Race, Nation, Identity:
Lecture delivered at Africa Centre, London,
The Case for the National Association For the Empowerment of African People
on Thursday, May 4, 2001
By Selwyn R. Cudjoe
To expose the difference between heroic appearance and inglorious reality—stripping off the gallant knight's disguise to reveal a tubby little man in his underpants—is, of course, one of the classic methods of comedy.
Francis Wheen, Karl Marx
I do not believe in people telling others of their faith, especially with a view to conversion. Faith does not admit of telling. It has to be lived and then it becomes self-propagating.
Mahatma Gandhi, What is Hinduism?
Dr. Soraya Aziz is a small woman who possesses a gift for uproarious laughter. As my mother would say, when she laughs, she laughs from the bottom of her heart. It was my good fortune to meet her via the internet. She responded to one of my weekly columns in a friendly, though scathing manner. Although she agreed with what I said, she outlined her own reservations. That encounter started a friendship that I hope will continue into the future. When, therefore, I decided to come to London to do some work unrelated to the National Association for the Empowerment of African People (NAEAP), she thought that it advisably that I address Trinidad and Tobago citizens who congregate at Trinidad and Tobago High Commission's Office for monthly briefings of events in the homeland. Unbelievably, such a simple request started a whole round of evasions and diplomatic double speak that almost became Kafkaesque as it unfolded.
Dr. Aziz requested permission for me to speak about a month prior to my arrival in London. After weeks of evasion, the Commission informed her—I leave out the names of those involved—that the unofficial policy of the Commission is not to use Trinidad and Tobago's premises for what they called "sectoral groups." They were also brave enough to inform us that they only entertain groups that act in the national interest and are about national causes. And here was poor me, believing erroneously that we, at NAEAP, an organization we started three years ago to empower and uplift Africans in our country, were acting in the national interest and in a manner that was consistent with the highest ideals of our society. But, I will address this matter later.
After such a stunning articulation of official policy, I was forced to re-examine if NAEAP's work is 'sectoral' (I think they meant "sectarian" since John Le Guerre, a lofty professor of political science at the University of the West Indies, called our organization "a sect" three years ago) and why the work we do is not considered to be in the national interest. I am sure that "Taking Care of Our People's Business," a documentary of our first five months of work, will help to clarify this matter. Yet, for the life of me, I could not understand why, at the beginning of the 21st century, quite sensible people sent to these lands to represent us, would utter such reprehensible nonsense and feel so smug in their anachronistic behavior. After all, I would have thought that the work of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela were in the highest tradition of their nation's interest and certainly redound to the highest impulses of our humanitarian impulses. But, then, sometimes, I do no always understand these matters. Paradoxically, enough, the very people who object the most to the progressive impulses of the time are the very ones who neither shamefacedly nor unapologetically return to exclaim: "What a wonderful job you have been doing!"
I make this observation from experience. In the early 1970s when the noble patriots of South African were fighting for their freedom we could not assembly fifty persons in one place to stand in solidarity for their freedom. In the spring of 1976, when I went to Harvard University to interview to teach there, Alfred Nzo, the Secretary General of the African National Congress (ANC) was visiting. He was trying to drum up support for his party's struggle against apartheid. Since I had met him previously at Ohio University where I was teaching, I attended the lecture to offer my support and to hear what he had to say. No more than fifty persons attended that lecture, many of whom had no connection to Harvard. After he concluded his address, I congratulated him for what I considered a good "Leninist speech." We were all Leninists then. He welcomed my sentiments and talked about the difficulty of building support for the South African struggle.
Two years later, as a junior professor, I was brave enough to get up on the Harvard Faculty Floor and urged that the university divest its holdings from corporations that did business in South Africa. I quoted Hinton Helper who, with the assistance of a newly developing field called statistics, wrote a book, The Impending Crisis, in which he prophesized the coming Civil war in the United States if the downpressors did not change their ways. In those lonely years, I was among a few Harvard professors—no more than ten—who felt passionately enough to argue for what we believed in spite of the overwhelming support the apartheid regime enjoyed and its supreme belief that a bunch of unsophisticated African fighters (and African fighters were important) could never overthrow the might of that state. Needless to say, I lived to see the day Mandela walked out from his imprisonment in Robben Island. Six years later, over twenty thousand persons welcomed Nelson Mandela to Harvard University when it conferred an honorary degree upon him on a day other than its regular commencement exercise. In so doing, Mandela joined the company of only two other persons who were so honored: George Washington, father of the US republic, and Sir Winston Churchill, former Prime Minister of Britain. I was not among the twenty thousand persons who welcomed Mandela to Harvard University but I am proud that I was among the small band of persons who understood the meaning of freedom when it was not popular to proclaim its virtues.
