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posted 29 Mar 2020, 08:30 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 29 Mar 2020, 10:41 ]

..we sing this song of praise for those who
helped to clear the path that we could see through
so now we children they have a source
so very Trinbagonian of course
out of a muddy pond
ten thousand flowers bloom

I first met Brother Scobie in late 1975, when I began to work with the Oilfields Workers‘ Trade Union. Of course I had heard of him before we actually met. After all, together with Nuevo Diaz and Allan Campbell, he was detained during the second state of emergency in November 1970, ostensibly because of their role in the so-called Badger incident which was used by the Eric Williams regime as an excuse to declare the second state of emergency arising out of the insurrection of 1970. At the time of his detention he was all of twenty-one years old. 

He was a bit of hero, by then, to radical youth, like myself and to trade unionists in those exhilaratingly revolutionary times. And here he was, Michael Leroy Joseph, a big, tall red man with an intimidating aura and powerful personality. Our paths would crisscross and we would share experiences for the next forty-five years; the last twenty of those years we would become close colleagues in Southern Marines Steelband Foundation.

Scobie, together with others like Joseph Tookoo Wilkinson, Allan Campbell and others, was instrumental in organising Marabella youths to gain employment in the construction of the desulphurisation plant being built by the Yankee firm, Badger, at Point-A-Pierre.

This was achieved through militant collective action. They faced down Yankee racism, linked up with the Oilfields Workers Trade Union, led by the legendary George Weekes, and ended up in prison for his efforts. But up to today, many sons of Marabella who learnt craft skills because of the efforts of Scobie and others were able to gain employment all over the world and to drag themselves out of the swamp of poverty and hopelessness.

I first worked with Brother Scobie at a political level. We were all involved at the time with the United Labour Front (ULF) which had formed itself into a political party after the Bloody Tuesday assault on oil and sugar workers and other platoons of the working class on that fateful day March 18th 1975. The ULF was organising itself to fight the 1976 elections.

Together with Joseph Tookoo Wilkinson, who was very close to Scobie, I worked with them on some of the election campaigns. Nuevo Diaz fought those elections on a ULF platform in the San Fernando East constituency. Scobie and Tookoo were part of his campaign team and at different points in time I had to liaise with them in some of the joint campaigns. I used to sometimes assist their campaign, sometimes assist the campaign of Boodram Jattan who was fighting another seat.

We were all products of the revolutionary period which exploded in 1970 and the perspectives which we developed during that period are what, in Scobie’s case, has served as the bedrock of all his efforts in the political, trade union, community organising and cultural fields until his journey to become one with the ancestors.

During the 1980s, he was heavily involved in trade union work with the OWTU. At times he actually did organising work with construction workers. At other times he was the branch leader of the Secondary Roads branch of the union and a member of the union’s general council. What was striking about his union work was that he was never a sycophant to the leadership of the union and while he had great respect for and had shared prison experience with George Weekes, he never put water in his mouth to criticise policies and tactics that he thought were not correct. He developed a reputation as a bit of a maverick, an independent thinker and that he was nobody’s boy.

In that respect he was an important part of a new wave of trade unionists whom George Weekes encouraged to inject new life into the union. Some of those were Man Man Edward, Cecil Paul, the late Sylvester Ramquar, Frank Sears, Ashton Harrilal, Willock Pierre, Gregory Rousseau, Chris Abraham, Alva Allen, the late Angus Lalsingh, Gregory Prevatt, Sylvan Wilson. I must mention Joseph Wilkinson, Ramdeo Boodram and the late Kelvin Seaton, the three best branch secretaries of my time in the OWTU.

While Scobie was doing union work, he, together with Tookoo and others, set about the task of rebuilding the Southern Marines Steel Orchestra. The successful accomplishment of this task had a
Scobie and Joe Wilkinson
tremendous impact on hundreds of youths in the Marabella, Vistabella, Gasparillo, Claxton Bay, Williamsville areas and within the broader Steelband movement.

As Junior Sean Hinds said on his Facebook tribute: “As I sit here in my cabin, don't know what to think as tears run down my face, this one hitting real hard. August holidays ‘98 I decided to join the Southern Marines junior pan side! A lot of youths around the neighbourhood were a part of the group doing their thing!

After one of the rehearsals I decided to stay back and listen the senior band practice as I play and swing like a monkey on one of the Panorama 4 bass racks outside the pan yard, is when I truly met Michael "Mr Scobie" Joseph. As he walk outside he stop and look at me, then stated why you playing outside and not behind a pan? I answer I playing on the junior band already! He then call out to Malomo, look put this youth on a pan and let him stop waste time... Lol... Lol...

I will never forget Mr Scobie! So much advice and life lessons I have learnt! And years of encouragement! From Talent Expression; Winning Bring yuh pan and Come by Carrat Shed he was right at my side as I played! Still giving me words of wisdom and encouragement! To my first junior Panorama arrangement he would ask "so when the front line taking back the melody" lol.

As I sit here in this cabin feeling down I could only hear his voice saying doh study it! Mr Scobie more than just a steel band president but more like a father to me! As when practice done is a lil. money for a…burger! I will never forget all these play outs, panoramas, pan is beautiful nine etc. I will never forget Michael L Joseph.” 
Death Of A Comrade

Death must not find us thinking that we die.

Too soon, too soon
our banner draped for you.
I would prefer
the banner in the wind
not bound so tightly in a scarlet fold –
not sodden sodden
with your people’s tears
but flashing on the pole
we bear aloft
down and beyond this dark dark lane of rags.

Dear Comrade
if it must be
you speak no more with me
nor smile no more with me
then let me take
a patience and a calm –
for even now the greener leaf explodes
sun brightens stone
and all the river burns.

Now from the mourning vanguard moving on
dear Comrade I salute you and I say
Death will not find us thinking that we die.

Martin Carter
Poems of Resistance, 1954.

Junior’s experience was not that much different from scores of other youths, male and female, who learned social interaction in the Pan Palais, who learned how to channel their frustration into something constructive, who learned how to work collectively, how to negotiate and compromise with one another, who learned how to focus. Scobie was a surrogate father to many and a great educator. 

The Deltones Institute of Steel Drums and Music paid the following tribute: “Mr Scobie was certainly a mentor to us at the institution. He was a representative of the ideology of. Steelpan being a mechanism to gain self-awareness and self-appreciation.  He promoted the instrument as a revolutionary movement that presents a voice for the voiceless. A space for the socially displaced. An institution to arise indigenous leadership on community and national platforms. The management and staff at the Deltones Institute of Steel Drums and Music salute you comrade and send condolences to your entire family.”

Just around the turn of the century, with the collapse of revolutionary leadership in the trade union movement I began to devote more time to assisting with administrative and project management tasks in Southern Marines.

Under Scobie’s leadership we were able to host emancipation commemoration activities including demonstrations in the Marabella/ Pointe-A-Pierre area to mark the anniversary of the Plein Palais uprising by the enslaved masses in the nineteenth century. The Pan Palais was used to host exhibitions, lectures, cultural shows, health fairs, community appreciation days, concerts, parties, bingos, Christmas functions for children.

Presenting the winner's prize to Talent Expression 2013 winner 
Damini Soogrim
But the project that was closest to his heart was the Talent Expression competition which gave a platform to many young performance artistes who otherwise would have struggled to find a space. Many of them are today confidently striding the national cultural stage.

During this period the pan yard was transformed from what used to be called the aquarium to the Pan Palais that exists today. Rae Samuel had this to say: “I had heard of Scobie but did not know him in the times I used to inhabit Paramount. 

It was when I was brought into the Management committee of Southern Marines that I got to know him; first as one of the organisers of the Talent Expression and our Emancipation Day celebrations and eventually as the resident 'paparazzi' of Southern Marines. Later on I would learn of his contributions to Marabella, South Trinidad/Tobago as a cultural warrior, working class leader, fund raiser and political maestro.

