CARIBBEANA 2015

2015-2024 is the decade for people of African decent  declared by the United Nations.

“We must remember that people of African descent are among those most affected by racism. Too often, they face denial of basic rights such as access to quality health services and education. ”

BAN KI-MOONUnited Nations Secretary-General

Identity and Caribbean Literature

A lecture delivered to the Japanese Black Studies Association at Nara Women’s College, Nara, Japan

By Selwyn R. Cudjoe
Posted: June 24, 2001

In a wondrous introduction to Party Politics in the West Indies, C. L. R. James, one of the most distinguished thinkers of the modern Caribbean, made the following statement about the people of the Anglophone Caribbean: “People of the West Indies, you do not know your own power. No one dares to tell you. You are a strange, a unique combination of the greatest driving force in the world today, the underdeveloped formerly colonial coloured peoples; and more than any of them, by education, way of life and language, you are completely part of Western civilization. Alone of all people in the world you began your historical existence in a highly developed modern society-the sugar plantation.

All those who would say or imply that you are in any way backward and therefore cannot in a few years become a modern advanced people are your enemies, satisfied with the positions that they hold and ready to keep you where you are forever.” James made this statement in 1961. It is part of the explanation of why he left the People’s National Movement.

Some years, David Lichenstein reminded us of the contention of Britannica Online that the Caribbean possessed “no indigenous tradition” in writing . . . . The civilization that was to replace the Indians, made up of several different West African peoples brought to the West Indies as slaves, did not possess a written tradition of it own-nor was it allowed to develop one while it suffered in bondage. But the Africans did in some measure pass on a culture of orality, of storytelling and song-a culture that writers like Kamau Brathwaite point to as evidence of and African heritage in the Caribbean.”

He goes on to argue that the first literary breakthrough in literature came in the French and Spanish islands in the works of Aime Cesaire of Martinique, Luis Pales Matos of Puerto Rico, Jacques Roumain of Haiti, Nicolas Guillen of Cuba and Leon Damas of French Guyana, “the first to carve out a distinctive Caribbean literary identity. This identity was based not on European ideals but on links between black communities in the Caribbean. The British West Indies did not really pick up this challenge until after World War 11. With the growth of newly independent states like Barbados, Trinidad, and Jamaica, Anglophone writers finally began to develop a tradition that focused on a distinctly Caribbean consciousness.” Pioneers in this movement, he argued, include Vic Reid (New Day), George Lamming (In the Castle of My Skin) and Naipaul’s A House for Mr. Biswas.

If we follow these two contradictory tendencies (that of James and Britannica Online) we identify two approaches to the literature: one that asserts the uniqueness of the Caribbean story and another that suggests that nothing indigenous came out of the Caribbean until the 1930s. More importantly, the latter interpretation makes a great distinction between the oral and written traditions and places little value on the oral tradition. Such a dramatic distinction is not especially meaningful since many aspects of the oral dimensions of the tradition turns up in the written work and possess much more meaning to the masses than they do to the literati. More importantly, in the Caribbean, one must define what one means by literature and how it manifests itself in our context.

In “Making Love Across the Atlantic: Nineteenth Century Trinidad Narratives in their International Contexts,” I have suggested that a tradition of Anglophone writing that began much earlier than the 1930s and one that involves a much more complex imbrications of the oral and the written. Suffice it to say that the tradition is much deeper and much more complex than most critics suggest. Necessarily, any new criticism within the field must revolve around an understanding what constitutes literature especially as we try to understand our position in the global economy. Indeed, if literature mirrors or signifies for the emotional consciousness of a people, then an examination of the literature raises the question: how have we depicted our situatedness in our new world through our literature?

In speaking of identity and the Anglophone Caribbean literary experience, it is necessary to emphasize that all such discussions/analyses should include the experiences of all of the groups and the unique ways in which they experienced the Caribbean. Needless to say, each group did not experience the Caribbean in the same way nor, for that matter, did they respond in exactly the same way. So while one can and may speak of a Caribbean experience or a Caribbean identity, it is necessary to be aware of the nuances of experience of each specific experience and how it played out in the region. Such an understanding of our experiences has implications even for today and how these groups express their Caribbeanness. Any analysis of Caribbean literature should produce a new reading of our condition. It should tell us how those varied groups negotiated their Caribbeanness, how it prepared them to occupy their contemporary space, and how the Caribbean crucible of experience modified their experiences. Much of this essay would be concerned with identifying moments in this continuing drama of identity in the Caribbean.

