from jail all the way to the Privy Council?????????????????

    I wonder if the PNM was to do the same with radical hindus if the Indian community would find it amusing or down right patronising!(and would say so)



  8. Some Afro Trinidadians have a mindset that African culture isn’t really the equivalent to them that Asian Culture is to Asians in TNT. There is a reason for that such as various events in history with an end result was the assimilation to the norms of the Eurocentric society that we all live in. The Prime Ministers rant does not have an effect on my closet although an election win for him may cost me resources and money.
    Personally, I am from a western world country and dress like I am from the western world. I could care less if a man ran down the street with a bone through his nose and a spear in his hand with a straw diaper on. As long as he respects my family, property, and rights I don’t have a problem. Let’s get back to being Trinidadian. My grandmother growing up in Manzanilla told me the other day that she never wore a dashiki and she is in her 80’s. We are placing too much emphasis on where distant generations in a different world came from which divides us rather than focusing on where we are which unites us.
    Roger, I respect you comments, but my God as I understand him does not make mistakes. I am not an accident, but rather pre destined. However, you are basically right. Allow me to add that if the whole country were relocated to Brooklyn tomorrow, you all would be Trinidadian so stop the act. Lets get it together and take our country back for the future of our children and stop letting the politicians of yesteryear separate us today,

  9. Mike Samuel – you are distorting history. Thats what you call propaganda. Abu Bakr’s request was for Robinson to be replaced by one Winston Dookeran as a unity Government Prime Minister that was also to include members of the existing PNM at that time – Patrick, Muriel and Morris Marshall in the Govt. The PNM in their wisdom, declined to be part of any such arrangement. Abu Bakr never wanted Panday to be leader of that Govt. Its important to note that Winston Dookeran walked this country through that period of our country’s history in a manner of dignity, integrity and it all ended well – not much credit is given him for that. Bakr went on to enjoy the benefits of our legal system – the Amnesty held up in court, all the way to Privy Council. A little island with 1.2m, a former colony of GB, a third world country – holding up an Amnesty like that. Any where else in the third world, those insurrectionists would have been shot inside the Parliament and inside Television House. Small country, Great Deed – we should pat ourselves on the shoulder for not having that outcome – and my friend, forget about race, its only for race-horses and will not get you anywhere in life, it will only take you down.

  10. Manning’s comments are mare political “ole talk” that is normal at election time. Wake up Dave Mohammed the other parties are adding to the political comess. Get real. Are you a Trini to the bone? If you are then enjoy the picong. After election “all are we is one”

  11. Ok, with Mike Samuel’s “contribution” this discussion just reach the level of obscene. I could understand Heru and Empress’ point although I think they more attacked the messenger. But when Emperor Manning made the contemptuous remarks I too was appalled, not so much that he made it for I expect that from him and his ilk. It was the sheepish (m)asses who let him get away with it. But then that more than anything else shows just how deep is our collective self-contempt.

    It’s not the first time Manning showed how steeped he is in the mould of the Euro; I remember when he attempted to make a pappyshow of Gerald Yetming’s attire because he didn’t wear a (European) suit in the House. I loved then how “de Chinee” made an ass of Manning by countering that he made a decision to wear clothes that better reflects the Caribbean and still kept up the dignity of Parliament. Patrick Manning is an arrogant, uneducated, pompous dunce who needs to be told that more often. But he himself is just capitalising on the self-contempt and wilful ignorance of things African and Afri-Caribbean that all political parties, the PNM most of all, exploited for their own ends.

    Which brings me to this last contributor. The mere fact that Samuel could lump Daaga with Bakr and state that what Daaga and NJAC did in the 70s was a copycat of the student activism in the US and Europe is proof of our self-contempt and self doubt, a reflexive tendency to believe that we in the Caribbean only do things in a follow-fashion way. The historical reality is that it was the militancy, the self-assuredness that, ironically, came out of the fact that in the Caribbean since the enslavement period, blacks were the numerical majority, that informed the radical thinking of the African American struggles. The activism of the US Civil Rights was to a very large extent inspired, influenced and in some cases initiated by radical thinkers who either came from the Caribbean or moved with those who did since the late 19thC. In fact the late Dr John Henrik Clarke argued that from as far back as the 15thC, free African settlements in the Caribbean created models that African Americans took pattern from.

    Daaga and the 70s movement made critical mistakes – as evinced by their lack of planning when Lloyd Best told them the Government was on the verge of imploding – and were a bit too romantic in some of their ideals, but they nevertheless made profound social contributions and should be given much more respect than what the Mike Samuels of this space would have us believe. I don’t expect anything from the Emperor; his own wearing of dashikis and kaftans around Emancipation time shows he’s little better than a condescending opportunist and if Kambon, Tracey Wilson and Co has any sense of self-respect, they denounce him and tell him to never put on another kaftan to prostitute his ancestors, but I’ll not hold my breath for that one

  12. Well said Corey Gilkes, when Mr. Manning who wants to kiss Obama’s African you know what, and he ( Obama) is wearing a dashiki, what will he call it then.Then he will wear one too. This is clothing that millions wear all over the world, it is so silly, but worse that he is the leader of a country that half the people are African descent.

    We hate we self to the core, we have no shame, integrity, and forget who we are when we look in the mirror, and we want to be anything but who we are, how troubling.

  13. Manning is absolutely undescribable-the only answer is a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease………

    1. Dear “Debra McKenzie” I’d bet anything if Makandal Daaga was to ask for 100 million dollars to repatriate 20,000 Africans back to Ghana, etc the UNC head honchos will fully support it!(and we know why)

      Sat Maharaj would endorse it as would Devant Maharaj and the cabal of hindu fundamentalist in that party.

  14. Another UNC mountian out of mole hill mantra like their “corruption at udecott etc” complete with screaming heldlines in the opposition controlled Guardian and influenced Newsday.(jack warner’s $$$$ being well spent)

    I see the unc still fighting with their FAKE Afro names….watch what happens on May 24th.

  15. In God we Trust, But in Manning we’ll eat dust,
    God Please save Trinidad and Tobago, Patrick manning must GO

  16. .. mike samuel seems like a racist “fake african names lol Mr samuel educate yourself about real african names sir Mike is no where close……..seems u support unc because u logged in with your fake african name …lmao

  17. I couldn’t agree more with the intellectual and analytical remarks of Heru and Empress that shows this piece for what it truly is, an attempt to garner support for the UNC. If Mohammed truly held African culture and history in high regard why then is he so quick to see it in a different light. Manning, is ignorant and his many years in office has shown us that he seldom censors the SH*T that comes from his mouth. It’s his signature trademark and using that as a basis for an argument is nothing but shallow. As Heru mentioned your last paragraph betrayed you!

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