He was not of any of the Parties but dealt with all of them. I marvelled at how some of them came to 'bring greetings' and how mayors, Ministers, other petty officials left our offices upstairs with their plans awry and their faces screwed up. The one political person for whom he always had appreciation and respect was Sister Joanne Yuille Williams, whatever their differences. My memory of him will always be of this physically big brother, totally African conscious, writing, speaking, organizing for others whether it was through the Marines Foundation, Pan Trinbago, community groups, the New York Connections. A giant has fallen...” 

frying pholourie
Scobie was an all-rounder. He was not only a trade unionist, political and community activist, a Steelband leader par excellence. Scobie enjoyed life to the fullest. He was an excellent dancer. He had a beautiful voice and sang in the Petrotrin choir. He also composed calypsos and Southern Marines played one of his compositions Panman’s Cry in the Panorama competition.  he was a fierce defdender of the canboulay tradition of carnival and tirelessly warned us of the  growing dominance of the mardi gras of the national festival.

He practised the Orisa tradition but embraced all the people's traditions that make up this cultural mosaic we call Trinidad & Tobago. He considered himself the greatest saheena and pholourie maker and could often be seen at functions in the Pan Palais frying down the delicacies. 

He was a prolific writer. For decades he would write letters to the editor and of late he was one of the more prolific correspondents, having his writings published online whether through the website and Facebook pages of the National Workers Union, Southern Marines Facebook page and other online sites.

We say farewell to you big brother. We are pleased that we were able to celebrate your seventieth birthday last year and that you were able to visit your beloved Africa. We are saddened that we cannot mark your transition in a manner that befits your contribution to your home land, because of the restrictions inflicted upon us by the corona virus. But this, too, shall pass and when it does we will celebrate your having walked amongst us: a giant among men; one who served his people out of love and commitment; one who has now united with the ancestors in this never-ending spiral of coming into being and going out of being.  The great West indian poet Martin Carter said: 

"...only where our footprints end can tell
whether the journey was an old advance or a new retreat"

it is up to us to ensure that your journey never ends in retreat. Walk tall, my brother, walk strong!


posted 27 Mar 2020, 10:41 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 27 Mar 2020, 11:24 ]

I have submitted this article as a tribute to
Citizen Michael ‘Scobie’ Joseph not that he would agree with its content but with the concept of let a hundred flowers bloom. 

He, who by words, deeds and action, embodied the talismanic warrior peasant in life. 

As before, with the few who I admired and cherished; in this covid 19 period, I dedicate ‘Fanfare for the Common Man’ interpreted by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by James Levine.    

Failure was always an option because those who had the spotlight on them were themselves groping in the dark. As such, questions can be raised in all forms and fashion. Why we have failed to foster a cohesive working class? What is considered to be failure?  Failure to do what? Who is to blame? What is the way out? And lastly, the eternal question – Where do we go from here?

My concept stems from a grudging realization that the laboring masses would not, cannot, liberate themselves until or unless certain benchmarks are discussed, accepted and pursued. To reach there I will take a round-about route – the present into the past to find the future. So what does the present scenario tell me.

This is March 2020 and using a cultural event as an example it is clear our Carnival is dying. Truth be told, carnival reflects our society. In other words our society is hemorrhaging and with it all other socio-economic-political issues since they are all intrinsically linked. How is the carnival dying when the politicians would trumpet, ad nauseam, we had the safest, greatest show ever. 

Didn’t we ban glass bottles for 48 hours? Didn’t the murder rate decrease? Didn’t we have more tourist arrivals? Look how Despers rise like a proverbial phoenix with a home of its own! More children playing mas. Minshall is back and all is quiet on the home front.

But the carnival is dying! There used to be masqueraders in Point Fortin, Fyzabad, Princes Town and many other peripheral urban areas. Now sooner than later, the festival will only be held in Port of Spain, now called carnival city and become a television commodity. The calypso art form is the most glaring example with the musicians (pannists) and working people obviously feeling the brutality of cultural bois.

None of the present day politicians see the country through such lens. Indeed its about floating or not floating the TT dollar; reimage the justice system from the top; tweaking the Constitution; it’s the other side fostering crime; vote for me to set you free.

Where did we go off-track and with blinkers on seem to await a message-man with either biblical posturing or strongman body language. Working people are left in the dark and that was deliberate so that those who can count to ten did not want anybody know how to count to twenty. I am therefore making my first bold statement. The working class of T&T must invest in a mass communication medium – radio, newspaper, TV station or a combination of the three – independent of any investor, politician or group.

For our society to breathe, four pillars must be totally revamped – education, security, health and food production. Upon this platform comes sports, culture, and infrastructure (providing jobs , housing, road network, etc).

The key towards such a possibility is that collectives, the labour movement in particular, must embark on re-educating the people on political, economic and social systems so that the best hybrid or not, can be attained through constant deliberations.

I have just touched the surface which can be counter-productive, in that too little discourse can be dangerous. All this paper sets out to do is point out we are dying prematurely, because we listen to charlatans, carpet-baggers and conmen, failing to take the hard road to freedom.


posted 18 Mar 2020, 03:36 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 18 Mar 2020, 06:01 ]

Today, March 18th 2020 marks the forty fifth anniversary of Bloody Tuesday, a significant, but almost forgotten, day in the history of the mass movement. In commemoration of that event we publish the 
Presentation made by Cecil Paul on behalf of the National Workers Union at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Alma Jordan Library on March 12, 2020 during the university's History Fest. 

Other presenters at that forum included Glen Ramjag of the National Foodcrop Farmers Association (NFFA), Alva Allen, education officer of the Banking Insurance and General Workers Union (BIGWU) and Basdeo Panday, former prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago.

On the morning of March 18th 1975 thousands of workers and farmers mainly from the Oil and Sugar industries embarked on a long march from San Fernando to the capital city of Port of Spain to demand pay increases in negotiations that were not progressing between their Unions, the Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU) with Texaco Trinidad; the All Trinidad Sugar Estates and Factory Workers Trade Union (ATSE&FWTU) with Caroni Ltd. and the Island Wide Cane Farmers Trade Union (ICFTU) which had an ongoing recognition struggle with Caroni Ltd.

The leaders of the massive gathering of workers and farmers at the headquarters of the OWTU – Paramount Building, San Fernando were George Weekes of the OWTU, Basdeo Panday of the ATSE&FWTU; Raffique Shah and Winston Leonard of the ICFTU. Weekes and Leonard were detained and imprisoned on Nelson Island on the declaration of a State of Emergency during the 1970 Black Power Uprising.

However, in the case of Shah, a former soldier: he was tried, convicted and imprisoned for mutiny but was freed on appeal and became a leader of the Farmers Union together with Leonard formerly education officer of the OWTU.

It is important to note that these leaders together with others including lecturers and students of the UWI were part of that particular revolutionary period of our country’s history, which began with a bus workers strike led by Joe Young leader of the Transport and Industrial Workers Union (TIWU). So that there was a ten year period from 1965 to 1975 of constant protests and actions that saw strikes, demonstrations, armed struggle, mass meetings, conferences of workers, farmers, students and other actions leading to Bloody Tuesday of March 18th 1975. It was not spontaneous.

Bloody Tuesday of March 18th 1975 is also connected to a major gathering of working people known as “The Skinner Park Rally” held one month earlier on February 18th 1975 where the Unions of the Council of Progressive Trade Unions (CPTU), including the now defunct University and Allied Workers Union (UAWU), were up in arms against foreign control of our economy by transnational companies, employment discrimination against Africans and Indians by the private sector firms in the banking and commercial sectors, low and exploitative working conditions particularly in the Sugar Industry which was a slight upgrade from indenture ship.

Workers gather for the march at Paramount Building, headquarters of the OWTU.
So that the Skinner Park Rally of February was like a dress rehearsal for Bloody Tuesday of one month later. At this rally, workers vowed to struggle for Peace, Bread and Justice in an independent Trinidad and Tobago of thirteen years. Workers were agitated that in a relatively rich country with a small population (at that time of an estimated three quarter of a million people the distribution of income, goods and services were extremely unequal and discriminatory towards working people. Our economy was still dominated by foreign companies and a local elite. 

Racism remained punitive and widespread despite the upheaval of 1970. The Skinner Park Rally called for fundamental changes and further struggles.

The message of the leaders and the large crowds at the Rally created panic and fear among the ruling politicians and elite classes that
another 1970 was in the making. From the 1965 bus strike to the 1970 revolution and army mutiny. Now this massive Skinner Park Rally and plans for a peoples’ demonstration from San Fernando to Port of Spain.

