The Emancipation Support Committee of Trinidad and Tobago (ESCTT) has renewed the call to change Oxford Street and rename it after one of the best orators and leaders of the civil rights movements in the US, Trinidad’s Kwame Ture.
In light of the heightened and strengthened awareness of the effects of colonialism that diminished the history and achievement of Trinidad people the people of Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean, ESCTT’s Director of Education and Research Dr Claudius Fergus has issued a challenge to the Mayor of Port of Spain. “We believe that it is the minimum that can be done to honour this great hero,” he said. He also called upon for the Mayor “to do so this month, on the 29th of June which is the birthday of Kwame Ture. Mr Mayor, please. Stand up and be recognised.”
Ture, previously known as Stokely Carmichael, was born on 54 Oxford Street, within the original Yoruba village.
Dr Fergus made the statement during the Yoruba Drum Festival on June 20th which was shown virtually on ESCTT social media platforms as well as live streamed on UWI TV across the Region. The Yoruba Drum Festival is a celebration of the heritage that was left to the people of African descent by the various African peoples, many of whom entered as freed persons, who made what is now known as East Port of Spain their home.
The enslaved Africans resided there from the 19th century, at which time the community was known as Yoruba Village and Yoruba Town. The Yoruba people, who were rescued from the ships of British, French, and Spanish plunderers, following the abolition of the Slave Trade, were brought to that part of the city of Port- of-Spain, where they resided as free men and women. They came originally, mainly from Nigeria, Ghana, Togo, and Benin. Today, the only main physical semblance of the town’s history and existence is the Yoruba Village Square which is near the Besson Police Station.
In addition to drumming, the event showcased a variety of percussion instruments and styles including tamboo bamboo, pan, traditional African drum rhythms from Ghana, Nigeria, and the Senegambian region. In addition, viewers enjoyed dance, song and rapso. Among the guest speakers were MP for Laventille East/Morvant, Ancil Leonce who made a call for commitment. “In light of the UN declaration of the Decade for people of African Descent, let us recommit, reconnect and build our Yoruba people because I as a son in this Yoruba village, want to play as significant part and we all have to play our part,” he said.
Arthur Lewis, Head of Corporate Communications of the East Port of Spain Development Company, which is situated in the Yoruba Village, said the organisation stood in solidarity with the people of the area. “Contributions, sadly, go under appreciated and in some instances, sadly unnoticed. East Port of Spain is the repository of some of the country’s leading and richest cultural heritage mostly known by many as the birthplace of Trinidad and Tobago Carnival. But may I add, there is so much more. It is home of some of the brightest, biggest intellectuals; leading sportsmen, leading sportswomen; men in various disciplines; business leaders; leaders… of every aspect of life,” he pointed out.
Among the evenings the highlight of the event was the presentation of awards. First, Everald ‘Redman’ Watson received the 2020 Keeper of the Tradition Award from Brother Khafra Kambon, former Chair of the ESCTT and current Director of Regional and Pan African Affairs at ESCTT. The award is given annually to someone from the Yoruba Village community, who has worked diligently to preserve and develop African cultural traditions in the community.
Redman, the name by which he is popularly known, is an internationally renowned drummer, percussionist, and penman, who was born and grew up in the Belmont community. In his acceptance, Redman made an appeal to the youth “work hard and rewards will be given to you. Know yourself and know your culture.”
Young, Safiya Paul, a Form Four student at El Dorado East Secondary School was presented the award by Executive Chair Zakiya Uzoma-Wadada, in commemoration of the United Nations International Day of the African Child. Safiya who lives in Beetham Gardens, was honoured for her achievements in culture, sport, and academics. “I give thanks to my tutors, family, and parents. I give thanks to everyone who supported my journey,” she said.
The next event in the Pan African Festival will be the launch of Kwame Ture Memorial Lecture series on July 5. Check the ESCTT face book page for details.