Anglophone Caribbean literature is an offshoot of African oral literature (most island inhabitants came from West Africa). Its Amerindian provenance, together with its Asian and European roots also contributed to its ultimate contours. Thus, the earliest literature of Anglophone Caribbean can be traced to the proverbs, riddle, kheesas (tales) of African and Indian literature respectively. Although there are poems written in the later part of the eighteenth century (such as “The Sorrows of Yamba; Or, The Negro Woman’s Lamentation”) and the work of the Latinist and schoolmaster, Francis Williams, we can begin to locate an identifiable, indigenous tradition as beginning in Jean Baptiste Philippe’s Free Mulatto (1824), one of the earliest works in Anglophone Caribbean literature that speaks to specificity of our place in the society and the unjust manner in which we are treated in this new environment.

This narrative revolved around a plea to the colonial government in which a Caribbean man sough to define the place of the mulatto (or the colored person) within the context of his Trinidadian reality. The contradiction inherent in his lived condition (that of a free colored man owning slaves yet pleading for the freedom of his coloured brethren) did not seem to take away much from his urgent demand that his people be treated fairly on the basis of their capacity for reason, virtue, and good breeding.

Needless to say, this was part of the Enlightenment ideal. In a way, the slave narratives (The History of Mary Prince [1831]), the Narrative of Ashton Warner [1831], the History of Abu Bekr [1834] the Narrative of James Williams [1838), The Interesting Narrative of Maria Jones [1848] and the Narrative of John Monteith [1853]) spoke of the inhuman conditions in which Africans in the Caribbean lived. Although the conditions described in the island of Jamaica were not always identical to those of the other Caribbean island (Trinidad, for example, had a milder form of slavery), a reading of these narratives gives one a sense of the hardship Africans endured as they strove to acclimatize themselves to the unfortunate circumstances under which they found themselves.

The next major narrative that examined the African condition in a critical manner was Maxwell Philip’s Emmanuel Appadocca: A Tale of the Boucaneers (1854), even though Kamau Brathwaite, the Barbadian poet and critic, suggests that the anonymous narrative, Hamel the Obeah Man (1827), offers the first complex portrayal of the African in Anglophone Caribbean Literature. Emmanuel Appadocca, the first known novel written by a Caribbean person in the Anglophone Caribbean, makes the moral claim against a person (his father) and two systems (slavery and colonialism) that make him an orphan. Importantly enough, the novel examined the implications of the lex talionis in this new Caribbean environment. In an illuminating introduction to a recent edition of Emmanuel Appadocca, William Cain argues that Emmanuel Appadocca should be seen as a companion piece to such manifestly antislavery texts as Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Douglass’s The Heroic Slave.” Moreover, Emmanuel Appadocca inaugurated a tradition in fiction of creative resistance and defiance of the combined forces of slavery, colonialism, and dispossession that I examined in Resistance and Caribbean Literature.

The Wondrous Adventures of Mary Seacole in Many Lands (1857), another pivotal work in this tradition of critical self-examination, recounts Seacole’s development as she traveled and worked in many lands where she practiced medicine and engage in business. Comfortable in her womanhood (she averred that she did not re-marry because of choice) she struck out independently in the colonial and colonizer’s world, secure in the conviction that women could navigate life on their own. This conviction and enormous bravery alert us to the independent existence that many of our women were forced to lead in the islands and abroad.