The Media, the Business Class both foreign and local were calling on the government to curb this continuing “outbreak” against law and order. The then Commissioner of Police Tony May made a public announcement, that the demonstration of March 18th 1975 would not be allowed to take place and will be stopped by the Police. 

Appeals were made by several national groups to call off the March and start discussions but to no avail as the leaders decided in the quest for Peace, Bread and Justice, the March would continue as planned.

These working people leaders were steeled in struggle for many years from the Workers and Farmers Party of CLR James of 1965, the Bus Workers strike to the Black Power Revolution. 
Among those assembled for the March were the anti-colonial fighter and former Trade Union leader TUB Butler, ANR Robinson former PNM Deputy leader and Minister, Vernon Jamadar leader of the DLP, Dr. James Millette UWI lecturer, Rev. Idris Hamid of the Presbyterian Church, Christian, Hindu and Muslim religious leaders and thousands of workers, farmers, children, Unemployeds and a myriad of people of Trinbago.

The march was to be joined by workers awaiting it in Central and in the East West Corridor by Food Crop farmers, UWI students, members of the OWTU and TIWU in the North.

The March begins and Deputy Commissioner Dennis Ramdwar calls the leaders by name and demands that they end the March. He also calls on the participants to disperse. The leaders did not respond and some were arrested. 

A massive onslaught was launched by the police against the marchers. Teargas canisters were fired into the crowds. Women and children were screaming with terror on their faces. Some of the leaders and marchers are beaten mercilessly, wounded and arrested.

The March is stopped in San Fernando but some escape and make their way into other areas to reorganise. The people waiting along the Southern Main Road from Marabella, into Central Trinidad, the East/West Corridor and Port of Spain got the news of the breakup of the March and are disappointed.

Hatred for the police is expressed as reports are given by those escaping the police violence. The March 18th violence against unarmed and peaceful demonstrators is named “Bloody Tuesday” because since colonialism, mass police violence of that degree had never been experienced by peaceful demonstrators in independent Trinidad and Tobago.

Despite the violent intervention, the revolutionary leaders of the Progressive Trade Unions went on to gain ground winning pay increases and better conditions for Sugar and Oil workers and Cane Farmers. These improved conditions would in time influence better pay and conditions for all workers in the country. Still the major goal of political power and economic justice to working people is still the major objective.

Understanding the limits of Trade Union power and the strengths of political power, just one year later, workers assembled at a Conference of Shop Stewards and Branch Officers, at the very venue where the Bloody Tuesday demonstration for Peace Bread and Justice began, voted for another attempt at the formation of another Workers and Farmers Party now called the United Labour Front (ULF). 

So that the struggle for an improved life for workers could continue from a new dimension – A political party platform in 1976. The fate of that political party is another story to be told another time.


posted 19 Feb 2020, 07:34 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 19 Feb 2020, 08:42 ]

Image result for chris ramsaroopTrinidad born Chris Ramsaroop is a founding member of Justice for Migrant Workers (J4MW), a grassroots collective of community, labour, and migrant activists in Ontario, Canada.


As Canada lobbies members of Caricom for a seat on the UN Security Council, we take this opportunity to highlight the labour and human right conditions faced by Caribbean and Mexican migrant labourers who are employed in Canada under the auspices of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (CSAWP).

Since 1966 hundreds of thousands of Caribbean migrant workers have toiled under precarious and exploitative conditions as a result of restrictive immigration laws that bind workers to one employer and labour laws that deny agricultural workers rights and benefits that workers in other industries enjoy.

While Canada’s Agricultural industry has greatly prospered as a result of the contributions and sacrifices undertaken by migrant labour, the same cannot be said for the workers. Since 2001 members of J4MW have documented numerous examples of injustices. To be clear this is not about one or two rotten apples but a structure that prospers from an unequal power balance that favours employers.

Countless workers have raised concerns about being disbarred from the program for simply exerting their rights at work. Hundreds, if not thousands, of workers have been injured or sick whose health has vastly deteriorated as a result of being denied equal access to healthcare in Canada and an arbitrary and discriminatory system of unilateral repatriations that download healthcare costs to an already overburdened system in the Caribbean.

Benefits and entitlements such as Employment Insurance (EI) have been significantly curtailed denying migrant farm workers and their families equal and fair access into a system that their hard earned wages pay into.

Retired migrant workers are denied equal access to Canada’s social safety net. Old age security benefits, working tax benefits and guarantee income supplement benefits that
Image result for trudeau in black faceCanadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, was scheduled to attend the CARICOM Heads of Government meeting held in Barbados on February 18th and 19th.

His trip was cancelled at the last minute, because of the growing revolt by the Indigenous and environmental movement in Canada which has shut down rail transport across the country.

They demand that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police withdraw from their ancestral lands as it moves to enforce a court injunction against Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs and their supporters who have been blocking construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, a key part of the $40-billion LNG Canada liquefied natural gas export project.

There have been numerous demonstrations across Canada in support of the move to 
block the building of a natural gas pipeline which encroaches on indigenous territory and has caused major disruption to the Canadian economy.
Canadian and permanent resident workers enjoyed are denied to migrant workers in spite of their decades of contributions to Canada’s social safety net.

While the Caribbean has been shaped by a vibrant and militant labour movement the same cannot be said for Canada where Agricultural workers are denied access to the right to organize and to collectively bargain - a right that should be enjoyed by all workers. Recently a Divisional Court ruling made it clear that agricultural workers are exempt to overtime pay; a right that is enjoyed by migrant workers in other industries.

Recently Canada has implemented a system of biometrics that criminalizes the Caribbean community on their entry to Canada. This is in addition to other attempts by Canadian security officials to criminalize and racially profile Caribbean labourers in Canada.

In 2013, near London Ontario a group of approximately 100 migrant workers from the Caribbean were subjected to a racially discriminatory DNA sweep where the farm workers felt compelled to provide their DNA to the police.

Promised that their DNA would be destroyed after a thorough investigation it was discovered that the DNA from the workers would be kept forever. The workers were targeted because they were migrant labourers from the Caribbean; something that should be concerning to all those who care about fairness and justice.

To date in spite of the countless deaths that have occurred because of deplorable, dangerous and deadly conditions there has never been a proper investigation into any of the deaths of Caribbean or other migrant workers. Across Canada there has never been an inquest into the death of a migrant farm worker.

As Canada has expanded Canada’s migrant labour scheme called the Temporary Foreign Worker program, we have received numerous complaints of Caribbean nationals paying thousands of dollars to unscrupulous recruiters and immigration consultants with the promise of work, work that doesn’t exist. Rather than the necessary regulations and oversight exist Canada and its provincial counterparts have turned their backs on the most vulnerable workers in our society.

Canada’s overtures to seek admission to the UN Security Council should be roundly dismissed. Rather than discuss Canada’s attempts to greatly enhance its power and influence, the focus should be on the human dignity of the women and men who put food on the table for millions of people across Canada and the world.

Canada has long enjoyed a colonial relationship with the countries of the Caribbean. From predatory practices of Canadian banking institutions to the role of Canadian companies operating in extractive resources, Canada has immensely profited off of the land, sea and people of the Caribbean.

We urge and compel you to stand up and take a firm stand to demand answers from Canada. The Caricom doesn’t need platitudes but an end to practices that imperil migrant labourers to conditions of unfree labour in a so called first world country.

We urge you in joining us in denouncing Canada’s 54-year history of racism and indignation and create a system where migrant farm workers are no longer treated like indentured labourers while in Canada and once they return.

THE QUIET WARRIOR by David Commissiong

posted 5 Feb 2020, 11:05 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 5 Feb 2020, 14:04 ]

One of the striking features of Barbados’ famous public monument known variously as the Bussa Statue and as the Emancipation Statue, is the following very powerful and moving inscription at the base of the monument: -- 
David Comissiong is a Barbados' Ambassador to Caricom. He  is the founder of the Clement Payne Movement, and once served as head of the Barbadian government's Commission for Pan-African affairs. He is a frequent critic of globalization and United States hegemony.

