Books By My Bed: Part Two

As a youngster, my granny and her companion had a bookcase at the house in Victory Street, Arima, Trinidad. It was typically locked, but one day, I hungered of acquiring the volumes of the mini assortment of publications stashed within. This is the story of the favourite books by my bed.

The fantasy of being the executor of said book anthology was nevertheless a romance. I don’t know what became of the books that existed in my coveted childhood ambitions. What stuck with me, however, was my passion for reading and books.

Between the outset of the COVID quarantine and participation in numerous Black Lives Matter demonstrations, I have unceremoniously shirked my writing and blog to reanimate my affection for the written word by regaling on the titles below.

Books By My Bed

Instead, of feverishly writing, I have poured my energy into the following three books this summer:

  • Force and Freedom Black Abolitionists and the Politics of Violence by Kellie Carter Jackson
  • How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
  • Days of Wrath by Raoul A. Pantin

Books By My Bed: Force and Freedom

Force And Freedom: Black Abolitionists and the Politics of Violence by Dr Kellie Carter Jackson. In June I had the opportunity to meet with Dr Jackson during the rehearsal for two internal events to discuss the killing of George Floyd and the concerns of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC).

The premise of Dr Jackson’s book and her lecture to our company is the Black struggle hasn’t always been peaceful. Black folk have resorted to the use of violence to ensure their safety and freedom.

Dr Jackson’s book examines the concepts expressed by the influential abolitionists and civil rights leaders of the day as they gradually turned away from moral suasion in their fight for freedom, equity and equality. Martin Luther King Jr. during his speech “The Other America” in 1968 where he coined the now-famous phrase:

A riot is the language of the unheard.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr Jackson states that “Moral suasion was useful, but as slave owners won more and more legal and political gains, moral suasion proved ineffective as a tool largely because it did not address equality”. The use of violence by Black folks is evident in the Christiana Resistance in Pennsylvania on September 11, 1851, by William Parker. William Parker was a fugitive from Anne Arundel county where I live currently and were fugitives in Pennsylvania with his brother Charles.

In closing, the following text in the book which solidifies Dr Jackson’s thesis:

Today many white Americans romanticize the Civil War era and even the Civil Rights movement, for its leaders’ radical ideas regarding nonviolence…..Because of white supremacy, black Americans always knew freedom would require force.

Dr. Kellie Carter Jackson

The [Six] Days of Wrath

I was seventeen, shopping at the mall in West Moorings Trinidad. Shopping for trappings to attend my friend’s Canadian immigration party. There was football in the town, it was month-end, and Port-of-Spain aka “town” was abuzz with energy. Unbeknown to me there was indeed activity in town on Friday, July 27, 1990.

A bloody coup d’état was in progress in town lead by Iman Abu Bakr (previously know as Lennox Phillip “a boy who grew up poor in Carenage [, Trinidad]”) from the Jama’at al-Muslimin – جماعة المسلمين‎, “School of Muslims” – from “comfortably furnished dwelling at No. 1 Mucurapo Road.”

For six days the country was beneath a curfew and repressed by martial law. Comparable to the vestiges of the struggles of the marginalized in the United States during slavery, reconstruction, and Jim Crow the use of force in the struggles of the underrepresented in Trinidad also has had a historical consequence. The Canboulay Riots of 1881 and 1884, The Hosay Riots in 1884, the “Hunger March” of 1935, the Labor Riots of 1937, Black Power Riots of 1970.

Raoul Pantin in his book The Days of Wrath: The 1990 Coup in Trinidad and Tobago describes the “aggressive battle cry” of “Allahu Ackbar!” as Yassin Abu Bakr, and others stormed the only television station on the island Trinidad and Tobago Television (TTT) on the evening of Friday, July 27, 1990. Simultaneously, Bakr’s compatriots were assailing the seat of government, the Red House.

The original [Red House] building of wood and shingle had been consumed by flames in 1808…the building that was replaced was painted red to mark Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in 1897.

Days of Wrath: The 1990 Coup in Trinidad and Tobago

As I meandered from the mall in town via the stifled artery of roads connecting the city with the rest of the country, I was unaware of the imminent days of wrath. On my mind was the fete later, and having a good time with my former classmates from high school.

The 1990 Coup – CCN TV6 Special Presentation

Needless to say, once I arrived at my home in Arima, my dad apprised me there was a “play/skit” on TTT with men purporting to overthrow the democratically elected government. About an hour or so later, my neighbour Nigel who was working in Port-of-Spain at the time, also arrived home and talked about the chaos and looting in the streets. The headquarters of the Trinidad and Tobago police was engulfed in flames from a car bomb. Sweet Trinidad and Tobago were somnolent, bewildered, and anxious.

Reading Raoul Pantin’s book triggered memories and tales of the coup. The intelligence of the U.S. military being berthed offshore anticipating to support the Trinidad and Tobago government. Countless curfew parties began to rouse all over the country. Trinis love ah fete, and you could frequent a curfew party from 6 PM to 6 AM the next morning. The ultimate inspection of one’s stamina for a drink, soca and dancing.

How To Be An Antiracist

The New York Times labels How To Be An Antiracist amongst the 100 notable books of 2019. Dr Kendi expands on his writing from his first book Stamped From The Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. How To Be An Antiracist is delivered to the reader entangled in Dr Kendi’s secluded journey defeating cancer.

“Internalized racism is the real Black on Black Crime” is the first principle I highlighted while studying this profoundly intellectual classic of the twenty-first century.

I gorged on the fundamental ideas in this book over a five day read, only resting to reflect on the text, research ideas expressed and re-read to imprint this innovative thinking of being an antiracist. The core tenant of the book is: it is not sufficient to be not racist; one must actively become antiracist. “No one becomes a racist or antiracist”; it is not a diet but a constant state of “persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination”.

In the furrow of the slaughter of George Floyd, Amad Aubrey, Breonna Taylor, several corporate brands issued antiracist statements according to the Wall Street Journal. But, in July of 2013 when the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter (BLM) incipiently emerged it wasn’t as advantageous for corporate America to stand in solidarity with the movement. The 8:46 seconds of annihilating savageness swiftly kindled a wildfire of “corporate social responsibility”.

Quickly centrist whites were conveying on the streets to join Black proletariats in protesting police brutality and white supremacist predilections. While 93% of the BLM demonstrations were non-violent according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, anti-BLM campaigns such as #AllLivesMatter and #BlueLivesMatter emerged. According to Dr Kendi:

White racists who can’t imagine their lives not being the focus of any movement respond to “Black Lives Matter” with “All Lives Matter.” Embattled police officers who can’t imagine losing their right to racially profile and brutalize respond with “Blue Lives Matter.”

Dr. Kendi

Lastly, the most crucial take away for me from this last book by my bed was the reasoning that ethical suasion and education, particularly in the corporate environment would persuade hearts and souls to the dire predicament of Black bodies in the United States. Rather, I leave you with the most stalwart quote in the book:

The source of racist ideas was not ignorance and hate, but self-interest. Educational and moral suasion is not only a failed strategy. It is a suicidal strategy.

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