This tradition of resistance and courage was demonstrated once more in the works of the poets and dramatists in the second half of the nineteenth century. The two outstanding works of the period were Horatio Nelson Huggins Hiroona, an epic poem that recounted the Black Carib War against the English in St. Vincent at the end of the 19th century. Although the work was not published in 1937, evidence suggests that it was composed around 1885. Literary critic, Paula Burnett calls Hiroona “the Caribbean’s first epic poem.” Of equal interest and demonstrating the heterogeneous nature of the Caribbean experience was Jean Ch de Saint Avir’s

The First Two Martyrs of Trinidad (1885) that was serialized in a Trinidadian newspaper and eventually published as a book. Like Hiroona, this tragedy of the faith of two Roman Catholics fathers who came to serve among the Amerindians in the early part of the 16th century suggest the complexity of the regions history and the varied experiences that shaped its cultural and intellectual presence. Not to be outdone were the various forms of Hindu and Islamic dramatic forms (seen in the performance of the remleelas and the hosay) that were being performed in the outdoors and which gave expression to the oral literary forms that our Indian ancestors brought with them to the islands.

If the written literature of the 19th century were imbricated with the pressure of the oral literary forms, the early twentieth century saw a more sustained attempt to examine the peasant life of those inhabitants who had to make the Caribbean home. Thus, the first thirty years of the century saw the publication several interesting literary works. The Jamaican poet and novelist Thomas MacDermot (better known as Tom Redcan) published Beeka’s Buckra Baby (1903) and One Brown Girl and ¼ (1909). Within this period, three other significant novels appeared: Rupert Gray: A Tale of Black and White (1907) by Stephen Nathaniel Cobham, who became a fervent follower of Marcus Garvey.

In 1913, Herbert de Lisser published Jane’s Career, the life of a peasant woman of Jamaica while A. R. F. Webber published Those That Be in Bondage: A Tale of Indian Indenture and Sunlit Western Waters that contrasted the opposing ideological visions vis-à-vis the European world that the Asians brought to the Caribbean. Significantly, both de Lisser and Webber were intensely involved in the politics and press freedom. They worked together to form the first West Indian Press Association in which de Lisser was named president. T. A. Marryshow from Grenada and Webber were named as members of the Management Committee Not contradictorily, these works of the authors of this period paved the way for a Caribbean renaissance of the thirties in which one saw the flowering of the islands’ arts and culture and more self-assertive Caribbean presence. Necessarily, this movement was tied to the growing self-assertiveness of the Caribbean nationalist parties, the decolonization process, and the increased agitation of the labour unions.

Coming on the heels of the Great Depression in the United States in 1929 and a rise in the social and political consciousness of Caribbean people, the Caribbean Renaissance offered a deeper and more penetrating exploration of our history. During this moment, Caribbean people felt a greater sense of being at home and the necessity to examine what this sense of home implied. Relying on a mixture of naturalist and realist tendencies-depicting social conditions rather than psychological issues-these novels played an important role of delineating the issues that confronted the society. Beginning with Alfred Mendes’s Black Fauns (1935) and James’s Minty Alley (1936), this period culminated in the achievement of political independence and a formal conclusion to colonialism. It certainly was a period in which the people played a more active role in their affairs.

Nadi Edwards observes: “Trinidad popular culture was appropriated by the writers of the 1930s in order to initiate a decolonized literary and cultural practice. The barrack-yard culture of Port of Spain, with its expressive vehicles of picong, calypso and Carnival, provided local aesthetic models that enabled C. L. R. James, Alfred Mendes and others to produce a self-consciously local literature.” Necessarily, this period of more intense political activity (the societies achieved adult suffrage in the 1940s) ushered in a writing that bore all the marks of the political aspirations of the people.

Not only were they prepared to examine issues of personhood, they were examined the impact the colonialism had on their lives. In is within this period that the literary names such as Edgar Mittleholzer, Seepersad and V. S. Naipaul, Vic Reid, Roger Mais Sam Selvon Martin Carter, George Lamming, Wilson Harris and Derek Walcott began to appear. Many of these writers received the first start in several new magazines (Trinidad, The Beacon, Bim, Focus and Kyk-Over-Al) that was published in this period. These writers also explored areas of experience that were not subjected to writerly expression. Seepersad Naipaul and Samuel Selvon examined the Asian aspect of our identity; Mittleholzer, the mixed nature of our identity; while Harris looked within the heart of the South American landscape to understand how that aspect had shaped our present condition. After the 1960s, literary production proceeded apace. Apart from the writers above, most of the writers with whom Anglophone Caribbean has become associated began to take their place in the literary firmament. To be sure, the publication of V. S. Naipaul’s A House for Mr. Biswas was a significant achievement.