“Let my children
in the path
of the morning
up and go forth
on the road 
of the morning
run through the fields
in the sun
of the morning,
see the rainbow
of Heaven:
God’s curved

This powerful piece of verse is the creation of Barbados’ most outstanding poet, historian and Culture scholar — Kamau Brathwaite — and is taken from the poem entitled “Tom” and published in Brathwaite’s universally acclaimed poetry collection known as “The Arrivants”.

It is entirely fitting that Kamau Brathwaite’s work should be inscribed on the one piece of Barbadian public art that is dedicated to the quest of the African-Barbadian for liberation, for Kamau Brathwaite is perhaps the most outstanding example of a Barbadian who has transcended the spiritual and psychological limitations and constraints of Barbados’ colonial heritage.

In Kamau Brathwaite, we Barbadians possess the living example of an extremely creative and intellectually gifted son of the soil who has taken it upon himself to make that necessary inward journey towards the core of his being as a child of Africa transplanted in the New World and shaped by the powerful dialectical (or “tidelectical”) cultural currents of “Plantation America”.

And because of the magnitude and integrity of Kamau’s effort, Barbados has received the inestimable gift of a profound native philosopher and creative artist whose work has helped to clarify many of the critical cultural and other existential challenges that we face as a nation.

But who exactly is this Kamau Brathwaite — this quiet warrior — who lives among us at his modest Cow Pastor, Christ Church home, and whose shepherd-like spirit still watches over our nation? Let us spend some time looking more closely at the intimate details of the life of this great Barbadian.

Kamau was born in Barbados in the year 1930 into what was known in those days as a “coloured middle-class oriented family”, and was actually christened “Edward Brathwaite” by his parents, Edward and Beryl Brathwaite. (The African name of Kamau— which means Quiet Warrior — was bestowed upon him much later in life by the famous Kenyan writer, Ngugi wa Thiong’o and other African soul-mates during a sojourn in Kenya.)

As a child, young Edward Brathwaite grew up between Mile and a Quarter in St. Peter and Bay Street (Brown’s Beach) in St. Michael, and attended such well known primary schools as St. Mathias, St. Mary’s and Bay Street Primary.

His secondary schooling began at Combermere, where he spent two years before his parents secured a transfer to Harrison College. And this is how Kamau has described his stint at Harrison College :-

“I went to a secondary school originally founded for children of the plantocracy, colonial civil servants and white professionals; but by the time I got there, the social revolution of the 30's was in full swing, and I was able to make friends with boys of stubbornly non-middle class origin.

I was fortunate, also, with my teachers...they were (with two or three exceptions) happily inefficient as teachers, and none of them seemed to have a stake or interest in our society. We were literally left alone. We picked up what we could or what we wanted from each other and from the few books prescribed like Holy Scripture. With the help of my parents, I applied to do Modern Studies (History and English) in the sixth form...and succeeded, to everyone’s surprise, in winning one of the Island Scholarships that traditionally took the ex-planters’ sons “home” to Oxbridge or London”.

So these are the bare facts of Kamau’s upbringing in colonial-era Barbados. Some twenty years later, Kamau explained the deeper significance of this upbringing in a very important essay entitled “Timheri”: -

“... my education and background, though nominally “middle class”, is, on examination, not of this nature at all. I had spent most of my boyhood on the beach and in the sea with “beach-boys”, or in the country, at my grandfather’s with country boys and girls. I was therefore not in a position to make any serious intellectual investment in West Indian middle class values. But since I was not then consciously aware of any other West Indian alternative (though in fact I had been living that alternative), I found and felt myself “rootless” on arrival in England, and like so many other West Indians of the time, more than ready to accept and absorb the culture of the Mother Country. I was, in other words, a potential Afro-Saxon”.

But fortunately for Kamau (and for our society), two things saved this great son of the soil from degeneration into a colonial-minded “Afro-Saxon”. One was the appearance, in 1953, of George Lamming’s seminal Barbadian novel - “In The Castle of my Skin” - with its exploration of the unique nuances of the culture, sociology and landscapes of Barbados, and its vindication of our Barbadianism and West Indianism.

The other was that upon graduating from Cambridge University in 1955 with a degree in History, the young historian and educator secured a job as an Education Officer in the West African colony of the Gold Coast (now the independent nation of Ghana). For Kamau this was very much a type of spiritual homecoming - a notion that he expressed in his poem entitled “The New Ships” as follows: -

“Takoradi was hot.
Green struggled through red 

YouTube Video

as we landed.
Laterite lanes drifted off
into dust
into silence.
Mammies crowded with cloths,
flowered and laughed;
white teeth
smooth voices like pebbles
moved by the sea of their language.
Akwaaba they smiled
meaning welcome
akwaaba they called
aye kooo
well have you walked
have you journeyed

you who have come
back a stranger
after three hundred years

Kamau spent eight years in Ghana, during which time he not only got to know the country and its people intimately through his work as an educator, but with the help of his Guyana born wife -- Doris Welcome aka Zea Mexican-- he also developed a Children’s Theatre which produced several of the African-themed plays that he authored in Ghana. This was a time of important inward spiritual growth for the Barbadian historian/educator/playwright/poet - an experience that he explained in "Timheri" as follows:-

"Slowly, slowly, ever so slowly; obscurely, slowly but surely, during the eight years I lived there, I was coming to an awareness and understanding of community, of cultural wholeness, of the place of the individual within the tribe, in society. Slowly, slowly, ever so slowly, I came to a sense of identification of myself with these people, my living diviners. I came to connect my history with theirs, the bridge of my mind now linking Atlantic and ancestor, homeland and heartland".

Simply put, Kamau had discovered his intrinsic "African-ness" - not an "African-ness" that made him identical with the new brothers and sisters that he discovered in Ghana, but rather, an "African-ness" that had been shaped by the dislocation of the Middle Passage and the centuries of experiences in Plantation America. But perhaps I should let Kamau speak for himself: -
"When I turned to leave, I was no longer a lonely individual talent: there was something wider, more subtle - the self without ego - without arrogance. And I came home to find that I had not really left. That it was still Africa. Africa in the Caribbean. The middle passage had now guessed its end. The connection between my lived, but unheeded non-middle class boyhood, and its Great Tradition on the eastern (African) mainland had been made".

In 1962 Brathwaite came home not only to a University of the West Indies teaching job, but also to find himself face to face with the West Indian Independence Movement that saw Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago securing their independence in 1962, to be followed by Guyana and Barbados in 1966.

It was in this milieu, and with this new understanding of himself, that Kamau Brathwaite produced some of the most outstanding poetry of the 20th and 21st centuries! A partial listing of his most important volumes of poetry is as follows:-

Rights of Passage (1967); Masks (1968); Islands (1969) ;The Arrivants (1973); Mother Poem (1977) Sun Poem (1982); X-Self (1987); The Zea Mexican Diary (1993); Dream Stories (1994); Barabajan Poems (1994); Trench Town Rock (1999); Ancestors (2001); Magical Realism (2002); and Born To Slow Horses (2005).

What distinguishes Kamu Brathwaite’s body of work is that he consciously sought to use and valorise quintessential aspects of our Barbadian/Caribbean/Afro-American/Pan-African culture. Thus, the rhythmic structure of his poetry ranges from Jazz to Calypso, Limbo,

Rasta drumming, and to the rhythms and intonations of the Spiritual Baptists and the practitioners of the West African derived Orisha and Vodun religions.

Kamau also used his poetry as a vehicle to search for our "Nam" or inner essence as a people - an exploration that caused him to lift up and explore our "Nation Language" (commonly condescendingly referred to as "dialect"), and to pierce beneath the surface of our Caribbean landscapes and culturescapes to discern ancestors, African orishas, and fecund and original creation myths and cultural insights. 

This body of work is far too voluminous and profound to deal with in greater detail within the confines of this short essay, but there is one special poem that I would to focus on and bring forcefully to my readers’ attention. To my mind, this poem is the quintessential poem of the Caribbean independence era! It is entitled "Negus" and was first published way back in 1969, in the early years of Independence.

