I grew up hearing stories about life in Trinidad, about the ways and customs of the African and Indian folks who live there. In recent years, a friend recounted to me the details of how she remembers seeing Indian indentured servants who had just arrived, in the late 50s-60s, with SHACKLES on their hands and feet! The so-called Blacks of Trinidad laughed at the “coolies”, as the term was given to Indians who gave rickshaw rides and yelled out “coolie, coolie, coolie” as their call for patrons to notice them. They forgot how resourceful their ancestors had to be, to survive enslavement and worse. They laughed at the Indian man begging on the street, surviving on one roti a day, and saving his money, and worshiping his same deity he did in India, while keeping his same customs, and style of dress. Laughed while that man built a mud house for him and his family to live in. Then laughed as he went outside and picked the green “wild spinach” and other leaves, for his wife to sautee with curry and other spices, with a smell that made the neighbors think they were cooking meat everyday.
But when the Indians started owning stores and building concrete houses, the laughter stopped. When he saved enough to send his sons to school in England to become doctors, the envy started. The concern. The desire to be/have/do what they had done. Yet, the Africans still shopped at his stores, and stopped patronizing their own local small businesses.
The Africans in Trinidad had hundreds of years of chattel slavery and its trauma to deal with. Yes, the Indians “only” experienced indentured servitude and colonization. But the bottom line is unity, and self-love. Self-determination, self-reliance and most importantly self-preservation have always been the name of the game. Sometimes you gotta do for self first, be humble, and not apologize for it, one bit, while serving your Creator. The actual tribal affiliation of the group lumped together called “Africans” was also a point of division, as this is part of why unity based on circumstance and skin color was so difficult to achieve, even hundreds of years later. Every person with brown skin is not the same tribe, not even in a small island like Trinidad. Also, they all did not come over as slaves. Some were already indigenous to the region,some traveled there (http://www.workers.org/ww/2000/africa0302.php) some were chattel slaves, and some even came from the U.S. as “settlers”, who were free and owned land during the time when slavery was still in full swing in Trinidad and Tobago (http://www.nalis.gov.tt/Collections/ExhibitionsandPhotoGalleries/Merikins18151816FreeBlackSettlers/tabid/562/Default.aspx)
Today as I looked at the grapevine growing in the backyard, at all those edible green leaves, I remembered the very resourceful Africans and Indians of Trinidad. I thought to myself, “Why should I go buy some veggies whose source I cannot verify, when I can pick some grape leaves and curry them right now?” Or even make stuffed grape leaves? Some are laughing at me now. At my excitement over a plate or two of salad each week, that grows right in containers that I planted. At saving $3.99 and up by not buying spring greens, as I normally would.
It is often very difficult to merge the principles,. concepts, and teachings of nationalism/nationality with those of metaphysics. One is deeply rooted in the tangible aspects of life on Earth, on a particular land base, at a given time, while the other seems to merge the physical and spiritual worlds through subtle mindset and lifestyle changes to bring one closer to oneness with all people, and therefore the Divine Source. For me, it seems a contradiction at times, as I know I am a spirit clothed in flesh, having an earthly experience to prepare me for my next journey in the spiritual realm. The time is critical for us all, especially those of melanated hues to merge the two concepts successfully, and FAST! Evidence of this need is being shown all across the globe, but especially in the U.S., where the scourge of casualties of the war on melanated peoples are highly publicized, state-sanctioned, and carried out by “public servants”, paid for by “tax dollars”. It can be enough to make us all very angry, very depressed, and lose sight of the bigger picture. That freedom requires daily work and commitment to maintain.
Free people feed themselves, and determine the future of their children themselves. No one can save another, only offering assistance, or being an ally. But the work of healing, restoration, and redemption starts with self, and inside of families, clans, tribes, and nations. The example of the Indians in Trinidad is very easy to relate to. After years of being the low man on the totem pole, the Indians are running practically every aspect of Trinidadian society, from business, to farming, to politics, and more. Focus. Put your attention on what you want to grow. We must work to develop all aspects of ourselves, but also all aspects of our societies, worldwide, as African people are not even a shred of the tradespeople, skilled artisans, and healers we once were, en masse. That is just what we are dealing with. But all it means is it is time to focus. Whether you are a homeschooler, a weekend gardener, someone who knits, does carpentry, or crochets, expand your craft. Grow. Plant a seed in your self. And while you are at it, plant one in some soil too. Then guide others to do the same. This is how we advance ourselves as a nation, as well as uplift humanity overall. The world cannot move forward to the next level of evolution without the participation and leadership of African people. Let us all do our part, and may The Master of All Worlds bless the works of our hands. Curry grape leaves and all. Or maybe even rundown or oil down if we want to incorporate the coconut which has sustained us as well!