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Makandal Daaga

About NJAC > Leadership


No leader has affected the course of history in Trinidad & Tobago and the Caribbean as has Makandal Daaga (born Geddes Granger). His contribution to the growth of this region is incalculable.

Makandal Daaga was born and still lives in Laventille, unlike many of his contemporaries, who have acted out the words of Nobel Prize Laureate Derek Walcott, when he said “ to ascend from here was to go down”.

Both his parents made memorable contributions to national life. His mother, a simple housewife, nurtured in her home, several persons who were not members of her family but she encouraged them to become some of the more prominent persons in national life.

His father, Phillip Granger, a former World War I soldier and a barber, with a shop on Charlotte Street was the mentor of many of the Spiritual Baptist and Orisha leaders of the mid twentieth century. He baptised , advised and guided nearly all of them.

It was Philip Granger who chaired the meeting at which Elton George Griffith was chosen as Archbishop of the National Evangelical Spiritual Baptist Faith. Griffith eventually led the Shouter Baptists to their liberation from the ban imposed on them by the British.

Daaga’s schoolmates at Belmont Intermediate (now Belmont Secondary) and at St Mary’s College recognized in him extraordinary leadership, both in the classroom and on the sports field. He has always been a man of ideas, with a keen sense of organisation, an enterprising spirit and very people oriented.

This was reflected in a major development in Daaga’s and the nation’s life when around Independence 1962, he formed an organization called PEGASUS. This organization which is still spoken of in the most glowing terms, attracted some of the most prominent and influential persons of the day.

There were chapters in every part of the country. Roy Mitchell, a former leader of Pegasus said, “ PEGASUS as not a club, it was not just an organization, Pegasus was an inspiration, a movement a spirit from which great things would have been expected from Trinidad and Tobago”

PEGASUS was the first body to give National Awards. It took the lead in honouring our citizens long before any government National Awards were introduced. It also took the lead in honouring National Heroes, the first two being Arthur H. Mc Shine who was responsible for the Trinidad Co operative Bank (the Penny Bank) and Captain Arthur Andrew Cipriani.

Five years after founding PEGASUS, Makandal entered the University of the West Indies, St Augustine, and became President of the Guild of Undergraduates. He brought quite a number of Changes to the University, in particular, he made it very clear that the student was the University and therefore had a right and a responsibility to sit on all Boards of the University, with the exception of the examination boards.

With an equal concern for national development, Makandal inspired the university toward a hitherto unseen type of student activism that ranged from teaching voluntarily in the more depressed areas to providing assistance in solving all types of communal problems.

While at the University, Makandal formed the National Joint Action Committee, in direct response to the discrimination against Caribbean students at Sir George Williams University (now Concordia), in Montreal Canada.

NJAC mobilized the country for one whole year before the 56 days of demonstrations from February 26th 1970 to April 21st 1970. Makandal Daaga became a prime target for the establishment. He was imprisoned on four different occasions. Between 1970 and 1973 he spent more time in prison that he had spent in freedom. There were more than seven attempts on his life, but this has not deterred him from his path.

Makandal has made enormous efforts and in the simplest terms to clarify the ideology, the motivation and the strength of the party. On 26th November 1972, at a mass rally at Palms Club, San Fernando, Makandal declared that the ideology of the National Joint Action Committee “is nothing more than the demands of the people”.

He continued, “ NJAC’s motivation is nothing more than our love for the people. And our strength is nothing more than the interaction between our love for the people and the people’s love for their vanguard”.

In Makandal’s estimation leadership is not about being self-righteously and arrogantly lording power or authority over the people. To him therefore, humility must be one of the Cardinal virtues of leadership. This he has constantly practiced.

His concept of leadership is given in the title, Chief Servant which he has chosen and which was endorsed by the party.

The esteem in which Makandal Daaga is held extends beyond Trinidad & Tobago. In 1974 he was made leader of the Caribbean Steering Committee for the 6th Pan African Conference that was held in Tanzania. This umbrella organization had included the leadership of most, if not all progressive political organizations in the Caribbean, persons like Raymond Charlotte of Cayenne, Tim Hector of Antigua, Bobby Clarke of Barbados, Eusi Kwayana of Guyana, Maurice Bishop of Grenada, and Makandal Daaga of Trinidad & Tobago.

As before, Makandal Daaga paid a heavy price for his leadership. At one time he was banned from every Caribbean territory except, Guyana. One occasion his wife, Mrs. Liseli Daaga was refused entry into St. Vincent because; she was the wife of Makandal Daaga. Makandal Daaga is still effectively banned from entering the United States of America.

Makandal Daaga has soldiered on, however. In 1987 the African Methodist Episcopal Church honoured him during the Church’s 200th Anniversary celebrations.In that year as well the African Methodists Episcopal Church’s University, Morris Brown College, Atlanta offered him an honorary doctorate for his outstanding contribution to the development of consciousness of his people, but since he was banned from the United states, he was unable to accept it as he would have liked.

Within recent times several local organizations have honoured him and he has been immortalised by a number of calypsonians. Two of them are noted here: There are two calypsos that paint a picture of the regard in which Makandal Daaga is truly regarded. One calypso comes from Chalkdust and there is a verse which states:
The Job you now hold though you have no GCE,
You could now walk tall though you didn’t go to CIC
You ranking high in the police or army
Before 1970 it just couldn’t be
Mister Supervisor
Foreman or manager
You on top the ladder
Sister say thanks to Granger
Sister Say thanks to Daaga

The other Calypso written by a much younger bard, Kurt Allen and sung by Roger George, said in the Chorus
Don’t wait, don’t wait till he gone
Right now lets put it on
Please don’t treat we Daaga
Like what they did to Butler
Don’t wait till he gone
Right now put the Chief crown on

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