It was relevant then, and it is perhaps even more relevant today! It is a poem that every single Caribbean citizen should know by heart! Let us therefore conclude this essay with an excerpt from “Negus”: -

it is not
it is not it is not

YouTube Video

it is not enough
it is not enough to be free
of the red white and blue
of the drag, of the dragon
it is not
it is not
it is not enough
it is not enough to be free
of the whips, principalities and powers 
where is your kingdom of the Word?
it is not
it is not
it is not enough
it is not enough to be free
of malarial fevers, fear of the hurricane,
fear of invasions, crops’ drought, fire’s
blisters upon the cane
It is not
it is not
it is not enough
to be able to fly to Miami,
structure skyscrapers, excavate the moon
scaped seashore sands to build hotels, casinos, sepulchres

It is not
it is not
it is not enough
it is not enough to be free
to bulldoze god’s squatters form their tunes, from their relics
from their tombs of drums
It is not enough
to pray to Barclays bankers on the telephone
to Jesus Christ by short wave radio
to the United States marines by rattling your hip
must be given words to shape my name
to the syllables of trees
must be given words to refashion futures
like a healer’s hand
must be given words so that the bees
in my blood’s buzzing brain of memory
will make flowers, will make flocks of birds,
will make sky, will make heaven,
the heaven open to the thunder-stone and the volcano and the un-folding land
It is not
it is not
it is not enough
to be pause, to be hole
to be void, to be silent
to be semicolon, to be semicolony;”


posted 3 Feb 2020, 08:21 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 3 Feb 2020, 08:42 ]

On 13th November 2019 Yara Trinidad Ltd. Issued the following statement:

Image may contain: 4 people, people standing, sky and outdoor
“Yara regrets to announce the closure of its wholly-owned ammonia plant in Point Lisas, Trinidad. The Yara Trinidad plant is one of three ammonia plants operated by Yara Trinidad Ltd. The remaining two plants, Tringen I and Tringen II, are jointly owned by Yara International ASA and National Enterprises Ltd (NEL).

The Trinidad plant is one of Yara's smallest ammonia plants, with an annual production capacity of approximately 270,000 tonnes ammonia. In addition to small scale, the plant has a lower energy efficiency than Yara's average. Plant profitability has also been impacted by lower ammonia prices, and in addition negotiations with The National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago (NGC) have failed to reach an agreement that could sustain plant operations. As a result, steps will be taken to safely shut down the plant and cease production of ammonia by 31 December 2019.”

Interestingly, which shows the contempt in which Yara management holds the workers and their union, the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) heard of the company’s intention through the media.

Until recently, the issue disappeared off the front pages, even though the union representing the Yara workers, the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union, held thirteen meetings with the company in an effort to ameliorate the situation.

Reckoning that the closure of the plant would affect forty-three jobs and dozens of contractor workers, the union prepared a detailed redeployment proposal which was submitted to the management on November 18th 2019.

The union’s proposal identified the affected workers and proposed reasonable areas of redeployment for all affected workers. Among measures proposed were the introduction of a fifth shift for Tringen One and Tringen Two operations; redeployment to existing shifts; redeployment to other Yara assets like the water treatment area, storage, plant monitoring, utilities, docks and shipping, main stores, human resource/training.

The union’s proposals argue that if they are adopted it would result in an improved work/life balance; improve safety as manning levels would revert to previous standards and appropriate manning levels as was practised in the past and align with industry standards for safely managing ammonia plants. These levels were woefully below par and resulted in ridiculously high overtime costs.

Image result for yara trinidadDuring the course of the discussions, Yara introduced issues that had nothing to do with the closing of the Yara plant. The Norwegian company alleged that it needs savings of US$10 million to ensure the viability of the Tringen Plants, both of which are majority owned by the government with Yara being the minority owner but which manages the operations. Interestingly, the government has not said a word about the Tringen plants being in need of such savings.

Yara claims it needs these savings in the context of increased natural gas prices, low ammonia prices, higher freight costs, the shale gas phenomenon. They also argued that the sustainability of the medical and pension plans was under question as was the sustainability of the production costs structure. They claimed that employee costs were 65% of fixed costs. They, of course, have not said what is the ratio of fixed costs to their revenue.

What started as a plant closure due to increased natural gas prices has morphed into a campaign to cut labour costs, including retrenching workers, although nowhere in their rationale did they argue that the plant had to be closed because of high labour costs.

One worker opined that using root cause analysis reveals that labour costs have not gone up over the past year, but natural gas prices have. How then does cutting labour costs impact upon the price of natural gas? Shutting down the Petrotrin refinery had no impact on that company’s debt burden. If Yara has a problem with the gas price should they not be dealing with NGC and the government and not making workers pay for an issue they had no hand in creating.

This situation has come about because of the much-praised trip by the Prime Minister mto Houston

Yara has rejected the Union’s redeployment proposal as not being feasible, even though their Tringen joint venture partner, the government, through Energy Minister Franklin Khan stated in parliament on Friday November 15th that Yara will try to as much as possible to employ these personnel at its partly-owned Tringen I and II plants. It goes to show that in these relationships between the government and the transnational corporation who is the boss!

Yara has proposed that the workers accept a 5% wage cut which they insist is required to achieve the US10 million-dollar savings that they pulled from a hat. They have proposed that the company reduce its liabilities to the medical and pension plans. Some workers suggest that the company is seizing the opportunity to roll back benefits that the workers at their predecessor company (Federation Chemicals) went on strike for six months in 1980 and endured a five-month lockout in 1986-’87 to secure.

Their attacks on the medical and pension plans are part and parcel of the neo-liberal assault waged by employers to get rid of benefits that workers fought for and won over the decades. Note the utter chaos and confusion that has engulfed the retrenched workers of Petrotrin whose medical and pension benefits have been undermined and emasculated with the resultant destruction of the standard of living and quality of life that workers fought so hard to achieve. Note well the role being played by the government in sucking up to the energy giants.

Prime Minister Rowley, made his infamous trip to Houston in March 2017. According to a statement released by the Office of the Prime Minister on Friday, January 26 2018:

Prime Minister Dr the Honourable Keith Rowley greets Ben van Beurden, Chief Executive Officer of Royal Dutch Shell. To his right is Maarten Wetselaar, Shell’s Director Integrated Gas and New Energies. Photo courtesy Office of the Prime Minister
Prime Minister Rowley skinning and grinning with his bosses after signing gas price agreement with Shell
"The Honourable Prime Minister flew to Houston last March to assist the discussions taking place between BPTT and EOG and NGC for the future supply of gas from these up-streamers. These discussions had stuck and bottle necked and the Prime Minister's intervention advanced them and they then proceeded to agree on prices and volumes with NGC for 2019 to 2023.Trinidad and Tobago, through NGC, did not have certainty of gas supply beyond 2018 and it was the Prime Minister's intervention that assured the continued supply of gas albeit at higher prices than NGC had been accustomed to previously."

Today Dr. Rowley is trying to distance himself from the very negotiations that he boasted about because the higher prices for BP, EOG and Shell’s gas that NGC has to pay has resulted in some Point Lisas-based petrochemical plants being shut down resulting in job losses and a reduction in foreign exchange earnings. Note well that a government commissioned study by Poten and Partners has stated that the country derives more revenue from the petrochemical industry than from Atlantic LNG, which, of course, is controlled by BP and Shell.

The Pt. Lisas Industrial Estate has been claimed as the signature economic and financial achievement of the PNM over the many decades which the party controlled the government in Trinidad and Tobago.

The immense foreign exchange earnings enjoyed by the country, the human resource development which saw nationals who were employed there being highly sought after by many trans-national companies to start and operate their state of the art facilities around the world was as a result of Point Lisas. The irony of all this is that it is a PNM administration that is inflicting death blows to the Estate.

Most of the other tenants on the Estate are deafeningly silent on the catastrophic development. Methanex is also saying that it will be forced to shut down one if its Methanol plants. All the rest are quietly reeling under effects of the of this capitulation to the upstream gas producers. Their hope, it seems, is that the resolute track record of the Yara workers led by the OWTU would reverse these backward decisions and they would reap the benefits of a sustainable gas pricing arrangement.

These issues are far too fundamental to the quality of life, economic and financial wellbeing of the country to allow this catastrophe to just simply happen.


posted 3 Feb 2020, 07:27 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 3 Feb 2020, 07:46 ]

Apparently our remorseless and grim determination to go to the sporting graveyard continues in the wake of news coming from local cycling. Coach Erin Hartwell, technical director first 'went on holiday/leave' and it seems whether he returns or not, his stint with local cycling is over.

Image result for ROGER GIBBON
Roger Gibbon
Under his stewardship local cycling improved by leaps and bounds, harkening back to the halcyon days of Roger Gibbons, Leslie Hoyte and Gene Samuels. Female road cyclist Teneil Campbell, just 22, qualified for the 2020 Summer Olympics.

For those of us not familiar with cycling, it parallels Keshorn Walcott's achievements. Top flight cyclists, let alone
Image result for teniel campbell
Teniel Campbell
female, do not often come from outside Europe or USA. Even in our region the sport is dominated by Colombians or Venezuelans. As if that was not enough, Nicolas Paul set a world record at the Pan Am Games, en route to winning gold. If one scours the record books one is not likely to find record holders coming from our region in the Caribbean, then and now. (Ed note: Please note the matter re our banning of our cyclists is far from over).

The men's team went to a crucial Olympic qualifying tournament in Canada without Mr. Hartwell. Of course he, and the rest of us, wish them well but haven't these developments lengthened the odds against succeeding? The most productive coach in decades is sent on/goes on leave at a critical moment. It is the second time this is reported to have happened to him

Let us go back to 2016 and then fast forward to 2019. In 2016 saw gymnast Thema Williams objectively denied a qualification spot in the 2016 Rio Olympics. She won a lawsuit against the Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation in which the court ruled that she had been treated unfairly in the selection process. Come 2019, the late Dexter St. Louis won in similar fashion against the Trinidad and Tobago Tennis Association on an identical issue.

Now our sprint queen, Michelle Ayhe, is banned in an Olympic year for missing drug tests. The circumstances are not clear since Ahye herself has not been
Image result for THEMA WILLIAMS
Thema Williams
saying much on the matter, but the relationship between her and the governing bodies seem to operate at some distance. Like forest fires and sudden flooding, the challenges abound.

Our leading field athlete, Quincy Wilson slips in the discus throwing circle, is injured at our National Championships. He sues the federation. That is in arbitration at the moment. One bright spot is in football, where a Keith Look Loy organized and led movement has taken the first steps to moving us away from the Jack Warner-David John Williams type of administrative culture.

Image result for ALLOY LEQUAY
Alloy Lequay
Is it that Trinbagonians are inherently incapable of administrating successfully? Far from it. The late Alloy Lequay and his team successfully wrested cricket control away from the Queen's Park Cricket Club which was essentially a private, upper class elite group running local cricket. The original 1% so to speak. One of Canada's most respected cycling coaches was Palo Seco born Ronald Dickie.

Mr. Keith Joseph, Trinidad born, heads the St. Vincent and the Grenadines track and field and Olympic Committees He is also a high ranking delegate to the Caribbean Olympic National Olympic Committees/CANOC, NACAC /North American Central American and Caribbean Congress, which is the regional arm of IAAF.

The administrative secretary of the St. Vincent and Grenadines committees is a Trinidadian, Ms. Nicha Branker. One of the leading sports attorneys in the region is our own Mr. Tyrone Marcus. He is either representing or arbitrating in the matters concerning our cyclists or athletes.

So we are not doomed to be forever at the mercy of external forces or caprice. Like football has done, like cricket did, the rank and file in all these sports must move to regain control of their disciplines. I am of the view that this task is daily becoming urgent.

Sport is moving, changing daily on and off the field. It is no longer recreational or just for entertainment value but intrinsically part of national development. Like medicine, aviation, communication, it must be run by trained professionals and be accountable to the national public. Lamine Diack, former head of IAAF is now before the French courts for corruption. The only reason his son is not in the dock with his father is that the authorities in Senegal won't extradite him

I also want to suggest there is an immediacy since we have a major international event in 2021, the Commonwealth Youth Games. While the infrastructure work is being put in place, the Games will also test our administrative readiness in the glare of the international media. Recently, I attend a workshop at UWI. There are many young persons, male and female, desirous of building back our sporting culture. Many of them know only of what did not work and need to be told of what we did achieve. Ways must be found to attract and involve them.

Keith Look Loy
One must commend Mr. Keith look Loy who attended and sat quietly at the back. He is the highest ranking administrative official whom I have seen at these workshops and seminars. Correction, he is the only one; not counting Mr. Buxo Potts whom I saw at a Commonwealth Sports seminar some 5 or 6 years ago and who rose to speak on Ethics in Sport. How did that go? Not now please

A young person involved in a FIFA study programme found his way to him and received full guidance and support from Mr. Look Loy. I hold that these federations must reach out to the upcoming generation. So it is more than just the open grave that stands before our sporting bodies.

STATE OF COLLAPSE by Michael "Bro. Scobie" Joseph

posted 24 Jan 2020, 05:52 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 24 Jan 2020, 06:09 ]

Independence is independence, but when you continue to live in territories which still bear the shape of the old colonial territories, it is extremely difficult to free yourself from the colonial mentality
Image result for politics and crime
I would like to add my comments to the narratives of the runaway crime situation that is hurting this once blessed, peaceful, fun-loving and prosperous twin island nation also called Trinbago. Ours as a nation is just under sixty years in existence, coming out of colonialism, through independence right into Republicanism, and we seem to be falling apart.

We were given a template for governance by our colonial masters, who were in fact Pirates, Buccaneers and Seadogs, plundering everything in their paths. We took hold of that system of governance and applied it with a passion, glorifying in our new-found opportunity to govern and manage our own affairs.

Leaders were imposed on us from amongst those who were graded by Massa as better qualified and conforming to the neo colonial order, to manage the estate. Hence today, we have people holding high political office, with a colonial mindset. That's the system we have inherited, and have been busy ever since trying our best to perfect and protect it to no avail. If something is not good, it could never be fixed for proper use.

Independence afforded us the luxury to rid ourselves of the colonial Barons and Lords and Masters in the governance of our national affairs. We now have simple but qualified people from amongst us to manage the estates to the benefit of all its citizens. But, most of these esteemed functionaries came to the task a
head with an attitude to fill the vacuum of the now absent lords and masters. And they preach the mantra that they are holding power as against office to which we swallowed hook line and sinker.

To maintain the Massa lifestyle that these new functionaries crave, they began to manipulate the books of accounts on the estate for their personal benefit. 
Image result for politics and crimeThey gambled away, made deals, squandered and misappropriated our national patrimony with impunity. These misdeeds by our elected officials and their unscrupulous business friends, created a grossly inadequate distribution of the physical resources to the people of this immensely wealthy country.

Today, because of greed, every institution in our twin island Republican nation is in a state of collapse, through neglect and lack of the necessary resources to maintain them. Yet we choose to bury our heads in the sand like the Ostrich, and pretend that we are not living in a failed state. That will not solve the problems of our chaotic disconnect, nor the hope in some egotistic fall guy to eliminate all objects of discontent. The disenfranchised young Afro Trinbagonians seems to be the usual suspect and obvious target. Why?

The average African was always at a disadvantage, started at the bottom of the spectrum and most are still there, given the matrix of the shifting equation. So, it is only natural for them to respond to their survival instincts, by any means necessary. Remember, “Iron sharpeneth Iron". When those esteemed functionaries who we elect to manage our national affairs, choose to corrupt the system so that they could maintain their colonial masters’ lifestyle, there would be less resources for social programs to reach those at the lower end, and therein lies the genesis of this collapse.

Our health system is compromised, so too is our education system, lack of job opportunities, our judiciary is manipulated to the extent of denial of justice to the average citizen. All our institutions are compromised because of greed and corruption. Those at the bottom must see about themselves. No amount of draconian laws or action will suffice. We call all those who resist and retaliate in an aggressive manner common criminals, but the real criminals that are causing the problems in our society are living nice and easy at taxpayers’ expense and deceiving the people continually.

Fix this anomaly in the society where some have too much that they cannot account for, especially our politicians. Start bringing them to book, for their ill gotten gains.

Implement a more even distribution of the country's resources, and see how quickly we will witness a reduction in the runaway crime situation. That is a guarantee. Everyone must have the right to earn an honest living. But if that opportunity to earn an honest living is denied, one still has the right to earn a living by any means necessary.

Failure to treat with the criminal neglect by our politicians will continue to create this anarchic state, where politicians keep accusing each other of who thief more than who, while the country continues to collapse.

