April 7, 2001 From: John Williams

Black Empowerment, Taking time to find out

Dear Editor,

Recently the National Association for the Empowerment of African People [NAEAP] held their annual Black Empowerment Day gathering at the La Joya Complex. Being somewhat skeptical, I duly attended more in an observer capacity than as a participant. As a thinking adult I would have been critical of the Day's proceedings, if it was in any way contrary to what I know to be honest and true. It turned out however to be the most intellectually challenging, historically edifying and stimulating day that I have spent in a long while. The issues raised were of national importance, clinically examined and professionally discussed. With an emphasis on tackling problems, that hampers the development of citizens of this country.

What happened next would have been a comedy if it were not so tragic. In the days that followed none of the commentaries in the print and electronic media focused on the thrust of the contents of NAEAP's President Prof. Selwyn Cudjoe's speech, which was well received. Instead, highlights were given mainly of Chief Secretary London's equally well-received feature address. It was impossible to grasp the magnanimity of the day's intention if one was not present. Yet that did not stop those from among us, writing into newspapers, calling in to talk shows and expressing the most totally uninformed, biased and prejudicial comments about fellow Trinidadians and their attempt to position themselves in the affairs of nation building and the empowerment of all citizens, a most noble task, if ever there was one. It is even something well supported by the present Prime Minister over the years, strongly preferring empowerment against alienation.

With the government's expressed goal of creating an "Intelligent Nation" where do we go from here? What is the way forward for Trinidad, NAEAP and its message? Is it more educational programs; is it to avoid the issues entirely; is it greater sensitization of the national population; is it to destroy the messengers; is it to lean on self inflicted misunderstandings or is it to hope that by viciously attacking and misrepresenting NAEAP everything will go away and be okay. The choice is ours to make.

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