The Black Lives Matter Movement effect in the Caribbean – As Seen Online. ( Trinidad) PT 2

Trinidad and Tobago have had an unfortunate reputation of being the most racist Anglophone Caribbean nation. I had heard and read about it over the years as I traveled there on business many times. But it wasn’t until I spent the last four months of my year-long sabbatical there in 2019 that I discovered its complicated layers and uncomfortable racial history.

I remember having a conversation with my Trinidadian friends where I was informed about the racial ranking there.

  1. The Trinidadian whites and Syrians a.k.a the 1%
  2. The Indians
  3. The Dougla people ( Mixed) and Blacks

And they are rabid and public about maintaining these rankings as it reflects economic and political power and status, deeply coveted in the twin-island republic. The deep racial divisions are glaring in media ownership, real estate, and business ownership.

I could give you more background to add further context for the country’s BlackLiveMatter effect, but I will let the screenshots below that I gathered from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram confrontations speak instead.

Dianne Spills Her Own Tea

Let’s begin with Dianne’s Tea Shop, owned by Dianne Hunt. 

On Blackout Tuesday, Trinidadians online became outraged when Dianne’s Tea Shop posted a picture of a cake with the words “All Lives Matter” written in chocolate. Clearly, this is not in alignment with the goal of Blackout Tuesday, which was started by two black women working in the American music industry. They asked the music industry, which they note “has profited predominantly from Black art”, to put its activities on hold for a day on Tuesday, June 2 with its campaign

Using the hashtag #theshowmustbepaused, they began making their case by posting an image to Instagram of a black background and white text asking the music industry to pause and reflect on the ways it disenfranchises black employees.

The movement soon took off: as the week began, posts showing simple black squares quickly proliferated across social media. The hashtags varied, from the original #theshowmustbepaused to #blacklivesmatter and #blackouttuesday.

But Dianne’s Teashop located on Long Circular Road in the posh neighborhood of Maraval posted that Instagram image below and on the left. And, of course, she was skewered online. But instead of researching what she had done wrong and apologise quickly – she kept talking and digging a deeper hole for herself, see the image on the right. *smh*

Dianne Hunt, the owner of Dianne’s Tea Shop eventually apologised for the “All Lives Matter” post, saying she had not known about the negative connotation of the phrase. Insert my eye roll here. She said,  “I would like to apologise for my unawareness that ‘all lives matter’ was contradictory to Black Lives Matter,” Hunt told a local Trinidadian Newspaper. 

Her blindspot could be further explained by these two Facebook comments which give a bit of history of her values and mindset. One comment is was by Kei Miller, the globally acclaimed Jamaica writer. The other is by an entrepreneur at  TriniChow – a Trinidadian brand that is a Food lover’s guide to restaurants, food finds, events/news and food artisans.

 

Still, more karma has come knocking as the reward for Dianne’s mindless performative activism. A planned boycott has been kicked off on Change.org. Yes, that is her below in that picture. Let’s see if this online petition manifests into a real-life boycott.

Now let’s move to Mr. Aboud

Starlite Pharmacy Chain Owner Gets a Taste of His Own Medicine

Gerald Aboud is the owner of Starlite Pharmacy Group. He made some statements on the Black Lives Matter movement on his Facebook page, on June 2, that was considered by some to be racist. There it is below. Take a deep breath and have a read.

 

              Gerald Aboud

The Syrian-Trinidadian businessman further shared several posts stating that it is a person’s right to say “all lives matter”. He went on to urge the public to make sure and march for Venezuelans “starving in Venezuela” and Syrians “suffering all over the world”. And like Dianne Hunt, Aboud seems to have a history of revealing his values and mindset. As in 2018, Aboud was forced to issue a public apology for a social media post in which he described Indian Arrival Day and Corpus Christi as “two stupid holidays”. Please refer to my racial ranking guide earlier.

 

The reactions to Abouod were swift. Here are some responses to Aboud’s racist rants on Facebook.

And as would have been expected, he went into victim mode when the heat started to pile high on him. He said “I think I have been unduly attacked. I think they are being excessive. I made an insensitive comment and apologised.”

This was Aboud’s apology. :

Regarding the public outrage that I am a racist, nothing can be farther than the truth. I support all lives and it is in my nature to do so. One should not judge a person by his opinion on a matter or that he sought to defend someone but rather by his actions. My actions over my life have shown only equality and fairness and those who know me will stand by that.”

“Starlite has also been a symbol of that ethos, in our efforts to build our community every step of the way. When the toll is read and the chips are counted you will see that Starlite has done a great deal for communities throughout Trinidad. However, no man is perfect, in my haste to defend a friend my comments were seen as aggravating and racist and for that I am sorry. We stand united in support of #blacklivesmatter.”

*Sigh*

Members of the Trinidadian public have since called for a boycott of his businesses. The Change.org boycott petition already has over 5,000 signatures and growing.

 

And it seems to be making an impact as the local newspapers have reported that Boycott hurts Starlite, staff, salaries cut. In the report, it was said that “The boycott of the Starlite Pharmacy chain is one of the factors that led to the decision to reduce the hours and salaries of staff at the business”  The Starlite Group which has over 150 employees with locations in Maraval, Diego Martin, South Park, and San Fernando and had already been facing an economically challenging time because of the pandemic.

Additionally, in a powerful statement in response to the Starlite Pharmacy owner’s racist comments, Chocolatier Gillian Goddard, maker of Sun eaters chocolate pulled her products from the Pharmacy chain.

She said in a statement on her company’s Instagram page “I’m going to remove the coon/sellout parts of my mentality a little towards liberation and not deliver any more product there. No more. Can I afford to lose one of my larger clients? I will feel it. Can I afford to sell self-respect, integrity, and racial solidarity for a few pieces of silver? You know the answer. Some things have no price,” she said in her post which you can read in full here. Since her post, she has received hundreds of new followers and many offers to carry her chocolates in black-owned stores.

This what happens when you make tough decisions based on your values. The Abundant Universe rewards you and it also affirms that Jesus is indeed Black.

 

Read Pt 1 in this series which covers Jamaica here

In Part 3 to be published on Wednesday, June 24th,  I will detail the status of Caribbean protests and petitions influenced by the BlackLivesMatters Movement.

This post was originally published on this site

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