Thursday, November 29, 2012

History: Recalling the Black Power Revolution of 1970

File: T&T's First Prime Minister, the later Dr Eric Williams who died in office in 1981 
Roodal Moonilal on Monday spoke about the possibility of the Kublalsingh hunger strike becoming violent. 

And there are already signs of extreme hostility. 

When Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan visited Kublalsingh to offer medical assistance, Kublalsingh used obsecenities and walked out on the minister. "F#@k you, F#@k off, get to f#@k outa here", was Kublalsingh's response as he walked away from the minister.

On Wednesday the tension increased when the UNC Youth Group tried to express their views. 

There are reports that an attempt to make a peaceful delivery of a letter to Kublalsingh turned violent when Kublalsingh's family and supporters hurled abuse at the UNC members and manhandled the UNC youth who went to deliver a letter seeking an apology for the abuse of a government minister.

Under such provocation the youth group remained calm and dignfied as members left to make a report to the St Clair Police Station.

Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. One anti-government blogger recently said when (not if) Kublalsingh dies there would be a funeral bigger than the one held in 1970 for Basil Davis. (Do you still wonder why Moonilal spoke about 'political vultures' hovering around Kublalsingh?)

Some of you are too young to know or understand the serious implication of that statement. The background is in the piece below from

File: George Weekes, President General of the OWTU marching in 1970 with Black Power activists.
The Black Power Revolution, also known as the "Black Power Movement", 1970 Revolution, Black Power Uprising and February Revolution, was an attempt by a number of social elements, people and interest groups in Trinidad and Tobago to force socio-political change.

Between 1968 and 1970 the movement gained strength in Trinidad and Tobago and was greatly influenced by the Civil Rights Movement in the United States during the 1960s. 

The National Joint Action Committee was formed out of the Guild of Undergraduates at the St. Augustine Campus of the University of the West Indies. Under the leadership of Geddes Granger (now Makandal Daaga), NJAC and the Black Power movement appeared as a serious challenge to Prime Minister Eric Williams' authority.

This was coupled with a growing militancy by the Trade Union movement, led by George Weekes of the Oilfields Workers' Trade Union, Clive Nunez of the Transport and Industrial Workers Union andBasdeo Panday, then a young trade union lawyer and activist. 

The Black Power Revolution began with a 1970 Carnival band named Pinetoppers whose presentation entitled The Truth about Africaincluded portrayals of "revolutionary heroes" including Fidel Castro, Stokely Carmichael and Tubal Uriah Butler.

This was followed by a series of marches and protests. Williams countered with a broadcast entitled I am for Black Power. He introduced a 5% levy to fund unemployment reduction and later established the first locally-owned commercial bank. However, this intervention had little impact on the protests.

It was mainly led by many various interests within the trade unions, the army and other social groups like Afro-Trinidadians and were noted to attract many disaffected members of the then ruling PNMunder Eric Williams

A large turnout of the disaffected poor of the cities and towns, as well as those black youth of the disaffected communities were attracted to the uprising were present in the movement, as well as youths and others from the UWI, St. Augustine campus.

On April 6, 1970 a protester, Basil Davis, was killed by the police. 
This was followed on April 13 by the resignation of A.N.R. Robinson, Member of Parliament for Tobago East. The death of this protester led to the Movement to pick up momentum. 

On April 18 sugar workers went on strike, and there was talk of a general strike. In response to this, Williams proclaimed a State of Emergency on April 21 and arrested 15 Black Power leaders. 

Responding in turn, a portion of the Trinidad Defense Force, led by Raffique Shah and Rex Lassalle, mutinied and took hostages at the army barracks at Teteron. Through the action of the Coast Guard and negotiations between the Government and the rebels, the mutiny was contained and the mutineers surrendered on April 25.

Williams made three additional speeches in which he sought to identify himself with the aims of the Black Power movement. 

He re-shuffled his Cabinet and removed three Ministers (including two white members) and three senators. 

He also introduced the Public Order Act which reduced civil liberties in an effort to control protest marches. 

After public opposition, led by A.N.R. Robinson and his newly created Action Committee of Democratic Citizens (which later became the Democratic Action Congress), the Bill was withdrawn. Attorney General Karl Hudson-Phillips offered to resign over the failure of the Bill, but Williams refused his resignation.

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai