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Cudjoe answers critics

June 03, 2001
By Selwyn R. Cudjoe

It is really quite interesting to hear the nonsense some persons offer as a rational or serious discourse. Brother Melody (not his name) opines: "This brother really has some serious gumption to speak in New York where so many people know of his history of opposition to the Afrocentric movement, mostly in the pay of the Jews.

Dr. Len Jeffries told us about him a few years ago in City Hall." What idiocy! Selwyn Cudjoe has been a member of the National Black Council of Black Studies since the 1970s. I have also been an officer of the association and attended meetings in St. Louis, Rhode Island and elsewhere. As a New England officer of that association, I invited Prof. Len Jeffries to speak at Wellesley when it was not even popular to do so. He may even want to see the document, "The State of the Afro-American Studies Department, Harvard University, 1978." Thus, the notion that I have been against the Afrocentric movement is palpably nonsense.

Now, if Brother Melody were serious, he would document my opposition to the Afrocentric Movement and let the entire world know about it. Further, if what Brother Len Jeffries has told him is germane to the discussion, he ought to share those observations with his audience so we can examine it to discover its truth content and its applicability to the present situation. Of course, he would have to provide the evidence so that sensible readers draw their conclusions.

I am also accused of being in the pay of the Jews, another of Brother Melody's assertions as I have learned from long acquaintance. Again, a similar question arises: Could the brother tell the world how much money I received from the Jews, when I received it and in what form was it made payable. I suspect he has receipts, etc. and/or other documents to prove his case. Moreover, since this brother notes that I should not speak in New York I wonder how long he has assumed the mantle (his favorite words) to determine who speaks in New York. I also wonder whether those who make those decision (that I speak in New York) have to consult him or some other Council Afrocentric scholars who has the truth and determines where and how it can be uttered.

But sometimes the sublime turns to the ridiculous and that, too, we have to live with. Just for the record, ever since I arrived in New York in the mid 1960s, I have been speaking in New York and acting as an advocate for black causes. If one wants to get confirmation of same, one needs to go no further than Liberation Magazine, edited by Daniel Watts at the end of the 60s, in which my article, "Taking Whitey's Word," appear. It has to do with an incident that occurred at Schomburg Collection when it was housed in its previous home.

He may also want to look at my support for the experimental school districts such as IS 201 under Rudy McCoy when I voiced my support in Curved Horn, the student newspaper of Fordham University. The year was 1968. It might be nice if Brother Melody can give us his history of speaking in New York, his advocacy Black folks in New York or even Len Jeffries' history of black advocacy in New York City. Just a little more history. I was also on the Board of Freedomways and wrote several articles for that publication. I can go on, but there is no need to pump up oneself except to say that my support for Black causes has been consistent. I'm afraid that Brother Melody is pursuing a cause that has little merit other than it allows him the opportunity to mud-slinging and show his ignorance. He has tried it before in other forums. It did not work. Needless to say, even this onslaught shall not work.

However, I wanted to deal with another attempt at mudslinging and cite the historical record to demonstrate how some people lie deliberately to carry out their nefarious agendas. I believe the truth always sets us free the lies and venom that one keeps buried within always poison the soul. Such diabolical souls have no recourse but to retreat to the same mindless formulas they always utter: he is an Uncle Tom and someone said this, that, and the other without advancing one substantive argument to support one's point. I do not intend to waste time refuting what, in the end, is only the last gasps of one who has missed the boat; someone whose only intent is to try to derail our movement. For those who say I maligned Minister Louis Farrakhan, I quote from an article I wrote in the Baltimore Sun on March 25, 1994 or thereabout:

"In 'The End of Afro-Fascism,' Marcellus Andrews argued that the recent outbursts of Jewish-Black tensions 'are signs of a collapse of support for the liberal democratic ideals and institutions in the aftermath of a quarter-century of right-wing dominance in American politics. More importantly, the emergence of a new authoritarian racism among black collegians and intellectuals signals a radical retreat from politics and open debate that threatens to stifle black intellectual and economic development in the foreseeable future."

"Mr. Andrews also points out that the rapid social and economic integration of blacks into the mainstream of American society in the post-civil rights years was blocked by the end of the post-World War 11 economic boom in the slowdown of the American economy. Certainly the insistence on white privilege, racism and the persistent neglect of black people during the conservative era did little to enhance their economic and social liberation, a condition that Julius Wilson convincingly documents in his book, 'The Truly Disadvantaged.'

"Thus when black people turn to Minister Louis Farrakhan and his organization they do so not because they perceive him to be anti-Semitic or anti-white; they turn to him because they are desperate for jobs, because their living standards have eroded, and because they feel excluded from the American consensus. They turn to him because no one seems to speak out so directly about the callous disregard that so many show toward the condition in which black people have found themselves over the past 20 years.

"In light of such persistent poverty and inequality, it matters that black scholars have the courage to call a spade a spade, to challenge our colleagues, and to keep the nation's gaze focused on the central problems that attend black people. Black scholars have an obligation to be accurate and as honest as possibly when we offer our views for the consideration of our group and our society."