I argue in another context that it sought to retell the Ramayana, the Hindu epic, in a Caribbean context. As a statement of identity, it chronicled how the Indians adopted to the rigors of their New World. Wilson Harris’s History, Fable and Myth in the Caribbean and Guianas was also of especial importance. Published in 1970, it seeks to explore what can be called “the subconscious reality” of the Caribbean experience. In the process, he argues that “a philosophy of history may well lie buried in the arts of the imagination” and notes “that whether the emphasis falls on limbo or vodun, on Carib bush-baby omens, on Arawak zemi, on Latin, English inheritances-in fact within and beyond these emphases-my concern is with epic stratagems available to Caribbean man in the dilemmas of history which surround him.”

In Season of Adventure (1963), George Lamming also sought to push deeper into our unconscious level of reality drew upon Haitian vodun and the Ceremony of the Souls to ground his novel. It would seem that he used this religio-cultural practice to warn the society that as a people we could not be free unless we came to terms with a past that we scorned and neglected. Written precisely at the moment when most Caribbean countries were assuming formal independence (Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica in 1962, Guyana and Barbados in 1965), the contempt of Powell, the major protagonist, seem to capture the angst that many Caribbean persons felt about their new condition but could was not bold enough to articulate:

“Change, my arse,” he shouted, “is Independence what it is? Is one day in July you say you want to be that there thing, an’ one day in a next July the law says all right, from now you’s want you askin’ for. What change can that be? Might as well call a dog a cat and hope to hear him mew. Is only words an’ name what don’ signify nothing.

Although literary historian Lloyd Brown placed the birth of modern Anglophone Caribbean poetry in the 1940-1960 period, the seventies also saw the emergence of Derek Walcott and Kamau Brathwaite, two of our strongest poetic voices. Yet, voices could not be so different. While the former honed the poetic language of the master and made it his own, the latter was concerned to hanker after the rhythm and cadences of African ancestors. One critic notes that Brathwaite’s “poetry, prose fiction, historiographical essays, and literary criticism, all reflect a scheme of thought wherein language is seen as a means of communication, a vehicle of cultural identity [and] a principal instrument for liberation from the vestiges of the colonial master.” Walcott, on the other hand, aware of a much more complex heritage used language in his poetry and his plays to tease out the varied nuances of Caribbean life. His excursion into folk culture and his adaptation of the colonizer’s culture to serve his own ends (as in Omeros, his epic poem that drew its inspiration from Homer, made him a voice that much of the English-speaking world can relate to. Both Walcott and Brathwaite, in their own right, plunged the depth of the Caribbean experience and its ancestral past to come to terms with the challenging of the present.

Dying to Better Themselves by Olive Senior was one of the books that was highlighted in this year’s Bocus Lit festival 2015. This book give a detail account of the history of the Panama Canal, built by ex-enslaves from the West Indies during 1904-1914. This book shows a clear picture of the strength resilience and innovation of a people still traumatize by the horrors of enslavement.

This excerpt was delivered by Professor, Selwyn Cudjoe

We Can Achieve MLK’s Dream Without His Faith

By: Selwyn R. Cudjoe

I have also ventured to draw parallels from the Bible and the Koran and the words of the great seers who drew their inspiration from those great books, in order to show how, in the deepest things of life, the Hindu and the Mussalman [the Muslim] and the Christian, the Indian and the European, in fact all who cared and endeavored to read the truth of things, are so spiritually akin.

Mahadev Desai, The Gospel of Selfless Action or, The Gita According to Gandhi

I want to thank Wellesley InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and Wellesley Cru Christian Fellowship for inviting me to participate in their VERITAS Forum on the very important discussion, “Can We Achieve MLK’s Dream Without His Faith?”  I have taken the opposite position: that is, “We Can Achieve MLK’s Dream Without His Faith.”  At the very least, one can say that this is a very challenging proposition since one could never separate MLK from his faith although the task this evening seems to be that of disentangling MLK from his faith, zeroing in on his message, and how he delivered that message. I am convinced that we can achieve MLK’s dream without his faith; a proposition I hope to prove by drawing on three examples: those of Abraham Lincoln, Karl Marx, and Mahatma Gandhi.

