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National Association For The Empowerment Of African People: A Retrospective

By Selwyn R. Cudjoe

'Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it' Frantz Fanon, Wretched of the Earth.

The National Association for the Empowerment of African People (NAEAP) started its mission on Saturday, March 28, 1998 when it held its preparatory conference at La Joya Complex, St. Joseph. Based on the theme "From crisis to clarification: from self-reliance to group empowerment", concerned individuals who attended the conference decided to form NAEAP in order to address and redress effectively the various problems and issues which Africans face in Trinidad and Tobago. On October 17, 1998, NAEAP was formally launched at a 'Groundation Conference' at the Centre of Excellence, Macoya. At this conference, NAEAP adopted the following aims and objectives: -

a) To act as a representative body for Africans in Trinidad and Tobago and throughout the Caribbean;
b) To collaborate with other groups in the promotion of African unity;
c) To set up educational, commercial and social infrastructure for the enhancement of the socio-economic growth of Afro-Trinbagonians;
d) To act as an advocate for the legitimate interests of Afro-Trinbagonians in the private and public spheres;
e) To empower and to uplift Afro-Trinbagonians;
f) To perform all other actions that will enhance the total well being of Africans in Trinidad and Tobago and throughout the Caribbean.

To achieve its aims and objectives, NAEAP established its Secretariat at No. 3 Bailey Street, Tacarigua. The President, Chief Executive Officer, Secretary/Officer Manager, Treasurer, Power Group Liaison Officer, Youth Officer and Recruitment Officer worked together and actively engaged in various activities to fulfill NAEAP's mandate. Since NAEAP's formal launch in October 1998, Miss Lystra Taitt, a graduate of NAEAP's first Vacation School, has been NAEAP's Secretary/Office Manager.

From its humble antecedents in 1998, NAEAP successfully undertook various projects for youth and adults in academic, sports, cultural and social affairs as follows: -

Youth Forum: July 11, 1998
On July 11, 1998, NAEAP held a youth forum at the Tacarigua Community Center to discuss the particular problems of our youth. A vibrant discussion was held which gave NAEAP a good sense about how our youths felt about many issues. Trinidad and Tobago Literature Project: July 13 August 13 1998 NAEAP hosted a Literature Project where 65 young men and women studied and analyzed the works of several authors, including Martin Bernal's Black Athena and Michel Maxwell Philip's Emmanuel Appadocca. Merle Hodge's Knots in English was used for the writing component of the programme. In this programme, the young men and women gained further insight into aspects of Trinidad and Tobago's 19th century literature; the teaching of writing; the intellectual and cultural achievements of the early Egyptians and Indian epics such as the 'Ramayana'. During the Literature Project, the young adults also received training in computer literacy; entrepreneurial and communication skills; hospitality and tourism management and personal development. Derrick Ashong, one of the stars of Stephen Spielberg's film 'Amistad,' shared his experiences as a young African actor with the young adults and commented on the significance of the film for Africans. Each participant in the Literature Project received a stipend of $400.00, a stipend of $150 for books and lunch on each day of the project. Wellesley College and Niherst sponsored the Literature Project. A $9,000 dollar scholarship was awarded to the top student and several smaller monetary awards were made to outstanding participants in the programme. In addition to participating in the programme, Professor Bernal offered a public lecture at the Port of Spain Town Hall to an overflowing audience.

Basketball Camp: August 3 13 1998
NAEAP retained the services of Kathy Hagerstrom, basketball coach of Wellesley College, Massachusetts, in order to conduct a basketball camp for boys and girls over the age of 10 years. The boys and girls were taught the skills of the basketball game; the importance of a sound academic background coupled with excellent organisational and leadership skills. She also offered free basketball clinics at the St. Paul's Street Regional Complex, Port of Spain. Executive Training: October 19 November 3, 1998 One of the highlights of our first year was the visit of NAEAP's Executive to Wellesley, Williams and Babson Colleges and Brandeis, Harvard and Brown Universities in the United States of America for professional management training. We also used this opportunity to disseminate details of NAEAP's philosophy through 'The First Five Months of the Organisation,' a seventeen-minute video produced for NAEAP by Banyan Productions. This video showed excerpts from the graduation exercises and the other activities undertaken by the organisation since its preparatory conference. NAEAP established contacts with various individuals and entities that continue to support the work of NAEAP.

