Self Empowerment Learning Fraternity® (SELF) is a nonprofit fraternity whose members share their knowledge and experiences in order to foster self-awareness and personal growth. We believe that the answer to the world’s problems lies in ordinary people taking responsibility for themselves. More about us.
Our Websites present information on various historical, political, and scientific topics to reveal what has been lost, hidden, misunderstood, or distorted. We know that this promotes personal and global understanding and development. Only through a common understanding of our humanity, together with a committment to increasing personal integrity, can our personal and global conflicts be resolved.
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There are those who do it just for the show. And there are those who do it for real. There are those who tell you what they think you want to hear. And there are those respect you enough to always speak the truth.
There are those who merely go through the motions. And there are those who sincerely seek to create real and lasting value.
You can get by for a while just living on the surface of life, feeding on those things that are fleeting and meaningless. There will come a time, though, when you'll need and want something deeper, something with real nourishment.
And then you'll wonder why you ever wasted your time with all those shallow, insignificant things. The sooner you live for real, true to who you are, the better life will be. -- Ralph Marston
SELF developed from a study group founded by Amon Hotep in the island of Trinidad and Tobago.
In an effort to address the absence of worldly discussions and African History in our school curriculum and local media, we made appeals through the local media for space for a proper presentation of World History.
(Read: Why ‘Dialogue’ was taken off the Radio)
The absence of this wider body of information is the reason most prejudices remain and affect development in our country, and by extension the world at large. We are developing alternative media outlets for more informed non-commercial expressions while we appeal for our state media to allow more diverse cultural expressions.
We cannot learn from our differences if our differences are not allowed public exposure.
In an era where media is largely seen as tools for commercial enterprises and are most times manipulated by business conglomerates and politicians, the role of media owned and controlled by ordinary people becomes critical to a free, open, and informed society.
Freedom of cultural expression is a human right.
We are funded exclusively by our members and supporters - no corporate money. We have stated our values, aims and objectives so there are no hidden agendas. We operate with a small staff and a network of volunteers.
by A. Hotep - 1996
Some people called it racist; Louis Lee Sing said it would bring the nation to another Bosnia and Sarajevo; Brenda De Silva said the nation was not ready for this kind of information; Dale Enoch said he would not accept it because most people won’t; members of the Indian community said it was anti-Indian propaganda; some Africans and other mixed-race persons said it was against their religion; the politicians refused to defend our rights, and we were denied adequate space in the mainstream media to air our views.
What was so shocking that inflamed the sensibilities of so many people in Trinidad and Tobago?
It started like this.
In 1995 the Prime Minister Basdeo Panday announced that he was on a drive for national unity. I did not believe him but I saw this as the opportunity to engage the nation on the issues of our commonalities and differences. I had reached the end of what was a lifelong research, and as the issue of racism and Indian alienation were being discussed, I proceeded to engage the nation. Many persons in the Indian community were complaining about being alienated from the society. Most of the claims were not true; they were simply ignorant of our history. The poor responses they got also showed the ignorance of the wider society.
I explained to senior representatives in the media and government officials that people’s general ignorance of World History, especially African History, is the reason they remain so hostile towards each other. I further explained that this hostility is as a result of not knowing that they all share a common Black African ancestry. They were equally ignorant of the reason for our differences. I told them that people were unaware of how their various races and belief systems either evolved from our common ancestry or were a distortion of historical facts.
I explained that if in the annals of anyone’s history there is no reference to indigenous African/Black people then there are distortions in the documentation of that history.
With the help of others who were aware of some of these facts, we were explaining these processes during call-in sessions on radio talk-shows from as early as 1995.
We went through the paces of how humans evolved and explained how some humans evolved a white complexion due to the depletion in melanin caused by climatic conditions and genetic mutations to suit the regions their ancestors settled.
Realizing that the call-in segments were not adequate to address these subjects in detail, we appealed for space on the state media to present this lifelong research.
We explained that although this country (Trinidad and Tobago) was not plagued with ‘religious’ and racial violence, the politics of the nation was being adversely affected by racial and religious misunderstandings/bigotries. Ignorance fueled insecurities, and fostered distrust among the different races. This hindered people’s ability to collectively support what was right, and condemn what was wrong solely on merit or lack thereof.