Necessarily, such a challenge sent me back to examine MLK’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech that contains the essence of his beliefs.  Interestingly enough, this speech was delivered on August 28, 1963, on the same day the news of the death of W. E. B. Du Bois, that indefatigable black fighter for justice, was announced.   It was almost as though King was delivering a message that had been passed down through the ages: from George Washington (and the Declaration of Independence) to Lincoln; from Lincoln to MLK via Du Bois and his struggle for justice that endured for the ninety-five years of his life.  Garry Commins observed: “King believed in the ballot, in education, and integration.  He joined young W. E. B. Du Bois in the post-Reconstruction dream that education and voting rights could deliver racial equality.”

Anyone who examines King’s historic speech will be moved not only by his faith—as indispensable as that is—but also by the power of his oratorical performance, the grandiloquence of his language and his deft rhetorical moves.  All of these rhetorical elements are discernable in Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and his Second Inaugural Address. It may not be coincidental that Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was delivered on November 19, 1863, almost one hundred years before King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.  Such a trajectory is important.  King, it seemed, in substance and cadence, was almost following Lincoln to the letter of the law.

Compare, if you may, the opening of King’s speech with the opening of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:

MLK: Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation.  This momentous decree is a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustices.  It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

After this opening, King plunges us into the present [meaning 1963.]  He continues:

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free.  One hundred years later the life of the Negro is still badly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.  One hundred years later the Negro still lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.  One hundred years later the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land.  So we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

So far, there is nothing about religion or faith in this address.  This is purely a rhetorical argument, which can be discerned in the repetition of key words at the beginning of his sentences (linguists call it anaphora): the organization of key ideas; and the nature of the argumentation.

Here is the beginning of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Then, like King, he plunged into his present:

Now [meaning 1865] we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.  We are met on a great battlefield of that war.  We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.  It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

Without much fanfare, Lincoln, like King, went on to deal with the business of the day and what each had gone to their respective places to do: that is, to remind a nation of its unfinished work.  In a way, each address possessed the same theme which Lincoln defined so clearly:  “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus so nobly advanced.”  After this very workmanlike idea, he called on the nation to resolve “that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”  These words ultimately became the definition of democracy.

It seems to me, that King did a similar thing.  After reciting the promise of the United States, chronicled in the founding document, the Declaration of Independence, he plunged right into the challenges that faced the nation, declaring, “We have come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now,” a phrase that President Barack Obama is fond of using.  King then defines the obstacles that were placed in the way of African Americans becoming free and full citizens and then declares:

Even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.  It is a dream rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed, ”We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

He then expresses his wish that “one day in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”

And then and only at this point he draws on Isaiah to drive home his point when he says:

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low.  The rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight.  And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”

The only phase he left out from that quote from Isaiah 40, verse 5, was: “for the mouth of the Lord had spoken it.” In other words, it was almost as though the joining of hands of all Americans—black and white, etc.—was commanded by God.

That was the hope and the faith that he wished to take back to the South with him.

It is true that King grew up in a social gospel tradition that was deeply influenced by his father and men like Benjamin Mays, the president of Morehouse College, and Mordecai Johnson, the first African American president of Howard University.  Andrew Wilkes, my son-in-law, has reminded me that King’s sermons and personal reflections “speak frequently about his wrestling with everything from Marx’s Das Kapital and Reinhold Neibuhr’s Moral Man and Immoral Society to Walter Rauschenbusch’s Christianity and the Social Crisis and numerous texts on Church history” which suggests that King’s mastering of these theological and economic texts played as important a role in the formulation of his dream as his faith.

King’s themes, as my son-in-law has pointed out, emphasized the dignity and worth of all human personality—regardless of one’s religious commitment—and the need to reconcile love, power, and justice in society.  Yet, it seems to me that there is nothing specifically religious about the themes, which King wrestled with in terms of his social and political work.  As a religious man, he could always borrow from all sources, including the wisdom of the Bible.  In this I see nothing unusual.  Even as a nonreligious man, I always have recourse to the Bible to illustrate some of the noblest human principles.