I wrote this in 1994. It appeared in a major national newspapers. Its general truths resonate as much today as it did then. More importantly, it can be checked. Now if Melody (who prefers to keep his identity hidden) or Brother Jeffries see anything objectionable about the above statement, they must let us know. In fact, they should have done that seven years ago when it mattered. If Melody reads the statement above as being derogatory of Minister Farrakhan then he has a serious problem of literacy and truthfulness because it becomes apparent that we are not dealing with truth or the high ground. Instead, we are dealing with mischeivousness and the deliberate distortion of the facts.

Apart from wild accusations and downright lies, Brother Melody can offer no convincing documentation about my "Uncle Tomism," his favorite word as I have learned from long acquaintance, and my Public Mischief making. As Andrews notes, it is this retreat from a serious discussion of politics and ideas that characterize the outbursts of Melody and his cohorts. However, what I ask is this: What are Melody's plans for the empowerment of African people in Trinidad and Tobago; how does he wish to go about it; and what has he done about it? One may also ask, What does he disagree with about NAEAP's approach; where have we failed; and how would he suggest we proceed. If he feels he can do it better, nothing stops him from jumping into the arena and doing his thing. Unlike NY, there are little assumptions of gumption if and when he chooses to go public with his organization as he seeks to mobilize African people into a movement to alleviate their condition.

There is just one other matter that needs to be addressed; that is, his assumptions about "the Mickey Mouse world of Trinidad politics." Naïve observers believe in utopia, the notion that in some ideal world politics is practiced according to some apriori-standards. That is, someone has determined what politics is and how it should be practiced; that if we follow some kind of recipe in some political cookbook, we can arrive at a palatable- tasting political meal. However, nothing can be further from the truth. The formula is not to be found in Peru, South Africa or the US even though we can learn something from any of these countries.

In the end, politics is about the assumption of power and influence and the ability to organize the state for the benefits of one's constituents. That is exactly what Panday has done in Trinidad and Tobago. Since there is no general formula about what politics is or how it is practiced, Panday did what he has to do to achieve power—even though it meant sleeping with the devil--to deliver certain good and services for his people. If that is Mikey Mouse-ness, then, one must descend from his Olympian abode of knowledge and truth and tell us the correct mode of un-Mickey Mousing our politics. Because the truth is, whether we like Panday or nor; whether we like Manning or not, politicians only respond to the conditions they encounter.

Those who are forward-looking offer new paradigms with the hope of transforming social and economic behavior. But given the weight of culture(s) and varied histories, the political amalgam that one seeks to sort out cannot always be found in a political cookbook. Some theorists have even speculated that Dr. Williams's death resulted from his feeling that he failed to achieve the transformation he sought.

Politics in T&T might be madness or Mickey Mouse-ness but it is all that we have. And mere talking and calling names cannot solve it. Nor is it something that Melody can transform merely by asserting that 'scoundrels have an edge at the moment.' How does Melody know—what evidence does he have--that things would change for the better beyond 'the moment?' The truth is: he has no such evidence for the simple reason that no one—not even he, in his presumed skepticism, —can tell us where things will be next month.

Today, its seems that Ramesh Maharaj, someone who was accused of murder and other infringements of the law—will be the deputy political leader of the UNC. Go and tell the thousands of people who voted for him that "scoundrels seem to have an edge at the moment." I wonder how that will change their political behavior? This is one reason why I journeyed down to Couva when Ramesh launched his campaign. I wanted to be there to see and hear for myself.

Politics in T&T may not be how he likes it. The problem, as Melody knows only too well, is how to change it.

Politics is about praxis. It is about advancing a position, working toward it by trying to form a consensus around it. It's a day-to-day struggle with real people, in a real world. But then the Internet is fantastic tool. It allows anyone to make any statement, full in the knowledge that s/he is the paragon of virtue even though his words spews forth venom. I do not care for Panday's politics but anyone who believes that he knows more about Trinidad politics than Panday because he teaches or studies at a university is an ass.

Anyone who believes that words are magical incantations that miraculously change a situation suffers from serious delusions. I neither love nor hate T&T politics. I accept it for what it is. I spoke on PNM platforms during the general election and the THA elections because I believe that PNM offered T&T a better choice. When I went to Tobago to speak, I was told "we don't allow Trinidadians on our platforms but we would allow you to speak." When we registered young people from Tacarigua to vote; that was politics. Some had never voted in their lives. When we did our walk-abouts in Tunapuna and Caura and Candaha; that was politics.

It was about trying to influence people to vote in a particular way. When I assisted in trying to outline how T&T must be positioned in the global age, economically, socially and otherwise, that was politics. I can go on but then the apogee of Melody's contribution to any serious debate about T&T's future is to talk about "the Mickey Mouse world of Trinidad politics" as though, in so doing, he asserts some unrivalled and unparalleled wisdom.

Needless to say, this kind of refutation is exhausting. It is something that I really cannot keep on doing no matter how necessary. However, the stupidly that fools utter always seem to outlive them and leave their traces on the sober discourses of serious people. There is nothing I can do about that. Yet, somehow, I hope that God gives Melody the grace to advance a constructive position about something. When would he realize that mudslinging does not reflect on Cudjoe or Cudjoe's behavior. It reflects Melody's intellectual limitations, his hateful proclivities and his vindictive nature.

Corinthians puts it this way: Now we know in part; then we shall understand as fully as we have been understood. As Marley say, "It's a foolish dog that barks at a flying bird."

In retrospect, why can't he seek common ground rather than revel in the mud.

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