At every turn we were able to prove our case to the annoyance of many who accused us of “feeling we knew everything”. This was an understandable reaction from people who never examined their belief systems together with the issues surrounding race and nationality.
We continued to question the absence of African programs on the state media until one day, Mr. Louis Lee Sing, the then CEO of the state media, responded. He said, in short, that the state media allocated space for Indian programs because these programs were being sponsored and if Africans programs could be sponsored they had no problem in carrying them.
I did not believe him, but what he said would have been difficult to disprove so we had to put his explanation to the test.
Mr. Louis Lee Sing subsequently left the state media and became part owner of another private radio station, Power 102FM. About a year later when I questioned him, live on air, about the absence of African programs on that station, he replied that such programs would bring this country to another Bosnia and Sarajevo. (This spoke volumes about his earlier response)
In 1996 I contacted several interested persons, and we decided that the way forward was for us to finance these programs because if we were to wait on commercial sponsors, we would never get these programs on the air. The first step had to be ours.
We collected several thousand dollars and approached the state media, and after haggling over some details we agreed to go with the program. We agreed on the name ‘Dialogue’ for the program.
Brenda De Silva, the then Programs Director of the state media, told us that they must have one of their persons host the show, and we should submit our material in advance for them to check. We informed her that the format was ‘Dialogue’ (discussions), which would remain interactive, and the information would relate to the questions asked at the moment. I also told her that we had no problem presenting all the materials we used for our research, before or during the program, and they were free to check and question anything.
We were eventually allowed on the air.
We engaged the public with the information we felt most people should know about African history.
We observed that Gail Seegobin the station’s host, was cheating us out of our time by stopping the program to play silly songs, although we were paying for full airtime. She was also stopping the program before the allotted time and we pointed this out to her on several occasions.
Coming to the end of the first week, Hansley Ajodha a popular Indian presenter on the Television’s morning show, told me that there were some Indian businessmen who wanted to sponsor the program. I smiled and said, “we’ll see.”
I immediately remembered how some Jews operated in the U.S. by sponsoring certain prominent African organizations, and then indirectly manipulating how the organizations operated. They were not supposed to address the role of the Jews in the African slave trade.
We invited an Indian accountant and historian to discuss the ancient Blacks of India for the following program. He quoted from several books to show that Blacks were very ancient inhabitants of India, and that the popular belief in some Indian quarters about Whites being the original people of India, was false.
Needless to say we did not hear from the Indian sponsors after that program.
After that segment the host, Gail Seegobin, told us the station was receiving complaints about the program. I told her that was expected as people are not familiar with their history but we are addressing matters of right and wrong, and not necessarily the feelings of some people who wish the truth remain hidden.
One caller asked why don’t we get someone from a respected university to come on the show to corroborate what we were explaining about human evolution and African history. On the following show we had Dr Yosef ben-Jochannan. If you are not familiar with Dr Yosef ben-Jochannan, check our book list or use any search engine to learn about him.
I will never forget that day.
I escorted Dr. Jochannan to the studio, and introduced him to Gail Seegobin who asked for his credentials. Well, I smiled as he gave her the longest list of academic credentials I ever heard in my life. She eventually told him to stop before he was finished. That was one of the most exciting programs we had as Dr Jochannan delved into the history in response to callers. He jokingly told one apparently angry Indian caller that if Indians wanted to be racial we would have to take back our culture from them.
After that program I received a call from a businessman who said that he called the station to financially support the show but was told that he should save his money for another show, and that all good things must come to an end some time. I asked him whom he spoke with, and he said the station’s host, Gail Seegobin.
I immediately called the station and asked for a meeting with the manager to enquire about what I was told. Another African businessman attended the meeting, and he promptly offered to pay the thirty-six thousand dollars to keep the program on the air for a full year. The manager refused after telling us that they were receiving numerous complaints about the program. I told her that people complain about many programs on the radio but the station does not remove them. She said that the people were not ready for this type of information, to which I replied, “They will be ready only when they get it.” When we enquired about what the caller was told, Gail said that he might have misunderstood her. Anyhow the gentleman stuck to his story, and we believed him.