The dishonest political system created a bandit factory, and the more the police kill on the ground, the more the factory produces. Soon no one will be safe. Open your eyes people! This is no game. Our politicians must practice what they preach. Stop blaming parents who cannot provide food for their children, because of dishonest politicians.


posted 22 Jan 2020, 18:49 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 22 Jan 2020, 18:53 ]

On Tuesday 21st January 2020, the workers of the Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC) and the National Maintenance Training and Security Company (MTS), members of the Transport and Industrial Workers Union (TIWU) took an action of great significance.

The workers marched from their Laventille Headquarters to the Financial Complex on Independence Square, Port of Spain to protest the delaying tactics employed by the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) in dealing with outstanding negotiations. They were led by their President General Judy Charles and executive members from the Central Executive and the branches,

What made this march significant? The LEADERSHIP in many unions and the various federations have either folded, find themselves hustling to be entrepreneurs in the energy sector, or aiming to become labour supply contractors.

Some imagine that they will hold the balance of power in the upcoming general elections with two seats. The PTSC and MTS workers are showing that in the spirit of Joe Young, their founder, mass united, disciplined action will always produce results more quickly than patiently petitioning the courts, attending meetings and holding tri-partite consultations under the aegis of a former comrade turned Cabinet Minister.

Workers at MTS and PTSC have been in negotiations for the period June 2014 - June 2020 and December 2014 - December 2020 respectively. These issues clearly transcend Party loyalty for PNM assumed the reins of government in 2015. In the interim judges have received increases, Parliamentarians have gotten pensions, Presidents and Prime Ministers have had their accommodations upgraded…if the priest could play, who is we?

To make a point, a child who was a secondary school student in 2014 may be a University student or involved in some type of tertiary level education today. Which parent, many of whom are single parent mothers, can realistically fund that type of study on 2014 wages? Let us be very mindful that in the long waiting period, working class people incur unbearable debt burdens which retroactive pay may not adequately mitigate, that is if the de facto wage freeze does not end up as a de jure wage freeze. Then there are retirees whose benefits remain outstanding, and adjustments to medical plans.

The workers massed outside the Financial Complex/Ministry of Finance, where they presented a letter requesting the intervention of Finance Minister, Colm “dey ent riot yet” Imbert, since the CPO is claiming that instructions from him are being awaited.

It should be noted that the members of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) find themselves in a similar situation, as do the members of the Public Services Association (PSA) and the thousands of health care workers throughout the five regional health authorities, who except for the doctors in the South West Regional Health Authority are not members of a recognised majority union. With their negotiations outstanding over a similar period they are being given an identical run around.

This suggests that the members of these unions should insist that that the struggles of all these public sector workers be conjoined into a unified campaign to push back the austerity policy that is pauperising the working people as the economic and political elites put the burden of the capitalist crisis on the backs of working people.

Union members must put pressure on their leaderships to once more operationalise the slogan coined by the Council of Progressive Trade Unions (CPTU) in the 1980’s - ONE MOVEMENT ONE STRUGGLE; ALL UNIONS DO BATTLE! The initiative must come from the workers and branch leaders and must not be left up to the existing federations and formations, which are impotent and non-functional at the moment.

The members of TIWU are showing the way in a trade union movement where leaders have either sold out, put political allegiance first or simply surrendered. Workers must re-build within their own ranks and reach out and form new alliances without waiting on moribund incumbent leadership.


posted 9 Jan 2020, 08:18 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 10 Jan 2020, 04:55 ]

Adofo Minka is a defense attorney who lives in Jackson, Mississippi. He can be reached at adofom1@gmail.com
This article has been updated from its original drafting more than five weeks ago. It speaks to the corr
Matthew Quest is a scholar of the legacies of C.L.R. James. See his essay on James and the history of the Haitian Revolution in the Black Jacobins Reader.
uption of a section of African American movement politics in Jackson, Mississippi that elected Chokwe Antar Lumumba mayor, and Lumumba’s relationship with former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. 

What has been happening in Jackson the past few years has stirred the imagination of Black people across the United States and has received national and global media coverage. However, the contradictions and creative conflicts in this movement have not been widely discussed.

We publish this article as a contribution to globalizing the Trinidad and Caribbean struggle, clarifying the experience of the Caribbean Diaspora in New York City, and giving an outlet to insightful perspectives being silenced in the US in the name of “black unity” and “anti-racism.” 



The saying that politics makes for strange bedfellows is a statement that speaks to the many allegiances, alliances and compromises that one must make when engaging in electoral politics.

One might think that there could be no stranger bedfellows in politics than Jackson’s self-proclaimed “radical” mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba and billionaire former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. However, the alignment of Lumumba and Bloomberg is not so strange at all. State power, as a crossroads of ethnic patronage politics, is not very weird unless we believe that black power means nothing without power to the common people even after people of color retain coveted positions above society. How many of us believe in that today?

Many black politicians, especially the young ambitious ones, enter office with the idea that the office they seek is merely a stepping stone to some higher office or some lucrative position as an appointed government bureaucrat or in a capitalist firm. So, while they claim to be working for the people, they are busy making allegiances with forces above them that will help to ensure that they have a safe and profitable landing once they leave their present public office.

Considering this reality, we must look at Bloomberg’s campaign event in Jackson and ask what role did his money play in his being given a platform to stump for the Democratic Party presidential nomination by the Lumumba administration? Did he buy Lumumba?

There have been many accusations made by Bloomberg’s opponents, who receive donations from forces that they would be beholden to if they win the office of US president in 2020, regarding his attempts to buy the presidency. Given the millions he has spent on campaign advertising in the initial weeks of his campaign, it appears that he is trying to. Bloomberg also spent a million dollars in Jackson. Given this fact, it is an appropriate question: did he buy Lumumba? And what in this case was recently purchased?

A year ago, the city of Jackson was the recipient of a million-dollar grant from the Bloomberg Foundation. Bloomberg came to Jackson to award the grant for an art project that aims to raise awareness about food insecurity issues and the importance of Jacksonians making healthier choices when it comes to food.

Michael Bloomberg
Though drinking fewer soft drinks is a good thing, Bloomberg in the past has been the subject of ridicule and controversy for seeking to regulate how much soda and sugary drinks can be purchased. In an economic system that views whole foods as a commodity and not the necessity they are, there is no such thing as food security except for among the ruling elites and capitalist aspirants.

The project of promoting “food security” in this fashion evinces how out of touch bureaucrats are with
Chokwe Antar Lumumba
working people and that such individuals cannot represent the interests of commoners.

Where price controls on necessities like whole and healthy foods are advocated, or guaranteeing them to all as a transitional demand, are found in historical freedom movements and would be constructive, what is really being promoted by Lumumba and Bloomberg is the premise of corporate social responsibility as a mask for those that monopolize crucial resources. Further, the idea that backward commoners need to be taught about the dangers of their unhealthy lifestyles is paternalistic and pathologizes the poor.

But why Jackson? Oligarchs like Bloomberg don’t give money out of the kindness of their hearts. Kindhearted people would not seek to hoard resources to the point that most of the society is denied basic needs while they enjoy decadence and luxury. Capitalists make investments. When capitalists invest, they always seek a return on their speculations. Bloomberg’s recent criminal justice reform roundtable event held in Jackson on December 3rd was Bloomberg collecting his return on his investment.

On December 8, The New York Post reported that Jackson is among one of a small group of cities that Bloomberg has donated millions to that he is now hosting campaign events in. For those who might think that The Post’s analysis is a stretch, we can listen to Bloomberg’s own words to provide further insight into the thinking of an oligarch.

In a CBS This Morning interview with Gayle King he stated, “Nobody gives you anything unless they expect something from you, and I don’t want to be bought.” This statement was made in reference to Bloomberg financing his own campaign and the criticism he has received from other candidates for doing so. Given Bloomberg’s statement, should we believe that Bloomberg was not seeking a return on the investment he made in Jackson? Should we believe that Mayor Lumumba gave him a platform merely because he thinks he’s a nice guy?

