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TEDDY MADE HIS MARK by Rae Samuel

posted 21 Jul 2013, 18:36 by Gerry Kangalee
"Far from me to feel sad over the inevitable, but I must recognize the contribution the comrade has made." This was Terrence Regis commenting in an NWU interview on the passing of the great working class fighter, Comrade Joe Young. 
 
Teddy Belgrave (nobody called him Ian in the mass movement) 'danced and went to join the ancestors'. May this epitaph fit him just as well! 
 
He had many public personas: steelband activist, trade unionist, author, revolutionary politician, student leader. My recall will centre on the teachers movement that saw the formation of TTUTA and his contribution as part of a ''dedicated, organized political cadre'' within the movement. 
 
The late Frank Seepersad is credited with lighting the spark that saw the formation of the "Committee for the Unification of Teachers". In those days teachers, like public servants, were 'represented' by running dogs like St. Elmo Gopaul of the Teachers Union and Manswell of the P.S.A. There was also a Secondary Teachers Association of Trinidad and Tobago featuring Oswald Downer and possibly Father Gerard Farfan. Teachers worked and retired poor 
 
Teddy led the team that included Keith Look Loy, Mikey Adams, Kathy-Ann Jones Look Loy and Patricia Townsend Adams. All had strong links and organizational experience when, even as students at UWI, they participated in the United Labour Front campaigns on front lines like the Valley Line. Teddy himself had worked as Education and Research Officer in OWTU before re-entering the teaching service. 
 
This team was key in mobilizing the teachers and adopting the strategy of "linking the teachers struggle to the mass movement." Teddy was inevitably chosen Chairman of the Port of Spain district, Mikey Adams for St. George East while Keith soon became Education Officer. I have always maintained that TTUTA behaved/behaves as it did/does because the union 'grew up' around the Red House. 

Teddy was a front line speaker for TTUTA. He had a capacity to excite and move teachers, and others to act in their own interest. As teacher Joseph Bridgewater would put it. "When Teddy done talk to we on a morning, we ready to go down High Street and mash up the place!!!'' 
 
Proof of the strong unity within the labour movement he helped to build lies in the fact that the OWTU cost TTUTA its first President, Harold Taylor. In 1982, during the TTEC strike David Abdulah was invited to deliver the feature address at TTUTA's Annual Conference. The PNM General Council, on which Mr. Taylor sat, motioned against Abdulah addressing the teachers. Mr. Taylor sided with the PNM and the teachers told him to 'take a hike', which he did. 

After TTUTA gained recognized majority union status, the task of developing structures and organizing the day to day life of the union assumed priority. Adams was elected to national office, Keith became Education Officer and Teddy became industrial Relations Officer. Patricia Adams had risen from her district to become a national officer. 
 
Teddy ran for national office later on, when the political cadre in TTUTA, split by internal strife was no longer what it was. Also teachers, while appreciating his skills and value, fell for the 'red baiting/communist' nonsense. Teddy was a 'Black power, an extremist, a radical'. It always amazed/amused me that no one called arch reactionary Fr. Farfan a 'white power' or Frank Seepersad an 'Indian power'. I guess Keith Look Loy was 'half a yellow power." 
 
The coming of Anthony Garcia saw a decisive shift away from progressive trade unionism. Teddy taught at Trinity College and later at Arima Government School but was no longer on the national front line. He had by this time written the Staff Representative Manual, a guide to staff representation in the school. He was also convenor of the Study Circle, a grouping within TTUTA that promoted leadership education. 

When he retired he was involved in the Pan in Schools' programme. He also wrote "Dare to struggle/Dare to win" a history of the Communication Workers Union. I last saw him at Bertie Marshall's funeral and in the 'Section 34' march. Odd I thought as I took his photo, but there was no time for "ole talk." 
 
Teddy has played his part well and has left his mark and made his footprint. For that we all thank the comrade!
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