Selwyn Cudjoe-----use

Selwyn Cudjoe

I have been a political activist and newspaper columnist for the past 45 years. I have written for many newspapers, including the New York Amsterdam News, the New York Tribune, The New York Times, the Boston Globe and the Baltimore Sun, but I have never been subjected to as many invectives as I have received over my decision to support the UNC in this election.

Fitzgerald Hinds wrote: “There is no substitute for experience... Equally, there is no substitute for the ability to “smell, taste, and feel”, the presence of a Judas Iscariot, and to “hear” the tinkling sound of his silver. As a lawyer, I also am able to recognise a contract... but remember that Iscariot did not benefit from his ‘ill-gotten cotton’.”

Keith Subero writes: “Nah... nah, Selwyn. Nah... nah. Not you... Not you. Don’t smoke that blend again, Selwyn, because it seriously damaged your head... irreparably.”

A distinguished member of the black community wrote: “I salute you for your courage as undoubtedly you will be bombarded with criticism from PNM trolls over the next few weeks. Like you, I am a disillusioned supporter of the PNM...

“I also believe that Rowley himself is contemptuous of his own people preferring to seek advice from the one per cent and assuming that his Afro-Trinidad base will rally around him at election. I have no doubt that we will once again be sidelined if he wins, as happened during the past five years. The PNM has lost its way under Rowley and needs to return to opposition so that it can be reborn.”

Another person expressed a common dilemma. She wrote: “I was struck by the clarity with which you captured my sentiments. I want to thank you for that. This is how I feel trapped by my parents’ tribal voting for years. You are afraid to go against it even though in your own subconscious, deep down, you know it’s wrong. You feel that if you happen to think, feel or do otherwise, you may sin in some way. I know many, not only me, feel that same way so I want to thank you for freeing me with your article. I, too, support you.”

In February, Aaron St John invited me to visit his school in East Port of Spain. He wrote in passionate terms:

“I saw your article on Sunday. I was watching Ms Juliet Davy blast u on Facebook and others who said all sorts of things because you endorsed Kamla. I support you 100 per cent and all young African youths will support you and defend you for speaking the truth about PNM and how they have lost their way and black young lives are not improving...

“You should publicly endorse Kamla and Ms (Jearlean) John and other African candidates before the elections on Monday and call on black people to vote for Kamla. It’s the only way to help young black people. You owe PNM nothing. If you don’t stand up now, u might never have the chance again... You are a man of letters and I admire you.”

A dear friend wrote: “Until the UNC as a political party, its leadership and supporters can leave the vile, racist, nasty name calling alone, and get out of their gutter brand of politics and focus on policy differences and being a better alternative to the PNM, the UNC will be consigned to the opposition benches where you all belong until you act as adults.”

My friend is a religious man and ardent church-goer.

I responded: “I thank you for sharing your views. I prefer notions of forgiveness, redemption and salvation. None has sinned so much that he has fallen short of the glory of God. I would rather say ‘I forgive’ rather than ‘I condemn’ or ‘I curse’.”

That is why I was happy when Kamla, at her Thursday night forum, asked the country’s forgiveness for any pain she caused her fellow citizens while in office.

She said: “I pledge that a new UNC government would not use its political or economic power to discriminate against anyone in our society. I am not a perfect person... I face the same stresses and pains that any normal person feels on a daily ­basis.

“We are human beings and all make mistakes that we regret and wish we could change. I feel sorrow, hurt and pain when I see people affected by crime, lose their homes and suffer in hospitals. It may be unbelievable to some, but I care for and love all our citizens. I do not make any decision with spite, hate or vindictiveness in my heart, but with the hope that I can ­improve people’s lives by my actions.”

I endorsed Jearlean John, a personal friend, publicly. She is a hard worker and a visionary. She is a spiritual person who places principles above powers and principalities; she is an ethical person who prizes honesty and accountability; a people’s person who recognises that development begins and ends with people, the centre of any democracy.

I also admire Jearlean’s rambunctiousness: the uncontrollable exuberance which she brings to everything that she does. Her enthusiasm and determination infect anyone who comes within her orbit. Like the late honourable John Lewis, the Georgia member of Congress, she just likes to make good trouble, necessary trouble. She possesses an ability to confront and shake up a system so that it works for all of the people.

The one negative cloud that has come over the UNC campaigning is the despicable portrayal of black people in one of their ads. It’s abhorrent and should be condemned.

Whatever happens tomorrow, both parties should contemplate their position towards black people. They, too, need to have their day in the sun.

Prof Cudjoe’s e-mail address is

scudjoe@wellesley.edu. He can be reached @ProfessorCudjoe.

Raffique Shah returns next week

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