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Tuesday 17 September 2019
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Tobago

No activities for Decade for People of African Descent?

A participant of the annual Emancipation Day procession dances through Port of Spain last month.
A participant of the annual Emancipation Day procession dances through Port of Spain last month.

Retired head of the public service Reginald Dumas has said he has not heard of any activities in TT to suggest the United Nations has designated this decade to celebrate people of African descent.

He made the statement last Thursday at a panel discussion hosted by the Tobago Writers' Guild and Tobago Library Services, at the Scarborough Library, Tobago.

The panel discussion, titled Emancipation: None But Ourselves Can Free Our Minds, was part of the guild's monthly lecture series, which seeks to develop among other things, a literary arts culture on the island.

The panellists were cultural activist Opoku Ware; former Radio Tambrin talk show host Laureen Burris-Phillip; librarian Heather Gray and former secondary school teacher and sustainable development co-ordinator, Tobago House of Assembly, Kamau Akili. Attorney and former politician Deborah Moore-Miggins moderated the event.

Dumas observed nearly five years have passed in this decade and he is yet to hear anything locally about the United Nations Decade for People of African Descent.

"I have seen nothing in Trinidad and Tobago, nothing to suggest that black people live here – nothing," he declared.

"The decade started at the beginning of 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and we nearly at the end of 2019."

Reginald Dumas

Dumas asked the audience: "Has anyone heard of the United Nations Decade for People of African Descent? Have you heard about black people in Tobago doing anything about it?"

Dumas, who wondered if black people in TT even knew about it, challenged the panellists and members of the audience to suggest ways in which the observance could be commemorated in the remaining five years of the decade.

Reflecting on the theme, Dumas suggested education is the only way to address, frontally, the issues that continue to affect African people in the region since emancipation.

He said he was shocked to learn that in 2019, many young people still are not aware of significant institutions and events that impacted life in TT and the wider Caribbean over the years.

"I was astounded when I came in (at the panel discussion) earlier to hear the young man at the registration desk say that he was only in his late 20s when he heard for the first time that there was a Federation of the West Indies. This is nothing short of scandalous."

Nigeria's High Commissioner Hasssan Jika Ardo, centre, greets NJAC's political leader Kwasi Mutema, left, and Embau Moheni, chairman of the National Action Cultural Committee, at its 37th annual Emancipation dinner at the JFK auditorium at UWI, St Augustine recently.

Dumas added: "If you don't know your history, you don't know where you are. If you don't know where you are, you don't know where you are going. You just moving, That is all. Flying up and down the Claude Noel Highway, that's it. Some of them can't even read the signs.

"So, education, in any society, is key."

Dumas also challenged the panel to clearly define what is meant by the word reparation.

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