Dr. Kwame Nantambu

Exposing ethnic disparity in TnT

Special Afrikan History Month Analysis

By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
Posted: November 02, 2006
Updated: November 18, 2006

Now that the Divali and Eid celebrations have ended, it is this citizen's civic responsibility to opine on the nature, respect, acceptance and tolerance of ethnic expressions in T'n'T.

At the outset, it must be stated that the current playing field is not one on which every ethnicity finds an equal place. The reality of ethnic reciprocity just does not exist vis-a-vis each other's annual celebrations.

More specifically, between 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. on every Divali and Eid annual days, Indian-Trinbagonian's eating outlets experience "a run" on roti skins (they are completely sold out every year on these days) are by design and not by accident.

The fact of the matter is that 99.9 per cent of the customers who "buy out" these roti skins are Afrikan-Trinbagonians. That's a proven fact--- an annual ethnic disparity.

However, the reverse is just not true on Afrikan Emancipation Day. On 1st August every year, Indian-Trinbagonians do not reciprocate and "buy out" pelau and other "Creole" dishes. There is no "run" on these foods. That's a proven fact--- an annual ethnic disparity.

There is no ethnic reciprocity in T'n'T.

Furthermore, during Divali and Eid TV programmes, both Indian and Afrikan-Trinbagonian moderators wear Indian sari and shalwar outfits. However, the ethnic reverse is just not true during Afrikan Emancipation Day TV programmes. Female Indian-Trinbagonian moderators do not wear Afrikan outfits.

In addition, during Divali and Eid celebrations, female Afrikan-Trinbagonian participants can be seen proudly wearing Indian sari and shalwar outfits. The reverse is just not true on the part of female Indian-Trinbagonian participants proudly wearing Afrikan daishiki outfits during Afrikan Emancipation Day celebrations.

The fact of the matter is that some Indian-Trinbagonian public servants refuse to attend and/or take part in any Afrikan Emancipation Day programmes in their respective ministries. That's a fact - an annual ethnic reality.

The question that comes to mind: where are ethnic acceptance, ethnic tolerance, ethnic respect, ethnic parity as Trinbagonians seek national unity?

The nature of TV programming also smacks of ethnic disparity. One just has to take a cursory look at the in depth analysis and coverage that is done to highlight the potent intellectual, religious, historical and familial-cultural aspects of Indian life during these celebrations. There is always a certain solemnity that is the spinal cord of these presentations.

Furthermore, the language used in these TV programmes and movies is the original Hindi tongue of Mother India. In addition, during chutney shows around these celebrations, the original Hindi tongue of Mother India is also used.

This Hindi tongue is respected, accepted, tolerated and appreciated by all Trinbagonians, irrespective of ethnicity. Trinbagonians all wave and put their hands "in ah de air" during these Divali and Eid cultural-musical shows.

The ethnic reverse is just not true in the case of all Trinbagonians during Afrikan Emancipation Day cultural musical shows. How many Indian-Trinbagonians attend, wave and put their hands "in ah de air" at musical -cultural Afrikan Emancipation Day shows?

Circa 12 October 2006, Trinbagonians of all ethnicities attended cultural musical shows put on by Chinese-Trinbagonians (at Queen's Hall, for example). These Chinese-Trinbagonian entertainers performed in the original tongue of Mother China. And Trinbagonians sat for over three hours to accept, tolerate, respect and appreciate these great performances.

The stark reality is that Indian-Trinbagonians and Chinese-Trinbagonians have not lost the original tongue of Mother India or Mother China. Afrikan-Trinbagonians are the only major ethnic group in T'n'T that has lost the original tongue of its Motherland, that is, Mother Afrika.

As such, it need occasion no great surprise that when Afrikan-Trinbagonian entertainers perform Calypso and Soca during Afrikan Emancipation Day musical-cultural shows, they sing in the tongue of their former European colonizer and slave master. There is no distinct, unique Afrikan linguistic identity except when Ella Andall performs.

In this specific regard, one wonders whether Trinbagonians of all ethnicities would sit through over three hours of entertainment by Afrikan-Trinbagonians who perform in original Afrikan Yoruba, Kiswahili tongues just as they did during Indian-Chinese Trinbagonian performances?

One wonders whether local TV stations would air several hours of programmes and movies in these original Afrikan tongues during the week preceding Afrikan Emancipation Day as they have done for other ethnicities?

One also wonders why Afrikan-Trinbagonian entertainers automatically feel compelled to wear a hat to conceal/hide their dreadlocks when they perform in T'n'T, including at Dimanche Gras finals and even at Afrikan Emancipation Day shows? Why does the average Afikan-Trinbagonian male or female also automatically feel compelled to wear a hat to conceal/hide his/her dreadlocks in public?

