Have Some Respect For An Old West Indian Negro

Man Free (For Darcus Howe) Composed by Linton Kwesi Johnson in 1977
Uploaded by silmarallion

Not everyone, it seems, liked Darcus Howe's description of himself as an "old, West Indian Negro" as I discovered from recent conversations. Too "whiney" was how it came across to one listener. I understand that opinions about his choice of words would have been shaped by the listeners' notions about "old West Indian Negroes." If these words have come to suggest "serious disability," then naturally the listener would have cringed on Mister Howe's behalf.

However, I felt that Darcus Howe's choice of words was meant to invoke three sources of power - the power of an elder with some standing in his community and internationally, the power of West Indian unity and the power of pride in himself and his ancestry. The fact that it also suggested the world weariness of the old warrior was an additional bonus. As I cannot identify with any one race, one day I may be in his position and it will give me a kick to refer to myself as an old, Caribbean noweyrian. I have no problem with anyone else who identifies with one race, as long as that pride is not the flip side of the denigration of another group or groups of people.

Stokely Carmichael once referred to Fidel Castro as "the blackest man in the Caribbean." When you have pride in who you are, what you stand for becomes an honorary title which can be bestowed upon another to honour and embrace that other in solidarity. I moved closer to Darcus Howe's side when he said those words.

Darcus Howe is not a saint. He is just a man with strengths and weaknesses like any other human being but there is no denying that he has done more than the average person in the fight for justice in the UK. Unlike some Trinbagonians who feel that his recent comments gave Trinidad and Tobago a bad name, Darcus gave me the welcome opportunity to wonder about all the other "old West Indian Negroes" and their descendants, at home and abroad, who stuck their necks out as tireless activists for justice. Would they have wanted to be cagtegorized as old, West Indian Negroes or having embraced a wider struggle, did some of them move beyond "race"? Would they have objected to my selecting them based on physiological characteristics? Was it their "race" that had brought them face to face with injustice, or would they have fought in the struggle even if they had been born into the privileged groups? Having never belonged to one "race" I have only vague notions of the benefits of membership. Perhaps in another life.

The list below is tragically incomplete. There must be many other "old, West Indian Negroes" who distinguished themselves in the struggle for social justice. I salute also, all the ones who remain unacknowledged because they labour in the background, quietly making their little corners of the world better places for their families and communities.

Harry BELAFONTE [Child of a Jamaican and a Martiniquan]
Lloyd BEST [Trinidadian]
Maurice BISHOP [Grenadian]
Cyril Valentine BRIGGS [Nevis]
Tubal Uriah Buzz BUTLER [Trinidadian]
Stokely CARMICHAEL (Kwame Ture) [Trinidadian]
Fidel CASTRO [Cuban Honorary old West Indian Negro]
Aimé CESAIRE [Martiniquan]
Shirley CHISOLM [Child of a Guyanese and a Barbadian]
Kenneth B. CLARK [Panamanian]
William CROGMAN [St. Martin]
Oliver CROMWELL COX [Trinidadian]
Frank CROSSWAITH [St. Croix]
Makandal DAAGA [Trinidadian]
St. Clair DRAKE [Child of a Barbadian father]
Minister Louis FARRAKHAN [Child of a Kittitian mother and a Jamaican father]
Frantz FANON [Martiniquan]
Vincent G. HARDING [Child of a Barbadian mother]
Darcus HOWE [Trinidadian]
C.L.R. JAMES [Trinidadian]
Claudia JONES [Trinidadian]
Toussaint L'OUVERTURE [Haitian]
Francois Mackandal [Brought as slave from West Africa to Haiti]
Bob MARLEY [Jamaican]
Claude MC KAY [Jamaican]
George PADMORE [Trinidadian]
Walter RODNEY [Guyanese]
Ashley TOTTEN [St. Croix]
Eric WILLIAMS [Trinidadan]
Malcolm X [Child of a Grenadian mother]

Please leave a comment if you can suggest other names for this listing.

By the way, have you seen this T-shirt anywhere?

"Patria est communis omnium parens" - Our native land is the common parent of us all. Keep it beautiful, make it even more so.

Blessed is all of creation
Blessed be my beautiful people
Blessed be the day of our awakening
Blessed is my country
Blessed are her patient hills.

Mweh ka allay!