Therefore, when I hear uninformed sentiments of what is in the national interest and what constitutes "sectoral" interests, I always wince. Sometimes I believe it is only those persons who possess an historical sense or what my friend Kwadwo Osei-Nyaame, Jr., calls "historical consciousness," can understand these issues fully and what they mean for self- and national development. After all, I could well believe how our official representatives at the Trinidad and Tobago High Commission could deem the activities of Martin Luther King as being inconsistent with the national interest; Mandela's commitment to the liberation of African people of South Africa as inconsistent with humanitarian values; and Dagga's uprising for freedom from slavery in Trinidad in the early 1830s as being inconsistent with the colonial interest which, at that time, was presumed to be in our national interest. After all, every up-right citizen had a right to his slaves. Indeed, the black Creole element of the society had more slaves than the whites, which explains the contradictory behavior of Jean-Baptiste Philippe, a Creole slave owner. He saw no contradiction in protesting to the Secretary of States for the Colonies about the denial of his rights as a free person of colour even as he kept Africans enslaved. Such contradictory behavior never seems seem repel the consciences of those who find themselves in official positions and who claim to represent the best interest of the society.
Such a long preamble brings me more directly to the topic of the evening. "Race, Nation, Identity: The Case for the National Association for the Empowerment of African People." Most of us will remember that about one hundred years ago that William Burghard DuBois declared that the problem of the twentieth century was the problem of the color line. And he was correct. What most persons do not know is that that pronouncement, almost verbatim, was taken from the declaration of the Pan African Congress that met in London in 1900 and which was convened by a Trinidadian, Sylvester Williams, dubbed the father of Pan Africanism. Even before DuBois, Williams understood that the problem of the last century would be the relations of the races, primarily the relationship between the black and white races. Kwadwo Osei-Nyame notes that one of the most over function of Pan Africanism was "its contestation of the racist attitudes against black peoples which have been the consequences of centuries of European colonialism and slavery."
Both DuBois and Williams were correct. The evolving political histories of India, Africa, the Caribbean, Vietnam, South Africa, and the United States of America all attest to the explosive nature of race and the perception of race in the twentieth century. Now, we are told that ethnicity will be the new monster in the 21st century and Samuel Huntington of Harvard University, a member of the old Trilateral Commission, has offered a new theory that suggests a clash of civilization is the new monster that will plague the 21st century. I have refuted this theory in another context. I believe that the work of the National Association for the Empowerment of African People is a continuation of the work that was begun one hundred years ago by these illustrious leaders; a continuing determination to struggle against the prejudices and obstacles that are placed in the way of the progress and prosperity of African people even today.
Yet, after all of this conflagration and rage, caused by the bugaboo of race, evolutionary biologists tell us that there is no such thing as race; that, in biology, race does not exist. As I noted in my address on Black Empowerment Day, recent genome studies suggests that every single person on earth share 99.99 per cent of the same genetic code with all other people. Moreover, the biological differences between individuals amount to a fraction of three billion letters in the human genome code. Presently, the consensus is that all of us are Africans or recently came out of Africa. Svante Paabo of the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany observed that "from a genetic point of perspective, all humans are therefore Africans, either residing in Africa or in recent exile."
At a recent conference of the Human Genome Organization, the international collaboration researching the genetic make up of the human race, it was revealed that modern Europeans and maybe populations in other parts of the world have descended from no more than a few hundred Africans who left the homeland as recently as 25,000 years ago. They have established that "the Nigerian chromosomes had been well shuffled around, which indicates a wider gene pool and a long breeding history, while the European chromosomes had long stretches of unshuffled genetic material, indicating a much smaller number of chromosome types entering the mix." At least this confirms the findings made by Leakey: Africa remains the home of modern men.