The radio station refused our money and the program was stopped after the tenth segment.
We returned to calling in regularly on segments on other talk-shows, and alerted the listeners to what transpired. Several callers said when they called the station and enquired about the absence of Dialogue, they were told it was stopped because of a lack of funds. They were shocked when we informed them that the station refused our money, and the whole lack of funds story was a lie.
After many callers aired their disapproval of this blatant disrespect, the hosts on the state media started cutting callers off from giving contributions once they mentioned the removal of ‘Dialogue’ from the airwaves.
During a meeting with Morgan Job, who was one of I.C.N.'s (state media) board members, he told us that he wanted nothing to do with educating Africans. We emphasized that our program was not only about Africans but education for everyone about our culture and history.
We later met with a new C.E.O. who said the problem was that they were changing the format of the stations, and probably we could use another station. I told him it was strange that no one told us that before, however, seeing that it was they who terminated our program they should waiver the cost of the first four segments on the other station while they try to get sponsors. I told him that if they were unsuccessful that we would pay. We also agreed that they would advertise the program before its return on the new frequency.
They did not advertise the program as agreed thereby making it difficult for the public to know of the change, but we proceeded nonetheless. We knew the word would spread about our new location once we were on the air, as the program had attracted a wide audience.
The station was unable to provide their host, as they demanded on two occasions, causing the program to start late. On the fourth week at the end of the program I was summoned to a meeting.
Mr. Clement, the advertising manager, said the four segments were up so as we discussed I was to pay for future programs. I told Mr. Clement that we were ready to honor our part of the agreement, then I reminded him that by our agreement we were to pay after four segments only if they (the advertising department in the state media) were unable to find sponsors.
He called several persons into the meeting, and after they settled I restated the facts and pointed to our written agreement. Then I asked if they were aware of our agreement. They said what I explained was correct.
I asked Mr. Clement to give us a list of the companies they approached for sponsorship so that we would not have to revisit those companies.
The room went quiet for what seemed like hours as I took out my pen and held my head low awaiting a response. I wanted to take note of these companies. At every glance they were looking at each other, then Mr. Clement broke the silence. He said they did not have the time to look for sponsors and anyhow the season was bad. I told him that they did not honor their part of the agreement so asking us to pay is not up for consideration at this time.
We left the meeting after reminding them that we were not paying until they honored their part of the agreement. They never honored their part so the program remained off the air.
The absence of African programs has less to do with financing, and is more about the attitude of those is the media, and other senior positions in the country. Our case shows the colonial attitudes of those in senior positions in Trinidad and Tobago who consider anything African to be backward. Removing children from schools because they have braided hair is an extension of this colonial mindset.
We felt that we had successfully proven this important point.
In Trinidad and Tobago the mainstream media is predominantly American oriented. They all carry Indian programs, and there are several Indian owned radio stations that carry strictly Indian programs. The state media allocated an entire radio station for Indian programs but no station to address wider world opinions, African history, and other cultural expressions.
Appearing as a guest on another radio station Power 102FM, I highlighted the need for more radio and television programs to address the various cultures in Trinidad and Tobago. After the show I continued the discussion with the host, Dale Enoch, who was the head of the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago (MATT). I explained to him that most people really do not understand that we all share a common African ancestry, and if they knew these facts their attitudes will have to change. He said in a very angry tone that he would never accept that because people will never accept it. He angrily walked away.
I stood there for about five minutes stunned as I pondered the magnitude of the problem. If a leading presenter, one who is highly considered in the media, could make such a silly statement then how is it possible to reason with him? Over time it became evident that his response was reflective of attitudes in all other media houses.
That is the attitude that prevails while members of the public on all sides complain of racial voting, and racial discrimination.
Many journalists and other high profile individuals privately agree with all that we have stated on this issue but they were unwilling to publicly support our efforts. You certainly would not find such articles in the archives of the daily newspapers.
We are continuing our work privately with individuals, and within our school while ever so often reminding the nation of this grave neglect.