Dr. Kwame Nantambu

Open your eyes Afrikan-Trinbagonians

By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
March 13, 2006

Just open your eyes fellow Afrikan-Trinbagonians and see who are eating out of garbage cans. See who are the majority ethnic population group in TnT's prisons. Who are the young Trinbagonians killing each other senselessly 24-7-365 under the rubric of gang warfare/violence?.

And the scenario does not stop there. Just open your eyes fellow Afrikan-Trinbagonians and see who are driving the massive trucks on carnival Monday and Tuesday and who are monopolizing the all-inclusive business-catering service for the very, very, very large bands coming out of Woodbrook.

And when you're done, just look and see who are the majority Trinbagonians winin' on carnival Monday and Tuesday.

The fact of the matter is that although carnival 2k6 has been described as "the greatest in several years", nevertheless, this "greatest show on earth" has brought to the fore the utter, ubiquitous powerlessness of Afrikan-Trinbagonians on the one hand and the comparative power /empowerment of other ethnic groups in TnT, on the other.

Over the past few years, carnival has emboldened the financial and economic power base of both Indian-Trinbagonians and Syrian-Trinbagonians. These two ethnic groups rake in a whopping amount of money on these festival days by not only controlling the supply of music trucks but also breakfasts, lunches, diverse drinks, portable toilets, etc. Afrikan-Trinbagonians only provide the demand.

It is indeed "scandalous" and "craziness" to witness up close and personal, the overt con game that is played on Afrikan-Trinbagonians every carnival season. Just maybe, Afrikan-Trinbagonians like it so. The sad, stark reality is that the financial-economic "exclusion principle" that is applied to and imposed on, them seems to be their comfort zone. And that is the scary part in this scenario.

For while Afrikan-Trinbagonians wine back and front "behind de (Indian-Trinbagonian) big truck Mamma" and consume Syrian-Trinbagonian delicacies every carnival Monday and Tuesday, these two ethnic groups drive laughing all the way to their respective banks on Ash Wednesday to make their real "liquid deposit."

Conversely, on Ash Wednesday, Afrikan-Trinbagonian vendors who not only forked out huge sums of money to pay stall rental fees to the National Carnival Commission (NCC) but also to purchase and prepare food items, drinks, etc, wallow in their perennial financial losses.

And the scenario does not stop there. Public education has reached just a ridiculous pit that the Ministry of Education (aptly re-named Ministry of Degradation) has spent $49million on the "school pan programme" but yet still students in these schools do not have writing materials. In other words, students in public schools in TnT have sticks to play steel pan but no pen nor pencils to write in copy books. And this is despite the fact that the Minister of Education is of Afrikan descent.

To all intent and purposes, the new public policy modus operandi of the current Anti-People's National Movement (APNM) is that the future of our nation lies in the full participation of children in steel pan and calypso in public schools.

The fact of the matter is that children must "go to school and learn well"; they must not go to school to learn how to play steel pan well. Learning must be their primary raison d'etre to attend school; playing the steel pan and singing calypso must be their secondary purpose.

The receipt of a holistic genre of education is the paramount reason for the existence of schools. Mastery in Reading, Writing and ‘Rithmetic are the foremost reasons why children attend school. The playing of steel pan and/or singing calypso should be options just like soccer, cricket, swimming, athletics, playing the piano/organ/violin, etc. These must be after school activities. They must not be part of the school module/curriculum during regular school hours.

Children must learn how to read and write standard English before they learn how to play standard steel pan and/or sing calypso.

Afrikan-Trinbagonians need to be appraised of the zero tolerance rule between academics and sports in the United States, viz, no academics, no participation in school sports. In other words, regardless of a student's proficiency in any sport, if he/she is not getting good grades (academic solid) then he/she will not be eligible to play on the school's basketball or soccer team, etc.

And since, Trinbagonians have already become so Americanized, then it is only fitting that this rule/policy should apply to students in TnT, namely, if a student is not getting good marks then he/she should not be eligible to play in the school's steel pan nor participate in calypso competition.

It is very interesting to this writer to observe that quite a number of Trinbagonian parents do not have a problem with their children learning how to play the national instrument and how to compose a calypso but low and behold, these very same parents seem to have a very serious, acerbic and disdainful problem with their children learning how to read, write and study Afrikan history.

These parents do not realize that in all aspects of life in TnT, they are posited at the bottom of the totem poll. Maybe, they like it so. That's their ahistorical, dislocated, dysfunctional, Euro-centric comfort zone.

Open your eyes fellow Afrikan-Trinbagonians. Now is the time to remove the proverbial (and maybe real) stick that has been stuck in your ears and also the blinders/vale that have placed over your eyes. Now is the time to wake up and smell the coffee--- the scent is Indian-Trinbagonian and Syrian-Trinbagonian, not only on carnival days but also 24-7-365. The annual Afrikan-Trinbagonian Emancipation Day celebration on 1st August (TnT's third carnival day) is no exception. On this third national carnival holiday festival, the Syrian-Trinbagonian businessman Jimmy Aboud, "the textile King", rakes in tons of dollars from Afrikan-Trinbagonian consumers while Afrikan-Trinbagonian vendors in the malls on Charlotte street and other venues in Port-of-Spain once again wallow in their perennial financial losses.

Yet sometime ago, the President of the Public Services Association (PSA) Jennifer Bernard Primus, had the audacity and gall to call on Afrikan-Trinbagonians to take back the City of Port-of-Spain. How can a people take back something that they never had nor owned? This is the most preposterous statement made about the history of Afrikans in TnT. The fact of the matter is that historical ex tempo cannot solve the intractable, myriad of problems facing Afrikan-Trinbagonians.

Historiography proves that Afrikan-Trinbagonians have always been an integral part of the factors of production class in TnT; they have never been part of the upper echelon .relations of production class, by design and not by accident.

This writer's poignant question to PSA's President is simply this: Name one street in TnT, including Port-of-Spain, that is named after an Afrikan who came from Afrika or after a District/town in Afrika?. However, St.James is replete with the names of streets in proud honor of Districts/towns in India.

The bottom-line is that the three carnival days and the Ministry of Education's "school pan programme" speak volumes as to overt the manifestation of ethnic power versus ethnic powerlessness in TnT.

Maybe, Afrikan-Trinbagonians are brain-dead, brain-damaged and completely oblivious, anesthesized and comatose as to the harsh reality that they are being purposefully and consistently hoodwinked, bamboozled and took by Indian-Trinbagonians and Syrian-Trinbagonians on these three annual carnival days. When will they stop their own financial-economic bleeding?.

The fact of the matter is that it is good public relations gimmick for the Minister of Tourism to advise the country that over 50,000 tourists came to TnT to enjoy our carnival. However, the salient reality is that although the economy benefited from the injection of hundreds of millions of dollars in hard currency/foreign exchange, the crucial question is: Which ethnic group/groups benefited from the multiplier effects of such massive monetary injection?. The beneficiary answer does not point in the direction of Afrikan-Trinbagonians---and it never will.

Indeed, the symptoms of collective lobotomy and socio-cultural amnesia cum voluntary mentacide are the Historical Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HAIDS) that are afflicting Afrikan-Trinbagonians of all ages to the nth degree.

In the final analysis, the vital difference between these ethnic groups is that whereas Afrikan-Trinbagonians display a "free-up" as in "let-loose" mind-set towards carnival, Indian-Trinbagonians and Syrian-Trinbagonians posses a well-grounded, immutable mind-set. Location, Location, Location!.

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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