In furtherance of our educational thrust, Charles Campbell also attended a Carnival Seminar at Trinity College, Connecticut, on behalf of the organization.

First Anniversary Conference / Kuumba Singers: March 26 27 1999
NAEAP's first anniversary celebrations were graced with a visit from the Kuumba Singers, a group of fifty singers from Harvard University and Radcliffe College, dedicated to expressing the creativity and spirituality of African people through song. They were well received and performed several gospel concerts throughout Trinidad and Tobago.

On March 27, 1999, NAEAP held its annual convention at the Learning Resource Center, University of the West Indies. At this convention, we reflected upon the organisation's accomplishments over the past year and focused on plans for the forthcoming year. Lecture topics included "African Youth in Today's Society: A Cross Culture Perspective"; "The Importance of Small Business"; "Women and Politics"; "The Role and Importance of the Family Unit" and "Taking Care of Our Financial Business".

Black Solidarity Day: March 26, 1999
The organization designated March 26, 1999 as Black Solidarity Day. Africans were encouraged to support black businesses and engage in discussions of our common destiny. We will revive this call later this year at a date to be announced. Vacation School: July 14 to August 20, 1999 As part of its continuous quest to expose young adults to various educational and literary works, NAEAP conducted classes on literature, writing skills, computer literacy, health education and filmmaking. Professor Cudjoe offered a course in Trinidad literature; Associate Professor, Joanne Burger-Sweeney of Wellesley College, presented a one-week course on biology; Filmmaker and Assistant Professor, Salem Mekuria, of Wellesley College, lectured on filmmaking. The school was also honored with a presentation by Lord Kitchener, perhaps the last formal presentation that he made about his art form. As per usual, students were given a stipend of $400, a book allowance of $150 and a free meal on each day of the Vacation School.

African Film Festival: August 18 21 1999
To deal with the important question of images in the construction of our people's identity, NAEAP hosted a Film Festival in Port of Spain, San Fernando, St. Augustine and Arima. Attendees viewed Aime Cesaire, produced by Euzhan Palcy (Martinique and Paris) and Ye Wonz Maibel (Deluge), produced by Salem Mekuria and Coffee Colored Children, produced by Simon Onwurah (London and Nigeria). At each showing, Palcy, Mekuria and Onwurah discussed their works with the viewing audience.

Audit of accounts: October 1999
To maintain the transparency of the organisation, Panell Kerr Foster audited NAEAP as at June 30, 1999. A summary of the audit will be found in this booklet. Another audit of the organisation will be conducted during 2001. The audited accounts of the organisation are available for viewing at the Secretariat.

Distribution of Books: November 1999
NAEAP received 75 boxes of books from a Canadian Organisation through the good offices of Garvin Jeffers, 40 Fountain Drive, Dollard Des Ormeaux, Quebec, Canada who was impressed with the educational activities that NAEAP had conducted. These books were distributed to several schools and organizations including St. Mary's Children's Home (Tacarigua), Curepe Anglican School, Curepe Junior Secondary School, Mt. Hope Junior Secondary School, Five Rivers Junior Secondary School, St. Joseph's Convent (St. Joseph), St. Mary's Anglican School (Tacarigua), Tacarigua Presbyterian School, Arima Secondary School, Maloney Government Primary School, Aranguez Junior Secondary School, Tunapuna Anglican School, St. Charles High School, Petal Knotts Pre-school, Jitman Pre-school, Pinto Community Centre, Fyzabad Anglican School, El Dorado Composite, El Dorado Senior Secondary School, Morvant-Laventille Composite, Morvant Anglican Primary School, the Child Welfare League, Library Services, Port of Spain, Arouca Anglican School and El Dorado South Hindu School. Africa Night: November 4, 2000