In this context I am reminded of the young Marx who, in “Reflections of a Young Man in Search of a Profession” had no qualms about drawing on Christian theology to make his point.  Francis Wheen noted: Marx was “a bourgeois Jew from a predominantly Catholic city within a country whose official religion was evangelical Protestantism.” We all know the story of his later becoming an “atheist” and Communist.  But when in 1835, he reflected on his choice of career, he was wise enough to acknowledge: “To man, too, the Deity [that is the creator or the supreme being] gave a general aim, that of ennobling mankind and himself, but he left it to man to seek the means by which this aim can be achieved; he left it to him to choose the position in society most suited to him, from which he can best uplift himself and society.”

After eliminating some of the pitfalls that deflected a person from choosing a job rather than a profession, Marx concluded:

But the chief guide, which must direct us in the choice of profession, is the welfare of mankind and our own perfection.  It should not be thought that these two interests could be in conflict, that one would have to destroy the other; on the contrary, man’s nature is so constituted that he can attain his own perfection only by working for the perfection, for the good, of his fellow man.

If he works only for himself, he may perhaps become a famous man of learning, a great sage, an excellent poet, but he can never be a perfect, truly great man.

History calls those men the greatest who have ennobled themselves by working for the common good; experience acclaims as happiest the man who has made the greatest number of people happy; religion itself teaches us that the ideal being whom all strive to copy sacrificed himself for the sake of mankind, and who would dare to set at nought such judgments?

My reading of this statement suggests that the essence in achieving any goal—in this context, the transformation of society as in the case of MLK or Lincoln—consists in dedicating oneself to a task, fully in the recognition that a man’s greatest measure can be found in his giving himself to and for others even as one found in the example of Jesus, the Christ.  Rob Stout, in reviewing Wheen’s book on Marx commented: “Not since Jesus Christ has an obscure pauper inspired such global devotion—or been so calamitously misinterpreted.” Or, perhaps as Marx would say of himself: “I am tormented as Job, though not as God-fearing.”

Even the great Bob Marley, among the wisest of our philosophers, argues in his song “Pass It On”:

Be not selfish in your doings;

Help your brothers in their needs.

Live for yourself, you will live in vain;

Live for others, you will live again.

In the kingdom of Jah,

Man shall reign.

Pass it on.

Such an observation leads me to my final point.  In 1933–34, while Mahatma Gandhi, the great Hindu prophet, was imprisoned, he translated the Gita, the great Hindu text, into English.  The Gita for Gandhi became a spiritual reference book. In The Gospel of Selfless Action or The Gita According to Gandhi, Gandhi writes: “Man is not at peace with himself till he has become like unto God.  The endeavor to reach this state is the supreme, the only ambition worth having.  And this is self-realization.  This self-realization is the subject of the Gita, as it is of all scripture.”

According to Gandhi, the only way that one achieves self-realization is through the renunciation of the fruits of action.  This, he says, “is the center round which the Gita is woven.  This renunciation is the central sun, round which devotion, knowledge and the rest revolve like planets.”  Then he goes on to say:

I have felt that in trying to enforce in one’s life the central teaching of the Gita, one is bound to follow Truth and ahimsa [nonviolence].  When there is no desire for fruit, there is no temptation for untruth or ahimsa.  Take any instance of untruth or violence, and it will be found that at its back was the desire to attain the cherished end.  But it may be freely admitted that the Gita was not written to establish ahimsa.  It was an accepted and primary duty even before the Gita age.  The Gita had to deliver the message of renunciation of fruit.

Gandhi, as we know, went on to lead India’s liberation struggle against the British.  The country became free in 1947.  Gandhi was not a Christian.  However, he had a set of beliefs that allowed him to withstand in the evil day as the Bible suggests.  My point is this.  There is nothing incompatible with a great religious belief and the striving toward the attainment of human freedom.   One need not have a set of religious beliefs (in this case, the Christian beliefs of MLK) in order to fight against oppression which ultimately fueled King’s dream and his striving toward a realization of himself in his work or what he might have called God’s work.

One might even argue that love was at the center of King’s universe as it was at the center of Gandhi’s universe.   MLK at his majestic best put it this way:

Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic.  Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.

