Kadija Dyer is a familiar face at the Maraval office of the Emancipation Support Committee of Trinidad and Tobago (ESCTT), where she wears many headwraps.
She is the finance officer, team leader for public relations and communication, and is in charge of the youth education and development programme – the latter she considers one of her “babies.”
“I love working with young people. A lot of times they are misunderstood, but what I love about them is that they are very innovative. We just have to find ways to reach them.”
She told WMN part of her role in the youth education and development programme is to find ways to get young people interested and involved in the programmes offered by the committee, and to disseminate information, especially of a historical nature.
She said she was instrumental in the development of the National African History Quiz competition, now an annual event hosted by the committee. One of its objectives is to help the students, teachers and parents involved to learn about, understand, and appreciate the country’s African heritage.
The ESCTT also hosts an annual spoken word competition which encourages its young participants to use the spoken word as a tool for social and cultural development, and to help students develop their oratory and dramatic skills.
“Through these programmes I have children who participated running up to me now and telling me how much they enjoy the competitions, students who did not like history before going on to do it. Some even volunteer and want to be a part of the (Emancipation) village."
Dyer said she started working on the structure of the quiz competition when she was a student and working part-time at the ESCTT.
“I didn’t have as much time then, because I was focusing on my studies. But I did the research, and when I got a full-time job here, I decided it was time to do it.
"Incidentally, it was the same year the UN declared the year of 2011 as the International Year for People of African Descent.”
Dyer, from Morvant, has an associate degree in tourism and hospitality management from the now defunct TT Hospitality and Tourism Institute, and a bachelor’s in tourism management from UWI, St Augustine. Both times she did her internship with the ESCTT – an organistion formed in 1992 as an umbrella body to strengthen Emancipation celebrations in TT.
“Working with the committee means a lot. It keeps me grounded and humble. As a young African woman, I know who I am, and my time here has allowed me to learn more about, appreciate and accept my culture,” the 35-year-old told WMN.
She said even while she was a student at Success Laventille Composite (now Success Laventille Secondary), she had been encouraged to get involved with the committee by poet, playwright, librarian and cultural activist Eintou Pearl Springer.
“People say a lot of things, but I am very proud to have been a student at Success Laventille...Back then I was the captain of the under-17 netball team under now-deceased coach David Williams…History was one of the subjects I did for CXC. Aunty Eintou suggested that I get involved.”
But even long before that she was made aware of her history as an African descendant.
“While growing up my parents always brought us to the Emancipation Village…When I studying and looked at the list of places for an internship, I chose to do it at the Emancipation Support Committee.”
Dyer is the mother of a ten-month old boy and runs a business – Bezaleel Designs – with her partner.
“I do customisation of clothing, signage and printing, and I also do events planning.”
She said even though she is involved in a lot of things, for her it’s all about time- and self-management, which she has “mastered over the years.”
“Besides, when you love what you do you don’t see it as work.”
But, she said, on Emancipation Day tomorrow, it will not be all about work, as she intends to trade in her regular duties to participate in the festivities, especially as she has not felt the invigoration of the in-person celebrations for two years.
“I have not walked the street processions since 2013, because I’m always with the team giving out breakfasts during the procession, or welcoming guests at the Queen’s Park Savannah for the awards ceremony.
"This year I told them I am not doing hospitality. I have to walk in the procession, with my baby.
"The ancestors usually send rain every Emancipation Day, so if it rains he (her son) will go in the car with my dad. I’m walking in honour of my mom, who died in 2020. She was my best friend…and my dad is my rock.”
She is really excited about getting all dressed up in full African regalia and taking part in the Emancipation Day events, beginning with the 4 am libation at All Stars panyard on Duke Street, Port of Spain, “where the riot started. Then to the treasury building for the street procession.”
This will be followed by the awards ceremony at the Savannah.
“Then, from 7 pm, we do the flambeau procession back to All Stars panyard.
"I’m really excited. I can’t wait to see everyone on Emancipation in their full regalia. We have been away from it for two years.”
And on the day after Emancipation Day, Dyer plans to bring the curtains down on the 2022 celebrations with a very special breakfast.
“I really love fish broth and plantains," she said with a smile. "I also love the beach, a good book and a good movie…I can’t wait for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. I will be there, dressed in my all-white African outfit.”