On November 4, 2000,
NAEAP hosted its annual fundraising dinner and cultural extravaganza at the Normandie Hotel, St. Ann's. Fitzgerald Hinds, PNM Member of Parliament for Laventille East/Morvant, was the feature speaker at the event. Advocacy

Lucy Linda Perez
In November 1998, in pursuit of our policy of advocating for the rights of African people, NAEAP brought the plight of Lucy Linda Perez and the Perez Lunch Centre to the public's attention. Ms. Perez asked NAEAP to intervene on her behalf and make representations for her to the Director of the School Feeding Programme in order to restore her original allotment for the supply of school meals. She also asked the organization to work with the School Feeding Programme to secure the renewal of her lunch contract. Because of NAEAP's intervention and a public confrontation with the programme, the Perez's contract was reinstated and they continue to supply meals to the School Feeding Programme up until today. Although the programme and its agents continue to harass her (a few months ago, her equipment was removed from her work place), she continues to struggle to stay in business. NAEAP continues to monitor this matter.

Support for the President
On January 30, 2001, in collaboration with other groups, NAEAP presented a petition to President A.N.R. Robinson reflecting their support for his initial decision against the appointment of defeated UNC candidates to the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago. Apart from offering our support, NAEAP called upon the President to conduct an investigation into the activities of the Elections and Boundaries Commission and to use his office to expedite the Winston Peters and William Chaitan matter that was before the courts. President Robinson warmly received NAEAP's President and two other members of a coalition called Concerned Citizens of Trinidad and Tobago. TTT NAEAP also protested against the discriminatory practices at TTT and urged its management to become more cognizant of its responsibility to the society and to African people.

Even within the first year of our existence, the national community approved NAEAP's work. A survey conducted by Dr. Selwyn Ryan and the SARA poll in September 1998, found that about 44 per cent of the Afro-Trinidad population was impressed with our work, just fourteen points below the approval rating of the Emancipation Support Committee, that had a longer life than NAEAP. According to Ryan and the polls: "Thirty six per cent of the sample had not heard of the organisation. Forty two percent of the Afro-Trinidad population endorsed the group (13 per cent strongly), 37 per cent of the mixed, and eleven percent of the Indo-Trinidadians. Only 4 per cent of the Afro-Trinidadians held negative views. Twenty three percent of the Indo-Trinidadians did so." - Trinidad Express, September 21, 1998. It would be instructive to see how these views have changed over the years.

NAEAP intends to purchase real estate with a view to transferring the location of its Secretariat; establishing a school; opening a bookshop and maintaining a permanent forum for its myriad activities. The Vacation School and Africa Night will continue to be salient features of our organization. A permanent home remains NAEAP's most important objective.

To this end, NAEAP encourages and welcomes new members to be a part of our mission to secure the well being of Africans locally and regionally. It is only with the help of all that we can move forward. Those who are most blest and gifted have an obligation to give more of their gifts to the organisation.

Since its inception, NAEAP formed several power groups throughout Trinidad and Tobago to promulgate its aims and objectives. A power group exists to achieve the following functions: -
(a) To identify and to work on a specific programme initiative in a particular community;
(b) To act as a conduit for information between the Secretariat/Executive Council and the members of a particular community and to raise funds and make regular monthly financial contributions to the organization as prescribed by NAEAP's Constitution.

An application form is enclosed. Kindly complete same and remit with the application fee of TT $20 and the annual subscription of TT $60 to the Secretariat at No. 3 Bailey Street, Tacarigua, Trinidad, West Indies. The application fee and subscription for a non-resident of Trinidad and Tobago is US $15. All cheques should be made payable to 'NAEAP'. Our US mailing address is: PO Box 812028, Wellesley, MA 02482, United States of America. Donations may also be remitted to the same address. Although there is much more to be done, with your help, we believe that we can move on.

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