NJAC remembers the life of Black Power leader Basil Davis

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Drummers play traditional Orisha hymns during Saturday’s celebrations at the Pamberi Steel Orchestra Pan Yard, San Juan, to commemorate the 52nd anniversary of Basil Davis’s death. – Tyrell Gittens

While some people may be familiar with international civil rights figures like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, the National Joint Action Committee (NJAC) wants people to learn more about local Black Power Movement figures like Basil Davis.

Widely called the first martyr of the TT Black Power Movement, Davis was shot dead by police during a meeting at Woodford Square in Port of Spain on April 6, 1970.

On Saturday, NJAC held an event at Pamberi Steel Orchestra panyard, San Juan, to commemorate the 52nd anniversary of Davis’s death.

NJAC’s Kwasi Mutema said, “Today, many of our young people in our country would not be able to conceive or believe something like that (Davis’s death) happened in TT.

“They would think that is something you read about coming from places like South Africa…but not sweet Trinidad. But yes, the reality is it happened in sweet Trinidad and it is something we must never forget.”

Saying Davis paid the “ultimate price for so much of the freedoms that we enjoy today,” Mutema said not enough has been done to educate people about Davis’s life and work with the Black Power Movement.

Mutema said there were plans to have larger celebrations in 2020 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Davis’s death but those plans were cancelled owing to covid19.

NJAC’s president Embau Moheni said Davis’s death was not in vain given he was part of a movement which only wanted to make the country a better place for all.

Moheni said it isn’t only important for people to know the history of Davis’s death but they should also familiarise themselves with the principles of the Black Power Movement and its fight for equality.

“It is said that history is a light from the past which we can shine on our road to help us find a pathway to the future. So history is important.”

Only nine years old when he died, Davis’s younger sister Ivy Joseph said she continues to be disappointed that historical figures like Christopher Columbus are taught about in schools but students aren’t being taught about Davis.

“From now on, I would like to get my younger nephew and nieces to understand much more about what 1970 did for me, did for them and did for the nation as a whole.

“Many people only see the revolution but they never saw what came out of the revolution that benefited every single one.”

Joseph said Davis was well-loved by his entire family and his death affected their mother the most.

“My mother experienced the wrath of his death because she became sick but we rallied around her and kept her steady.

“That Monday evening (when he died) rocked our family, it really rocked our family. It was a sad Monday for us but we survived.”

To end Saturday’s event, participants went to the San Juan Public Cemetery – which is located next to the panyard –to bury the ashes of Davis’s brother who recently passed away at Davis’s gravesite. The family’s matriarch is also buried at the site.