So if there is no such thing as race, biologically speaking, why have Africans suffered—and continue to suffer in this world. The truth is that Africans or Blackness is an historical construct, which suggests that we have been so made by certain historical forces over which none of us had any control. In his book, Black Athena, Martin Bernal suggests that the present tendency to see Africans (and Blacks) in a derogatory manner results directly from slavery and colonization, the erection of a necessary monument to fulfill certain economic dictates of the age. In Capitalism and Slavery, Eric Williams has argued that slavery had its roots primarily in economics rather than race and the presence of a pyramid on an American dollar bill suggests that some of the early American fathers did not always see Egypt, read Africa, in such a negative light. Suffice it to say that even though the notion of race does not exist in a biological sense, it continues to exist in a social and economic sense. Those of us who are concerned with practical politics understand the distinction. It is a discernment we have to make every day. Even in this blessed isle, at the beginning of the 21st century, a distinguished black Tory peer, Lord Taylor of Warwick, may have to quit the Tory Party because one of his colleagues fears that the immigration policy of Labour Party will turn Britain into a "mongrel race." As Lord Taylor acknowledged: "Race is a vitally important issue; it is bigger that party politics. As a black person with the Conservative Party, if I see racism within the party, I have to speak up." Anyone who lives in the West, as Cornel West argued in his very fine book of the same name, knows race matters an awful lot. It may have no biological basis. It remains a staunch and unremitting social and economic monster.
Although race and racism hung like an albatross around our necks, its conjuncture with nation or the nation state only took on ominous proportions during the middle of the last century. Although Europe carved up Africa at the Treaty of Berlin in 1884, it was only during the middle part of the last century that the colored peoples of the world made it clear that they were not prepared to remain under the thumb of the European colonial powers. Even though the wars of liberation have begun earlier, they took on intensity from the non-violent struggles India in the 1940s right down to the Palestinian liberation war that is taking place today. All this suggest that the struggle for national liberation was closely tied up with the struggle for nationhood and the rights of colonized people, usually black and brown, to control their destinies. The Bandung Conference of 1955 remains a fitting articulation of this problematic.
Some theorists, however, suggest that Black liberation was thrust upon the world at a very difficult time; that is, at a time when the world was going into recession; at least, that is the argument that one of my colleague has made for the condition of the Africans in the United States of America. Yet, it was the hope that once colonial territories received their liberation—that is, they controlled their political destiny—all would be well in their world. Anyone with an historical sense remembers Kwame Nkrumah's famous dictum: "Give us the political kingdom and all else would be added unto us." He got the political kingdom but economic liberation remained in the distant horizon. It turned out that many of these economies that were outwardly oriented and integrated into those of the mother colony which meant they had preciously few markets for their products other than those of the mother colony. Thus, they found it difficult to find their feet in the new international age. In fact, they found that while the price of their primary products went down, the cost of manufactured goods in the former colonial territories went up. Hence, what seem like a positive beginning, quickly turned into a nightmare. Most of these countries scrambled to find markets for their goods. And then came the tremendous rise in the oil prices. Today, the disparities between the rich and the poor nations seem to be escalating. The geographic North-South divide pretty much determines the economic allocation people in some countries receive. None of this has been helped the phenomenon of globalization even though Patrick Manning, the political leader of the PNM, sees it as an exciting new opening for his society.
Needless to say, the emergence of a new global economy has redefined what constitutes a nation and its freedom to operate in the contemporary era. As more and more societies come together to form larger and larger economic blocs, they try to maximize their outputs, organize single currencies, and determine how many commodities they can produce at a cheap rate. Even African is trying to create single economic union, a Pan African Parliament, a Central Bank, a Court of Justice and a single currency. About a month ago, thirty-four African countries signed a consultative act in Sirte, Libya, paving the way for such a union. Perhaps it is too soon to say, but in the foreseeable future, we can envisage a United States of Africa with all the prerogatives and cloud of the European Economic Union or Nafta.
Such a move on Africa's part is important. It has been in the interest of the West to keep Africa and Latin America divided and to exploit their resources. The recent fiasco in terms of the use of generic drugs in South Africa is only the latest in a heart-rending story of how, even our health needs, are secondary to the profit concerns of gigantic corporations. What happened in Quebec City is important but there is another side of the story some economists feel is not being told. Recently, in the New York Times, Paul Krugman made the following observation: "If you buy a product made in a Third World country, it was produced by workers who are paid incredibly little by Western standards and probably work under awful conditions. Anyone who is not bothered those facts, at least some of the time, has not heart." So that the real question remains: even though we gained out independence, became nations, does the achievement of independence or nationhood allowed us to tackle the problems we face in a creative manner? Some would say that today our problems are multiplied from what they were in the 1950s when so many nations assumed independence. Competing in the world is a difficult business and trying to even understand who and what we are, an even more difficult business in the age of MTV and CNN.