His appearance in Jackson was not a coincidence. I am sure that Bloomberg’s campaign staff took note of Lumumba’s popularity among many black people and young progressives particularly in the south. Given Bloomberg’s own racial baggage, his staffers know that he must capture a significant amount of support from Black voters if he wishes to win the Democratic Party nomination and have a legitimate chance of winning the U.S. presidency. He has drafted the likes of Lumumba, Stockton, Calif. Mayor Michael Tubbs and prominent Black clergy to help him do this, regardless of Lumumba’s public declarations to the contrary.

Hours after Bloomberg’s Jackson event, Lumumba took to Facebook to post that he’s met with several Democratic Party presidential hopefuls, but that he has not endorsed any candidate. This evasion has some truth in it. The “radical” mayor has met with the standard-bearers of the political party captured by the left bloc of capital and supported by half the ruling class. Lumumba also has ties to Bernie Sanders, the “democratic socialist” and “critic of capitalism” running for the Democratic Party nomination. This is a party that complains Trump is not running the American empire efficiently. Does this most “radical” of mayors think the critique of neoliberalism is a game? Does opposing neoliberalism include dialogue with transparent unapologetic capitalists who think it is normal to police our lives?

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I wonder who believes working class black people are more stupid, Lumumba, who wants us to believe he is not compromised by taking Bloomberg’s money, or Bloomberg, who wants black people to believe that he is truly apologetic for the racist policies he instituted while Mayor of New York City?

Mayors Lumumba and Bloomberg both have nefarious histories as heads of the police states in their respective cities. This is despite the fact that the former claims to be some kind of Black Power activist and the latter claims to be a philanthropist who offers aid to urban communities as both subordinate them. What makes the choice of hosting Bloomberg in Jackson for a criminal justice reform event hypocritical and arrogant?

Lumumba, before his rise to power, traveled to Ferguson in October 2014 to be a part of the controlled opposition of Black Lives Matter, who at the time were still faking as if they opposed the Democrats and the State. Having left the militant “woke” activist Lumumba behind, Mayor Lumumba froze when within six months of his taking office, the Jackson Police Department killed seven poor Black people. In stead of taking quick and decisive action, Lumumba genuflected and babbled about officer safety, independent investigations, police control boards and hand-selected a “task force” (really a task farce) of his closest political allies, relatives and friends to determine when the identities of killer cops should be revealed.

Although Bloomberg has recently given a half-hearted and politically scripted apology for the police occupation, harassment and arrest of mostly non-white people via his stop and frisk policy in New York, he initially doubled and tripled down on the racially motivated program’s merits in stopping crime in the Big Apple.

Recent developments in Jackson and within Bloomberg’s campaign show that their histories with the police are not the only things that are reprehensible. Lumumba’s police department is participating in a federal law and order initiative from Donald Trump’s Department of Justice known as Project Guardian.
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From December 17th-20th, Trump appointee, U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst, directed the raiding and terrorizing of poor and Black communities led by the U.S. Marshals and supported by local law enforcement agencies, including the Jackson Police Department. What part of “freeing the land,” the slogan of the Black Nationalist organization Lumumba is affiliated, is this?

In recent weeks, it has been reported that Bloomberg “unwittingly” exploited incarcerated women’s labor by having them make phone calls on behalf of his campaign. Of course, the Bloomberg campaign issued an apology stating they ended the relationship with the company with whom they had a contract that used an unknown third-party contractor who utilized prison labor.

Not to be outdone, Lumumba, who claims to be a critic of mass incarceration of Black people, when one looks at the public records of the donors to his electoral campaign, one finds an architecture firm, M3A, who among other things has built three Mississippi prisons including in Hinds County, where Jackson is located! Among other donors to Lumumba’s campaign is Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, and Michele Crentsil, a prominent prison reform activist. This is why the popularity of the cheap slogan “Black Girl Magic,” an apparently updated version of “Black Power” that claims to challenge patriarchy, can also be an ambiguous sham.

Shouldn’t these mayors, the phony black radical and phony white apologist, and their “activist” friends have known that experienced observers could gather information to place forward independent thinking and perspectives of our own? Did they expect that “progressives” could suppress the truth for all time?

Like other Jacksonians, I (Adofo Minka) attempted to attend the Bloomberg event in Jackson but was turned away because the event was exclusive to a few individual bourgeois professionals referred to by the media as “community leaders.” Who chose these leaders? Who and what are they leading? I imagine that these individuals were hand selected by Lumumba not for their leadership qualities, but because these individuals are politically safe and would raise no dissent or criticism. Clearly, in Lumumba’s eyes, the “unwashed” masses cannot be trusted. Neither can those who might propagate the destruction of hierarchy.

As I left the Smith Robertson Museum, where the Bloomberg event was held, I spoke to three women who seemed disappointed about being denied access to the event. They talked about how they were going to call to the mayor’s office and tell him that he calls for “participation,” but denied the public access to the event. Were those women disappointed because they were being denied an opportunity to denounce the ruling class and their black hirelings or was the disappointment merely rooted in the fact they could not participate, as in passively listen, observe and “network” with Jackson’s black elites? If it was the latter, there is much work to be done.

We must stop settling for mere dependent participation. “Participatory democracy” is worthless where it obscures who must govern. What makes elected officials and their chosen sycophants more worthy to run the affairs of society than everyday people themselves? Is it because they wear fancy clothes, drive luxury vehicles and speak “proper” English? Anything short of direct democracy and popular self-governance should be unsatisfactory. Popular self-government is a process, but it blooms outside hierarchy. The hierarchy is not an asset or legitimate player in facilitating this. Sometimes their buffoonery and mystification can be a trigger in waking us up.

The ruling elites have hoarded the Earth’s vast resources and have caused the political, social and economic catastrophes the masses are facing. Why do we accept this ruling class above us? Why is it less insulting when its chosen standard-bearers are “black” and make a big show of this alone with no substance or content?

Image result for stop and frisk new yorkPolitical and economic serfdom should be repudiated because these aspiring rulers above society (and their richer associates) pursue their own personal prerogatives and neglect the pain, suffering and exploitation of poor people because they are committed to the status quo. They benefit from it. If any change is to come, we, the self-organized and self-governing masses, will bring it about.

I know many otherwise “radical” people don’t think so. I know Mayor Lumumba thinks he is sensitive to the burdens of toiling Black people. This sensitivity, intermittent and really nonexistent as expressed in his actual policies and alliances, is his personal social capital. It is what he trades on. How many really grasp this? It is what makes him useful to politicians and members of the ruling class, like the billionaire Bloomberg.

Some wish to retain state power above society by hob-knobbing with those who are against capitalism and those who are for it. Those who denounce the police state and those who cheer it on and apologize. Those who wish to defend the Earth and those who monopolize its resources. Those who speak of Black people as misbehaving consumers and potentially self-reliant producers.

We should be clear that Lumumba is not simply “independent” because he hasn’t endorsed any candidate yet. He has no special political values. Lumumba, as he and his supporters might claim, is not gathering capital and resources from every possible sector to benefit all of Jackson. Lumumba is compromised as a community leader and will be known, ultimately, by the instinctive social movement he undermined by befriending and bedding the wealthy and the apologists for the police state.

That someone did not stand up and clarify these contradictions at the public meeting in Jackson sponsored by Lumumba for Bloomberg is what was purchased not art installations and false education about food security. What was purchased was the silencing of Black radical and other community voices that are not blind and deaf but can speak for themselves.

The city of Jackson’s website proclaims that Mayor Lumumba is an active member of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM). In 2013, before the “Black Lives Matter” idea and movement gained prominence by undermining and co-opting the legitimate and genuine rage, resistance and rebellion from below in places like St. Louis and Baltimore, the MXGM propagated a report that stated every 28 hours a Black person is killed by the police in the U.S. and played a central role in the civil lawsuit Floyd, et al vs. City of New York, whose judicial opinion struck down Mayor Bloomberg’s gestapo stop and frisk policy as unconstitutional.

Yet, Mayor Lumumba provided a safe space and became a political prostitute for Mayor Bloomberg who now that he is running to win the Democratic Party nomination wants to avoid accountability for his racist and fascist “stop and frisk” policies as New York City’s mayor by offering a pitiable apology and an inadequate criminal justice reform policy platform. How fast we circulate propaganda and discard the facts of our own existence! Only the veil of “black power,” purchased and manufactured so it is not distinguished by the community control of ordinary people, can mask such crimes.

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