As T&T gears up for its 50th Independence celebrations, author Nasser Khan has decided to mark the milestone with a book—Profiles Heroes, Pioneers and Role Models of Trinidad and Tobago. It was launched at Queen’s Hall, Port-of-Spain, recently. Among the local celebrities dead and alive gracing the history book are household names like Olympic medalist Hasely Crawford and the late beloved television personality, Allyson Hennessy. They are joined by masman Cito Velasquez and politician Kamaluddin Mohammed. The paperback features profiles on luminaries including WD Inniss, CLR James, Rudranath Capildeo, VS Naipaul, Lloyd Best and William Demas. There are profiles on politicians like Patrick Manning and Basdeo Panday. The vignettes discuss their contributions and their hobbies.
Inspiring our children
Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh lauded the book for its timely intervention in getting children to develop a love for reading. Gopeesingh said: “The book is presented in a format that makes reading and comprehension easier and more attractive for its target audience, the school children of our nation. It comes with the aim of inspiring our children to read, to reclaim reading as a hobby and an enjoyable pastime which is fast becoming, admittedly it would seem, lost on the children of today’s Internet and new media world, with a sad consequence being an increase in illiteracy.” Gopeesingh said that in encouraging our children to read more, the book also engenders a very positive appreciation for our country’s past heroes and pioneers in all fields—from agriculture, business, community and social work, culture and the arts, economics, education, environment, technology, sports and trade unionism, which will ensure our children have a keen appreciation for history.
Among the outstanding citizens featured are the late first prime minister Dr Eric Williams, beauty queen Janelle Penny Commissiong and Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. Gopeesingh noted it was important to pay homage to these citizens who have contributed to “making T&T the great democracy it is today.” He paid kudos to Khan for undertaking to document the contributions of these citizens’ lives and contributions for posterity. Gopeesingh said: “It would have taken tremendous foresight, diligent research and, indeed, a deep sense of patriotism and a desire for a country’s betterment, to have dedicated oneself to such a task.” In his remarks, Khan said he felt compelled to produce a magnum corpus (great work) after viewing an interview in which calypsonian David Rudder lamented that young and old people were coming to him and asking him, “whose voice it was at the beginning of that calypso (3 Colours).” It was Dr Williams who famously said: “Massa day done,” and reminded nationals that “there is only one mother—Mother Trinidad, and a mother cannot discriminate against her children.” He was also inspired by journalist Vaneisa Baksh, who noted there was no “one stop, reference, user-friendly, easy-to-read book for young people.”
He enlisted the aid of First Citizens’ Dexter Charles and Larry Nath, acting group chief executive officer. Nath said the banking institution remained committed to encouraging reading among the youth, and generating a keen interest of history and culture. He also felt the book would tackle illiteracy. Citing statistics on youth published by the World Bank, Nath said: “Youth literacy rate in T&T was 99.55 in 2009. That is to say, 99.55 per cent of people between 15 to 24 can, with understanding, read and write a short simple statement on their everyday life.” He noted the challenge was weaning youth from their preoccupation with modern technological advancements, to make reading a priority. He reiterated Gopeesingh’s statements that parents, teachers and mentors had a mandate to reintroduce children to the importance of reading and to develop a passion for it.
About Dr Eric Eustace Williams
He was the son of Elisa and Henry Williams. He was educated at Tranquillity Boys’ Government School, Queen’s Royal College and Oxford University, England. At the high school level he played both football and cricket for the college, and won the Island Scholarship to Oxford University, excelling in Spanish, French and Latin. He was a teacher at QRC for a short while before heading off to England to attend Oxford University, where he placed first in history and received his BA and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD degrees). He became a well-known lecturer at Howard University, United States. In September of 1956, the PNM won the national elections and he became the chief minister of T&T from 1956 to 1959, first premier from 1959 to 1962, and first prime minister from 1962 to 1981. He has often been dubbed the “Father of the Nation.” He died on March 29, 1981 while he was still prime minister. There are many calypsoes that featured Dr Williams such as Mighty Sparrow’s Federation and Cypher’s Last Election. Among the accolades bestowed upon him are a collection of material at the West Indiana and Special Collections Division at the St Augustine Campus of the UWI. The eponymous Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Memorial Lecture, UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register and Centenary Stamps collection were done in his honour. He was also awarded the Trinity Cross, posthumously in 2002.
About the author
Students can also learn about the author, Nasser Khan, who grew up in Success Village, Laventille, and attended St Joseph’s TML Primary School and St Mary’s College. He writes for the daily newspapers, the annual Ins and Outs of Trinidad and Tobago and edits and writes for the Queen’s Park Cricket Club. He dedicated the book to his wife Ramona and daughters Aleesha and Sheena.