Which brings us to the question of identity. If there is no such thing as a race (but only in the historical sense) and the very concept of the nation is changing—particularly as our autonomy over our own nations decrease--how are we think about our identities and how are we to survive in a world that even if it is not hostile to us is indifferent to our presence? In a way, I suspect this is part of the trap into which the personnel at Trinidad and Tobago High Commission, responsibly for making the decision not to have us, fell. If it is you say you have a nation that consists of different ethnic groups or different nationalities why should any one group be so presumption to suggests that they possess particular claims? How can they make specific demands; how can they even suggest that their positioning in the society may, after all, have something to do with their 'racial' affiliations. After all, it was Eric Williams, the Father of the Nation, who suggested that in the age of independence there can be no mother India, no mother Africa, no mother Portugal. There can only be one mother: Trinidad and Tobago. In retrospect, Africans bought into this paradigm uncritically. Today, we find ourselves at the bottom of the barrel without finances, still not sure who we are, filling the prisons in a disproportionate numbers, becoming unemployable increasingly, and still looking to find a way out of the barrel.
In a way, Williams was correct when he suggested that at a time when it was necessary to forge a nation, one could not necessarily go forward if one bore allegiance to the old country rather than the new. And that was essentially correct. What he did not realize is that some of us had not even resolved the conflicts about our relationship to the old country which made it difficult to apprehend the new. In fact, some of us did not even know anything about the history and culture of the old country. For example, when our radio stations were offering programs such as "Memories of India," some of us did not even know where Africa was located and what contributions it made to world civilization. For many, it remained the Dark Continent. Even Mandela, an African, claims that the South African educational system was designed to make him an Englishman rather than an African. Walter Rodney argues that colonial education was an education for dependency and subservience. What could one expect from persons who did not even have the visible African cultural supports to store up his confidence in a new land? What the Williams's equation had not considered and what most of us, particularly Africans, had never come to grips with, was the culture of their motherland. Thus, while it might have been desirably to think about where one wished to go, one could not necessarily do so without thinking—perhaps trying to assimilate into one's consciousness—where one had come from. In fact, it could be argued that this contradiction led, in part, to the Black Power explosion in 1970.
For the African in Trinidad and Tobago, the Black Power Revolt and its aftermath had a revolutionary impact on their thinking. It performed a necessary cleansing. Although it did not go far enough, it made a necessary start. We were taught that we were black and ugly and that Africa produced nothing worthwhile. Therefore, we were a nowhere people in a nowhere land. Our fore parents were even persecuted for practicing their religion and culture. In those early years, if one were found practicing—or thought of practicing obeah—one was subject to execution. The slave codes of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries called for the execution of any persons who practiced obeah and/or myalism. The latter was practiced more prevalently in Jamaica. Later on, to become a good Trinidadian, that is, a good colonial, one had to change one's religion and one's name. In this sense, Tobago remained a more homogenous society with a more stable African culture. To go to a "good school," one had to change one's name. This was true for the African as well as the Indian. One could not practice one's religion without being persecuted by law. My grandmother was a Shango or Orisa and my aunt was a Shouter Baptist. The latter conducted their ceremonies by ringing their bells, performing special rituals, and being baptized in the rivers. Up until 1951, they were prosecuted if they practiced their religion. My grandmother practiced her religion until she died even though her children and grand children became members of the Anglican Church.
The same was true for the steelband man. The Mighty Sparrow, a calypsonian of great repute, depicted their plight in a calypso called "Outcast." Lloyd Best in a rather insightful article captured the nature of the existential plight of the pan man in a recent lecture he delivered to the Pan Association. Drawing on the theories of Wilson Harris, he sought to show the central role their limbo sensibility played in their adaptation to this world, both musically and philosophically. In my own work, Making Love Across the Atlantic, I demonstrated how much the calypso drew on its Yoruba provenance and how our early literary forms, in performance and understanding, differed from those of its European counterpart in the Caribbean. But the calypso man, the myal man, the limbo man, the steelband man, the stick fighter was not seen as a person worthy of our respect. All our terms of reverence and endearment were reserved for England and things English. Even today, a scholar of Caribbean literature cannot be allowed to address his people and other interested parties in within the sanctum of his own embassy. Yet, we say, "We have come too far to turn back now."
