|Volume No. 1 Issue No. 67 - Tuesday April 05, 2005
|Dr. Williams and the National Question |
by Gabriel Christian Esq.
On Wednesday, March 30, Howard University Blackburn Center saw the relaunching of Dr. Williams book: Caribbean Economic Development.
First published about fifty years ago, and comprising the ideas from a Caribbean Conference organized by Dr. Williams at Howard University in 1943, the book is indeed timely.
The only Caribbean leader of note on the World War II, Anglo-American Caribbean Commission, Dr. Williams used his position to promote Caribbean self government and social justice.
Though he passed away in 1981 at age sixty nine while serving as Prime Minster of Trinidad & Tobago, the issues raised at that gathering sixty two years ago are still pressing today:
1. Local control of the Caribbean’s natural resources;
2. Local control of the financial system;
3. Participatory democracy and the limitations of the Westminster system; and
4. The issues of race, class and Caribbean nationalism.
5. The need for one Caribbean Federated state.
Under the distinguished patronage of Trinidad's Ambassador Marina A. Valere, the editor of the work, renowned Caribbean - American Wellesley College Professor Tony Martin was masterful in his recitation of Dr. Williams leadership and vision of one Caribbean.
The audience, packed with Howard University Caribbean Students Association members, local Caribbean community leaders, African-American professors, Caribbean professionals from the World Bank, Institute of Caribbean Studies, International Monetary Fund along with the ambassadors of Jamaica, Barbados and St. Kitts was brimming with a very palpable sense of oneness.
During the question phase of the launching, Dr. Fontaine, of the Dominica Academy of Arts & Sciences, raised the need for a renewed push for a Caribbean Federation. In response, he was ably supported by the star of the event: Erica Williams Connell.
Mrs. Williams-Connell, the daughter of the late Prime Minister, was pointed in her remarks that her father wanted Caribbean Federation all his life, but that he was distressed by Jamaica's decision to withdraw from the grouping in 1962.
She focused on her father's contribution to Caribbean letters, in her review of his scholarly works. Most important, she gave tribute to his efforts at shaping the intellectual basis for modern English Caribbean nationalism with his books such as Capitalism and Slavery and from Columbus to Castro.
A unique scholar-politician, Oxford trained Dr. Williams engaged in mass political education at Port of Spain's central meeting place, the University of Woodford Square. It was that mobilization of a new Caribbean nationalism under the banner of the Peoples National Movement (PNM), which led to his becoming Prime Minister of a newly independent Trinidad & Tobago in 1964.
He also nationalized major sectors of local industry to spur indigenous income, brought the formerly dispossessed African and East Indian descended masses into government, and built the framework for Trinidad's modern steel and petrochemical industry.
However, as his daughter pointed out; more local control of the petrochemical industry is needed now lest Trinidad's people are robbed of their resources. Founder of the Eric Williams Memorial Collection ( http://users.rcn.com/alana.interport/ewmc.html) .
Mrs. Williams stressed the need for Caribbean people to know their history and honor their heroes. In that vein, she added, we can ensure our continued independence and development. Basking in the warmth of the well-attended event, the gathering departed with a renewed nationalistic vigor.
There are future launchings planned in the US and Canada for the book. Through it all, we expect Mrs. Williams-Connell to be as passionate and inspiring in memorializing her father's noble legacy. And in Dr. Williams determination to bring independence and justice to our region, his legacy is ours too.