Questions for Professor Hilary Beckles
Photo : Professor Hilary Beckles
Shabaka Kambon is walking around with a brush ready to paint the entire country black. This is the predicament that is facing the history of Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean, North America and the entire world. Black people are prepared to deny the facts of history and are ready to re-write it to suit their agenda.
In an article in the Sunday Guardian “Heat over Milner Hall” by Charles Kong Soo (Sunday November 05, 2017 p. A15) Alfred Milner was accused of committing crimes against humanity. UWI Vice Chancellor Professor Hilary Beckles called Milner a ‘war criminal.’
These remarks arose at a meeting at the St Augustine Campus where a proposal was made to remove the name “Milner” from Milner Hall, a popular student dormitory within the Campus and rename it after Sylvester Willaims, a founder of the Pan African Movement. The meeting was hosted by Cross Rhodes Freedom Project and chaired by Shabaka Kambon.
I would like Professor Hilary Beckles to also denounce the fact that Blacks in Trinidad participated in the encomienda system that enslaved the First People. When the Spanish governor took a decision to end the encomienda, the Blacks protested. The Blacks formed a large segment of the population in Port of Spain and threatened to disrupt the society. The governor had to give way to them while the Spanish and others had to free their Amerindian slaves.
Professor Hilary Beckles must also tell the people about those Africans who were forcibly converted to Islam and then sided with the Arabs to enslave their non-Muslim brothers. Later when the European slave trade was launched, Africans again engaged in capturing and selling their people to the slavers that lined the coast of West Africa. Professor Hilary Beckles and his foot soldier Shabaka Kambon must share their views on those aspects of African history and stop living in denial. Our students must know that Africans were owners of slaves in Trinidad and Tobago.
Professor Beckles accused Alfred Milner for “military assault upon the South African people, especially the Zulus.” If Milner was such an evil person then Beckles should not stop at removing his name at the Hall at the St Augustine Campus but also address the removal of the English Language, Christianity, our legal, political and education systems- all institutions-that nourished such heinous criminal ideologies. Are there not alternatives ideologies to these European models? Despite Professor Beckles’ bold criticism of colonialism the Caribbean continues to cling to European social values such as capitalism, socialism and the intolerant and absolutist Christianity that justified slavery, indentureship and colonialism, all in the name of Jesus. Amen!
Beckles went on to say that it was “unconscionable for the name of Alfred Milner to remain in a place of honour, on a UWI campus as the university enters its 70th year…” If to bear the name Milner is so disparaging then it must be equally disparaging that Africans continue to bear the names of their former slave masters. Certainly, the name Hilary Beckles is not an African name but an inheritance from our European past. Maybe our good professor can check the history records to ensure that no Beckles was ever associated with slavery and apartheid!
Shabaka Kambon has promised to wage a campaign for the removal of a sign at Lopinot and the statue of Columbus at Moruga. Why stop there? Why not examine how the French Creoles came to be owners of large parcels of land in this country? How do we explain the concentration of the First People in Arima? Why not examine the racist policies of the PNM that marginalised the Indian population and continue to treat them like second class citizens? May be we should revisit the 1970 Black Power Movement and the 1990 attempted coup to bring to justice to all those individuals who have perpetuated pain and misery on the population!
Shambaka Kambon and Professor Hilary Beckles must learn to accept the facts of history. It is their right to interpret the facts, not to change it. However, they need to accept that others have that freedom to interpret history as they see best. For example, to the American Indians Columbus was a nightmare but to the European he opened a route for them to flee persecution and hunger to a new land. In Trinidad and Tobago Dr Eric Williams was a saviour for Blacks but to the Indian population he was the individual who called the Indians a “recalcitrant minority” and presented them as a threat to the nation in a similar manner that Dr Keith Rowley and his minions are doing today.
Professor Hilary Beckles has opened a “Pandora’s box” and there is now no control of where this “propaganda” is heading. It now appears easy to deny someone an award or accolade on allegations that such a person was believed to have committed some perceived wrong. It is an undeniable effort on the part of Blacks in the Caribbean to exercise a monopoly on the interpretation of history when none exist. It is this claim to a monopoly of “truth” that is fuelling the current terrorism that is raging across continents. It is time to recognise that “truth” has many faces and that no single (Black) face can tell the whole story.