Today, almost forty years after independence, Negroid peoples in the island do not even know how to call themselves. Some have said Afro-Trinbagonian to capture the geographical and historical dimensions of our identity. To some that is a satisfactory way to describe our nationality. For most of us, we dare not say we are Africans. And although few of us may be able to say from what part of Africa we came; to what ethnic group we belonged; and the language our forefathers used, it remains true that we were shaped by our Africanness even though we had to adapt to the vagaries of a new world. For those of us who try to identify with aspects of the motherland, the going still remains rough. Don't let some of us try to wear traditional African clothes in Trinidad and Tobago. Such a sight brings forth the scorn and fury of many an onlooker: "Boy, yo' still tink yo' living in Africa." Even an Indo-Trinidadian who has no problems wearing his dhoti exclaimed, when he saw me in an African outfit, "Whe de party is?"
Yet, an Asian person living in Trinidad has no problems calling himself Indian. No one asks him what part of India he came from and what language he speaks even though it is true that many Indians speak Hindi. The Portuguese and the Chinese enjoy a similar sense of racial ease in the society. For example, the China Society, the umbrella group of Chinese associations in Trinidad, has existed in Trinidad and Tobago for the past eighty-two years and tapped its cultural roots ever since they arrived on these shores. When the China Society celebrated its eightieth anniversary two years ago, Tricia Ragbir reported: "Despite Western influences, most of the Chinese community have managed to hold on to the ideals of their ancestors." Paradoxically, it has never occurred to any Trinbagonian to question the right of the China Society or any other such group to exist and to flourish. Just let the Negroid person call himself African and then all hell breaks loose. He has transgressed some social norm of which even he is not aware.
If this scenario is true, it raises the question: why is there such fear and suspicion anytime Africans, in any part of the Diaspora, identify with our motherland. One remembers the scorn that was poured on Mohammed Ali when he decided that he wanted to have nothing more to do with his slave name. The powers that be did not even feel that he had a right to name himself. They other always maintained the right to name us or, as contemporary scholars may say, the right "to other us." That is to say, the right to make us other than self simply by deciding what we should be called, what we should do, and where we should live. This why we should be so heartened by the example of Nelson Mandela who, when he was brought to trial by the racist South African regime in 1962, wore the traditional Xhosa leopard-skin kaross as a sign of resistance and affirmation. He noted in Long Walk to Freedom:
I had chosen traditional dress to emphasize the symbolism that I was a black African walking into a white man's court. I was literally carrying on my back the history, culture and heritage of my people. That day, I felt myself to be the embodiment of African nationalism, the inheritor of Africa's difficult but noble past and her uncertain future. The kaross was also a sign of contempt for the niceties of white justice. I well knew the authorities would feel threatened by my karoos as so many whites feel threatened by the true culture of Africa.
At the beginning of the 21st century, many non-Africans in Trinidad and Tobago still feel threatened by our assertions of blackness that are embodied even in our dress and in our determination to name ourselves.
When we began our journey in 1998, all the powers that be called us racist. Cudjoe was a racist; NAEAP was racist. Even after three years, officials at the High Commission conclude our concerns are not in the national interest. To make matters better, a month or so ago, quickly after I address our organization at Black Empowerment Day, a Pastor Furlonge from central Trinidad pronounced a curse upon me. I was to be possessed by all kinds of demons for the rest of my natural life. Yet, after three years as an organization, we can make many claims. We run a successful Vacation (you would call it summer) school and have distributed hundred of books to over thirty schools. We have conducted two basketball camps, invited Harvard Kuumba singers to perform in Trinidad and conducted a Film Festival that was not as successful as we would have liked it to be. In terms of advocacy, we successfully prosecuted the case of Luzy Linda Parez, an African woman whose lunches were taken away by the School Feeding Programme and given to some friends of the UNC. Today, we are looking carefully at the case of Chandroutie London, an Indian woman who, in our estimation, is a victim of Battered Women Syndrome and Domestic Violence, to see how we can assist her to have justice done in her case. Our big project this year, is to secure enough space to locate our office and to open offer computer classes for those who need it. We envisage that such a project will cost us about $10,000 (TT; that is, about L1,000) a month to run.
Our next challenge this year, what we call, the first part of the African Agenda, is the achievement of DIRECT ACCESS TO OUR PEOPLE. As I noted on Black Empowerment Day, this is the first pillar of any empowerment program for our people. We must be able to reach our people through the media without any mediating disturbances. In age when radio and television have become so vital in shaping and organizing people's lives, Africans in the society do not control one radio or TV station. The Indians own and/or control 5 radio stations. A knowledgeable brother has suggested:
"The assorted problems that we face today can be solved only if conscious Africans have DIRECT ACCESS TO OUR PEOPLE so we can unite our dreams, aspirations and community in a hostile and unforgiving social environment."