Does the constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago ban the wearing of dreadlocks in public?

What entity in society has warned/threatened/informed Afrikan-Trinbagonians that their dreadlocks are not only unacceptable but also anathema, antithetical and inimical to human values and personal decorum in T'n'T? Are the Afrikan-Trinbagonians who wear dreadlocks an ethnic liability, albeit an endangered species in T'n'T?

What entity in society has decreed that dreadlocks do not represent/reflect "good hair"?.

Why are Afrikan-Trinbagonians who wear dreadlocks made to feel ashamed, inferior, albeit an excluded social outcast group in T'n'T - and most times by fellow Afrikan-Trinbagonians? "The Black man is his worst enemy."

On the flip side, one wonders why society allows Indian-Trinbagonians not only to show off but also to be proud of their long, flowing black hair in public?

One wonders why it was okay and acceptable for Chris Garcia to perform "Chutney Bacchanal" as a guest artiste during a past Dimanche Gras show while proudly displaying and showing off his long, flowing Indian black hair?

One wonders why it is okay and acceptable for Denyse Plummer to perform at Dimanche Gras finals while proudly displaying and showing off her long, flowing blonde hair and/or braids?

One wonders why it is okay and acceptable for Edwin Ayoung ("Crazy") to perform at Dimanche Gras finals also proudly displaying and showing off his long, flowing Black-Chinese hair?

One also wonders why it was okay and acceptable for Host Indira, an Indian-Trinbagonian, to proudly display her long-flowing original, Black Indian hair during the "New Voices" programme on Gayelle: The Channel but co-Host Attillah, an Afrikan-Trinbagonian and guests Maximus Dan and Omari felt compelled to conceal/hide their original Afrikan dreadlocks?.

The fact of the matter is that to all intent and purposes, it was okay and acceptable for Wendy Shepherd to sing "You're my hero" while proudly displaying her blonde hair at the Hasely Crawford Stadium during the national reward ceremony for our beloved Soca Warriors.

However, when her time came to sing "Missing Generation", Ella Andall felt compelled to conceal/hide her dreadlocks. Apparently, her original, Afrikan dreadlocks were not okay and unacceptable.

In a comparable intellectual ethnic disparity scenario, one finds that University of the West Indies lecturer, Dr. Jerome Teelucksingh, has publicly called "for the inclusion of the Hosay festival and the October 30, 1884 massacre of East Indians in the CXC and CAPE syllabus."

The fact of the matter is that either by accident or willful design, this putative well-intended UWI lecturer has surreptitiously obfuscated the stark historical reality that Afrikan "slaves worked harder in Trinidad because they were not so numerous in proportion to the amount of land to be cultivated. It is said that between the years 1820 and 1832, one out of twenty-three slaves died in Trinidad, as against one out of thirty-three in British Guiana and one out of forty in Jamaica."

Furthermore, the record reveals that "in 1837, there was a serious mutiny of the 1st West India Regiment in Trinidad. Some recently freed (Afrikan) slave, rescued from a slave-ship, had been enlisted as soldiers and believing that they could march back to their homes in (Mother) Africa, suddenly mutinied under a leader named Daaga(sometimes called Donald Stewart). The militia was turned out and the mutiny crushed after some forty mutineers had been killed. Daaga was captured and (brutally) executed." This represents a 1st degree massacre of Afrikans in Trinidad.

In the spirit of ethnic parity coterminous with equality, it should be hoped that this UWI lecturer would pen a formal, companion memo to the Minister of Education suggesting that these two vital, complementary historic events be included in the CXC and CAPE syllabi.

Indeed, now is the crucial time to expunge the cancer of ethnic disparity in T'n'T if this Republic hopes to achieve any scintilla of national unity. Ethnic disparity cannot bring about national unity; it only fosters and breeds divisiveness, vindictiveness, jealousy, self-hate and eventual self-destruction. "None of us is free until all of us are free" from ethnic disparity.

Let it be recalled that the historical record clearly shows that the individuals who colonized and enslaved Afrikans sans a contract or paid wages from 1516-1834 (38) had good sounding European Christian names and "good hair."

Let the historical record reveal that the individuals who colonized and enslaved the contracted and wages - paid Indians - also had good-sounding European Christian names and "good hair."

As a result of these common historical denominators, now is the time for all Trinbagonians to absolve this polyglot Republic of ethnic disparity.

In the final analysis, until ethnic disparity is expunged from T'n'T's society and body politic, then national unity "will remain but a fleeting illusion to be pursued but never attained."

Shem Hotep ("I go in peace").

Dr. Kwame Nantambu is a part-time lecturer at Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies and University of the West Indies.

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