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Whose Mantle Of Leadership?

June 1, 2001
By Selwyn R. Cudjoe

It's kind of silly to determine that the mantle of leadership should not be given to Professor Cudjoe. One does not give nor is one in a position to take the mantle of leadership from anyone. Generally, people are sensible. The have eyes and ears to see and hear. They usually make determinations on what they see and know. As to whether people in Tacarigua look at television with their front doors open, one would have to live in Tacarigua to know and to make such determinations. For the most part, however, it is a silly debate since it takes us no place. For doubting Thomases, the only proof of any untoward behavior towards me would have been the visible evidence of my death or my sister's death. Perhaps, it's a fortune in disguise. Since that did not happen, observers are free to speculate as much as they want.

NAEAP, however, is another story. Three years ago, several individuals came together to form an organization. Our Retrospective (contained on this site) speaks for itself. Our audited returns, prepared by Parnell Kerr Foster, the second most prestigious accounting firm in T&T speaks for itself. It confirms the integrity of our organization. We do not beg the government for any funds. If it is offered, we will accept it. Nonetheless, for the first five months of this year, close to $50,000 went through our coffers. We received contributions from all and sundry. Over the past three weeks we have been lecturing throughout the country: Port of Spain, Valencia, Arima, Diego Martin, Sangre Grande and other places. As I write, invitations have been extended us to speak in other communities throughout the country. Thus, we continue our lectures in July after my return from Japan. In our lectures throughout the country we have collected over $2,000 even though our expenditures have been closer to $3,000. We try to be a self-supporting organization.

We have also been acting as advocates for our people. On Monday last, we (NAEAP, the Nation of Islam, All Eyes on Egypt and Egbe Onisin Eledumare) met with NBN to talk about better programming for African people. CUFU was invited but called to say they could not attend. On May 24, 2001, we adopted a resolution entitled, "United African Front for Media Representation." In it, we called upon the media to correct its distortion of African people; we asked that a frequency be handed over to do African programming; we asked that more positive images of youth be presented on the media; that more space be given to African programming and that the work of African organizations not be distorted by the media. We also asked for an African representative on NBN's Board of Directors. In this context, we defined, African programming as follows: it "should consist of a knowledge of African philosophy, history, religion, culture, social organization, literature, science, origin of human species, food, festival, war, famines, music, dance and song. More emphasis should be given to the history and culture of Afro-Trinbagonians. The programs should be credited and endorsed by the United African Front for Media Representation."

On Monday, I went to Daniel's High School in Port of Spain to represent an eleven-year old African boy who was expelled from school because he pulled a fire alarm. After a discussion with the principal and the parent, the matter was concluded satisfactorily to all parties.

On Friday last, the lawyer for a 1,000-member retiree organization called upon us to intervene with management about their pensions. A large company was not fulfilling its obligations to them. They requested that we intervened. We asked for more information before we could act on their request.

On June 9, we will hold an Induction Ceremony at San Fernando where we will induct over 70 new members. Information can be had from our office (640-6462) or Ermine de Bique (657-0034).

In September we host a seminar, "African People and Money," in which one of the lead lawyers who is bringing suit against the US for reparations for African Americans will address us. Negotiations are still going on for the presence of an African American mayor of a large city who plans to attend. In these endeavors we speak about the creation of wealth, the demystifying of money among our people, the development of habits of saving, learning the instruments of money, etc. No people can break the back of poverty if it does not concentrate on making its members conscious of wealth. In this regard, I travel to the Black Expo in New York to make more contacts.

These are all concrete things we are doing. There are those who will attempt to demonize others and seek to determine why one places the mantle of leadership on Prof. Cudjoe. I wonder how many of those who speak so negatively about our actions are in other organizations trying to alleviate the conditions of African people. If they are in any such organization, they know the difficulty of organizing African people, raising monies to carry on our affairs, the Herculean task of being fiscally responsible, and the demanding task of charting the instruments for African unity. Anyone who has attempted any of these things will be humble in the face of its challenges rather than being verbose about ideal possibilities. Experience has a way of humanizing people and generating understanding. Anytime we hear folks only trying to cynical we know they are only about talk, more talk and infinite stupidity.

NAEAP is, by no means, a perfect organization. We have our ups and downs and have made our share of mistakes within the organization and in our relations with others. But as the great Muhammad Ali has demonstrated, even though you knock us down, the greatest exists in rising again and coming back to complete the task. We gain nothing when we try to out-black or out-African one another. Rather, we should work together to achieve similar goals.

NAEAP has been around for three years. Our Induction Ceremony suggests we are growing and would be around for a while. When we can command over two hundred and fifty persons to a meeting at Port of Spain City Hall without much publicity, then we know we are finding our feet. When the radio & TV stations public ban us from the airways but we keep on organizing, then we know we must be saying something. Next weekend I travel to NY to begin to deal with the brothers and sisters in NY. We are certainly expanding. More action and less talk would see us through.

So when one talks about mantle of leadership and other such nonsense, let him/her tell us what s/he is doing to alleviate the condition of African people. Such action has its own reward and need not be trumpeted around which is one reason why I seldom answer critics. It is well to remind all that no one confers leadership on anyone else. One either likes or dislikes what another is doing. I am convinced that an appreciable amount of Trinbagonians support and like what we are doing and I am happy with this.

To those who support us, please join us and add your strength, intelligence, and material resources to what we are doing. Freedom, as we know is expensive. We appreciate your advice but if we do less talk and more work, we will dig ourselves out of the morass to which even us, by our silly talk, continue to contribute.

The struggle, they say, is not for the swiftest but he who has endurance, humility and a determination to leave things better than s/he met it.

A dear friend wrote me recently. Quoting Epicurus, she said: "Only one's principles will you give you courage: that is the principle that no evil lasts forever or indeed for very long."

Let us be on with our work. There is much to be done. Would you allow your faith to encourage you to continue your work without bitterness and small-mindedness; stupidity and avarice; always wanting to put down another so as to lift up one's puny self.

A luta continua.

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