I am pleased to announce that the Ralph Maraj, the Minister of Information, has agreed to meet with our organization on June 7 to discuss this matter.
As small as it is, our biggest achievement this year was the presentation of our audited accounts by Panell Kerr Foster, the second largest accounting firm in Trinidad and Tobago. This audit fulfills of a promise that I made to African people when we launched our organization on March 29, 1998. We wanted to be one of the first Black organizations to make our finances available to those who contributed to our efforts. It is a testament to the faith in our people and the faith they should have in us that has allowed to achieve this feat. It reflects our determination to account for every cent that they give to this organization.
What, then, are the things for which we stand. As an organization, we have adopted the following aims and objectives:
A) To act as a representative body for Africans in Trinidad and Tobago and to work with other such organizations throughout the Caribbean who share similar views;
B) To collaborate with other groups for the promotion of African unity in Trinidad and Tobago;
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.
These are out goals. The real challenge is how to achieve them. We have certainly worked on and continue to work on mobilizing all of the people of the society, especially Afro-Trinbagonians, to understand what we are trying to achieve. In the course of our work, it has become clear that we have to appease the fears of other groups who, although they are sympathetic to our aspirations, feel a sense of apprehension at the boldness of our assertions. They do not say so but one feels it in their attitude towards us. To many persons in the community, it is not a problem to have a Hindu group or a Chinese group. However, an African group is another thing. It conjures up a certain amount of fear. We must work to change that way of thinking and to make them know that what we seek to do is no different from what they have done. When we win, the society wins.
Yet, the question remains, what can we reasonably hope to achieve in a sessions such as this? In the first instance, we want you to know that we exist so that when you hear the propaganda, you would realize that we are not really as bad as some people make us out to be. Secondly, we hope that one or two of you in the audience can take the initiative to form a NAEAP chapter in London. Dr. Aziz and Professor Osei-Nyame have joined already. Knowing their organizational skills, I am sure that some of you will become members of our London chapter soon. Third, we need your financial assistance. The cost of putting on this function here this evening and videotaping, though small, had put a real strain on our budget. It cost about $3,000 (TT) per month to run our office. We need your support on this matter. Lastly, we would very much appreciate if you can pledge to contribute to our Computer School and the establishment of a more spacious headquarters where we hope to locate the latter to conduct our business.
I began my discussion with a quote from Gandhi. He said: "I do not believe in people telling others of their faith, especially with a view to conversion. Faith does not admit of telling. It has to be lived and then it becomes self-propagating." Many of us, from Trinidad and Tobago and elsewhere, believe that we ought to assist others to help themselves especially when we are in a better position relative to theirs. We profess our concerns for our fellow men and women who are less fortunate. If Gandhi is correct, I believe he wants to say that we must always do rather than say; walk the walk to freedom rather than talk about the walk for freedom. Such a walk entails many sacrifices.
I have tried to present a picture of a responsible organization that is willing to account for every last pound anyone contributes to our organization. I have said there are some things that only we can do for ourselves but we need your assistance. In his wisdom, Karl Marx argued that the problem is not so much to interpret and to intellectualize the world in various ways. The imperative is to change it. You can do so by living your convictions and your faith and offering what you can from the little or much that you have received. None is too poor who cannot say that I share this crumb with you. When you assist us, you make the life of a little boy or girl in Trinidad and Tobago a little better and that is in the national interest and promotes the national cause. It is a gesture for which my people will be eternally grateful.
In his autobiography, Mandela quotes Walter Sisulu as saying that the ANC "was the means to effect change in South Africa, the repository of black hopes and aspirations." It may seem or even presumptuous, but I do believe that in Trinidad and Tobago today, NAEAP is the repository the hopes and dreams of most Afro-Trinbagonians. No other organization can make such a claim. You can certainly help us to strengthen NAEAP and fulfill our mandate. No great love has any man or woman for his people than he or she who gives willingly for their upliftment and empowerment. My organization allows you an opportunity to participate in such an effort. I urge you to take NAEAP into your confidence so we can realize what we hope will be ours as well as your dreams of and for a better Trinidad and Tobago.
May we all live to see Trinidad a safer and a better place, blessed isles of which we all can be proud.
I thank you sincerely for joining us here this evening.
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