During his early life Gandhi believed that God is Truth.  Later in life, he went a step farther and affirmed, Truth is God.

Now, I do not wish to elaborate the point except to say that with Love and Truth and purposefulness we can achieve anything on which we set our hearts.  The legacy of King’s faith, to quote my son-in-law, “is the understanding that religion can be a constructive force for racial equality, a source of solidarity, and an irreplaceable source of  cosmic companionship (King’s words) with the Divine Christ.  But King did not claim that religion was the sole or primary source of morality or action.  He did, however, claim that ours is a moral universe that bends toward justice.

Surely, then, even as we admire King’s Christian faith, we certainly can achieve his dream of a moral and ethical world without his Christian faith.

This paper represents the negative response to a debate, “Can We Achieve MLK’s Dream Without His Faith,” presented by the VERITAS Forum that took place at Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts.  Professor Marta F. Fredrick, Professor of African and African American Studies and of Religion, Harvard University, argued the affirmative position.

Professor Cudjoe is a professor of Africana Studies, Wellesley College.

Gary Commins, Spiritual People/Radical Lives (San Francisco, CA: Freedom Voices, 2000), 169.

Andrew Wilkes, Personal Communications, April 1, 2015.

Francis Wheen, Karl Marx: A Life (New York: W. W. Norton, 2000)

Karl Marx, “Reflections of a Young Man in Search of a Profession.”

Rob Stout, CER (Central European Review), September 11, 2000.

Mahadev Desai, The Gospel of Selfless Action or The Gita According to Gandhi (Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing House, 1946), 128–29. Ibid., 129.

1970 revisited’ was hosted by the Ministry of National Diversity and Social Integration  National Trust and the National Archives in celebration of the 45th anniversary of the Black Power revolutions.

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Some images from the ‘1970 revisited’ 19-21st April 2015

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The West Indies is considered as a nomenclature of islands situated just between North and South America. The name given to these islands by Christopher Columbus was the ‘West Indies’ during his voyages to this part of the world in the 1490s. During his rediscoveries of these virgin islands and his encounter with the Amerindians upon seeing them made him to believe he had sailed to the west of India hence the name given West Indies.

Today we are forunate to know the real story of Christopher Columbus, expressed by Calypsonian  the Mighty Shadow

Three books that provides excellent analysis on the history of the region ( the Caribbean) is The People Who Came by Kamau Brathwaite, James Carnegie, Alma Norman, Anthony Phillips  and P. Patterson. It is the recommended readings for primary schools and persons new to the study of Caribbean history.

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According to Eric Williams’‘The Negro in the Caribbean’

“The British West Indies are a collection of nineteen scattered island units. Martinique and Guadeloupe remain as survivals of a magnificent French empire in the Western Hemisphere which once included Canada, Louisiana and Haiti. The Dutch are still represented by Curacao and its dependencies. Spain and Denmark have vanished from the scene, the one driven out, the other bought out by the United States. Cuba, Haiti and Dominican Republic have succeeded in maintaining a precarious independence which they wrested from Spain and France”. (Williams,2)

I AM CARIBBEAN

I am Caribbean can’t you see
Fellow man that’s my ethnicity
I am Caribbean through and through
Compatriot on that score, how say you
About 1200 miles from north to south
Caribbean in content that’s what we are about

As slaves the Middle Passage was a horrible experience
And is the legacy of men who caught and sold us without conscience
As Indentured Labourers we kissed this shore
That changed us from untouchables forevermore
We have evolved as Trinbagonians with a new identity
No more mother Africa no more mother India for me

Lebanese, French and Spanish too
Are important ingredients in this callaloo
The blending agent in this unique dish
Is the catalytic action of the English
As we move forward and upward as a nation, there will be growing pains
Something we will experience as we break the chains

As Trinbagonians we have a duty
To love and care for our country
And know our rights and responsibilities
In order to develop our country
Protect zealously our heritage
And guard against wanton theft and wastage

Be on guard for distorters of history
Who for selfish reasons will sell out this country
Rather than share with our brothers in the Caribbean
Some of the wealth that was bestowed on this nation
Let us bring economic relief
To compatriots North, South, West and East

By: Augustus Lewis
© The Minister 

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