Black Lives Matter (BLM) is a movement we should all openly support, but we have to be careful how we apply its ideals and positioning to our local situation, says rapso artiste and social/human rights activist Wendell Manwarren.
The 3Canal member said to directly apply BLM to Trinidad and Tobago would be like taking a potent medication that isn’t prescribed for you. The results could leave you in a worst condition and still not alleviate your original ailment, he said.
“There is a danger in simplistically trying to apply the idea of ‘Black Lives Matter’, a movement that is very specific to the US, on the ground here in T&T. One can sympathise and one can send one’s energy towards that movement, but on the ground here in T&T we haven’t even begun to arrive at why our situation is the way it is.
“Police kill young black boys in Trinidad every day and many people don’t have a problem with that,” Manwarren told the Express via WhatsApp yesterday.
Manwarren’s warning follows a week of civil unrest that included both peaceful protests and violent riots, inclusive of looting and arson in several major cities across the United States. Protesters defied curfews and clashed with police in New York, California, Atlanta and Minnesota following the death of an African-American man, George Floyd, by the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer.
The officer in question, Derek Chauvin, and the three other responding officers have since been fired by the police department of that city. Chauvin was also charged with secondary degree murder after a video of him kneeling on Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes, while two of the other officers held him down and another stood watch, went viral last week. Charges of aiding and abetting murder have reportedly also been brought against the other three officers.
Manwarren said the world is witnessing a turning point in American history and as a consequence the world’s history.
“It is clear that the Black Lives Matter has garnered a whole new momentum and a whole new relevance. Most of us as students of history were fascinated by the civil rights movement and Martin Luther King, Malcom X and our own Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) and the role they played in propelling change. Here we are all these years later after many, many incidents of police aggression on black people, this is history, this is the time, this is the moment and a change is going to come as Sam Cooke sang so many years ago,” Manwarren said.
Nikki Crosby: I couldn’t bring myself to watch it
Comedienne Nikki Crosby said she has been left in tears by the incident and is yet to watch the video of Floyd’s killing in its entirety.
“How could it not relate to us here? Just to know someone was begging for their life and other humans were just standing around…
“Jerry (her husband) and I were in Europe last year and he as a Rastaman got so many looks and snide remarks. People said things loudly and I couldn’t believe this is still part of the world. It just reminded you how racist people still are,” an emotional Crosby said yesterday.
Soca artiste Olatunji Yearwood, meanwhile, quoted Malcom X in an attempt to put his emotions to words when he spoke to the Express.
“The situation has impacted me personally. We can’t forget slavery. It wasn’t a Harbour Master boat ride here to the Caribbean. We were kidnapped from our homeland to come here.
“Malcom X said it best: ‘You cannot love the root of a tree and hate the tree’. If you see somebody continuously chopping down the branches of your tree I would say it’s your duty to save that tree,” Yearwood said.
Chutney soca star Raymond Ramnarine also voiced his hurt over the incident and the global effect it is having on peoples of all races. Ramnarine and his band Dil-e-Nadan championed the “Say No To Racisim” campaign during Carnival 2020.
“I feel exhausted... hurt... sad. It hurts every time I look at the video of George Floyd being knelt on. But again, it reminds me of how we here at home should never ever find a place in society or in our hearts to embrace racism. All the world wants peace and equality for all,” Ramnarine told the Express via WhatsApp.
Change must start right here in T&T
Manwarren, however, says to begin to affect that global change we must first have uncomfortable conversations right here in T&T.
“Many people over the years have been woke about black oppression in the context of USA and fully dunce about how it operates on the ground here. Many people have also conflated the black American experience with being black in Trinidad which is a whole more nuanced complicated discussion.
“This is an opportunity for us to begin that conversation here as difficult as it may be. An opportunity for us to begin to consider yes there is inequity and inequality and systemic racism and endemic racism and inherent racism and to begin to have that conversation,” Manwarren said.
Earlier this week hundreds of nationals expressed their disgust over prejudiced and insensitive comments from local business heads speaking against the BLM movement and instead pushing an “All Lives Matter” narrative.
Manwarren commented on the explosive exchange saying “some people step right into it and it completely blew up in their faces and some other people revealed their true colours as to how they really feel about particular groups of people.”
Still, he insists, the discussion must be had in order to be understood in the context of T&T’s society.
“We can’t mix it up with Black Lives Matter at all. What we have to do is take a stick of fire from that and take the time to really examine what our issues on the ground are and challenge them within self, within ones groups and how we react with each other,” Manwarren said.
Crosby said she is ready to take up that challenge by using all her forums to start those meaningful discussions.
“I am blessed that I have a voice on radio, on an urban station that targets 15- to 35-year-olds. I’ve been trying to do what I can to help make a better Trinidad and Tobago to leave for our kids and grandkids.
“On radio I try to reach as much youths as possible. They are the ones who have to bring change and continue to educate themselves. And when I say education I don’t mean you have to go back to school, but just read and give yourself inspiration to be a better person and to want better for you and your family and your country.
“We all need to do better, nobody is better than the other; I can be a better wife, a better mentor, a better comedian, a better activist. It starts within you,” Crosby concluded.