As the country celebrated 181 years of Emancipation on August 1st, there were those customary messages that highlighting the position of the African community in the country. Whereas negatives such as crime received much attention obvious positives and uplifting deeds did not get the same degree of recognition. There is no gainsaying that the African community has contributed immensely in every field of society such as in the economy, education, politics, sports and culture. The African community embodies the development of the society just as every other group and this must not be lost even as we strive to correct the existing socio-economic and political shortcomings in our society.
Given the aforementioned, it is important to recognise the sporting contribution of the African community to T&T and the wider Caribbean that we take for granted and or do not see as important as areas such as education. Arguably the best examples of African achievement in the sporting landscape of the English-speaking Caribbean is the West Indies cricket team especially the team of the 1980s into the early 1990s lead by firstly Clive Lloyd and then Vivian Richards. They were consistent winning role models who excelled at what they did to the admiration and even envy of the cricketing world no less than the English who introduced the game in the region. Their achievements instilled a great sense of self-confidence and belief not only among cricketers but among politicians, business people and the wider population.
Some of our African athletes who have flown the T&T flag with great pride and distinction whether they have won a medal and or placed regionally and internationally over the years are:
*Claude Noel first world champion, Mexican Rodolfo Gonzalez to win the WBA World Lightweight title,1981
*Leslie Stewart won the WBA World Light Heavyweight title in 1987 defeating Marvin 'pops' Johnson
*Giselle Salandy multiple World champion- WBA, WBC and WIBA middleweight titles
*Micheal Alexander- Bronze medalist Light Welterweight, Pan American Games 2019; multiple medalists at Pan American, CAC and Commonwealth Games.
*Body Building- Darem Charles, Michael Hercules
*Cricket- Brian Lara world record holder for the highest first-class score (501 not out) and highest Test score (400 not out). Sir Learie Constantine, Bernard Julien, Ian Bishop, Anthony Gray, Ann Browne-John, Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo, Daren Bravo, Stephanie Powers
*Cycling - Nicholas Paul- Sprint Champion Pan American Games, 2019; Keron Bramble, Njisane Phillip and Nicholas Paul- gold medalists, Team Sprint, Pan American Games 2019; Njisane Phillip- silver medalist Sprint, Pan American Games, Lima, Peru 2019; Maxwell Cheeseman; Hylton “Barracuda” Mitchell; Roger Smart.
Distance Running- Lynette 'Granny” Luces; Toya Nero; Michael Alexander; Curtis Cox; Paul Voisin.
*Football- Kennya Cordner; Dwight Yorke won several championships in England and Europe with Manchester United; Alvin Corneal; Sedley Joseph; Lincoln Phillips; Everald “Gally” Cummings; David Nahkid, Russell Latapy, and Shaka Hislop; 'Strike Squad' 1989; 'Soca Warriors' 2006
*Hockey- Kwandwane Browne
*Netball- 1979 World Cup-winning team- Ingrid Blackman; Angela Burke-Brown; Peggy Castanada; Heather Charleau; Cyrenia Charles; Marcia Dimsoy; Jennifer Nurse; Sherril Peters; Eugenia Theodosia 'Jean” Pierre; Veryl Precsod; Althea Thomas-Luces; and Jennifer Williams.
o*Swimming- Shantol Ince; Siobhan Cropper; Cerian Gibbs;
*Table Tennis- Verna Edwards; Aleena Edwards; Lionel Darcueil Seamus Clarke, Dexter St. Louis
*Tennis- Lystra Lewis; Beverly Corbie; Ivor Grazette,
*Track and Field-
*Hasley Crawford gold medal 100 metres Montreal Olympics 1976
*Keshorn Walcott gold medal javelin London Olympics 2012, Pan American Games, Toronto 2015
*Jehue Gordon gold medal 400 metres hurdle IAAF World Championship in Moscow, Russia in 2014
*Cleopatra Borel gold shot putt Pan American Games Toronto 2015
*Jarrin Solomon, Renny Quow, Machel Cedenio and Lalonde Gordon 4x400 gold Pan American Games, Toronto 2015
*Kelly-Ann Baptiste, Michelle-Lee Ahye, Reyare Thomas and Semoy Hackett 4x100 bronze, 1AAF World Championship, Beijing, China, 2015
*Khalifa St. Fort, silver 100m IAAF World Junior Championship, Cali Colombia, 2015
*Rondell Sorrillo, Keston Bledman, Emmanuel Callender, Dan-Neil Telesford, Wendell Mottley, Ato Boldon, Richard Thompson Daryl Brown, Marc Burns, Richard Thompson, Mikel Thomas, and Kamria Durant
*Michelle- Lee Ahye- Gold Medalist 100 metres- Commonwealth Games 2018- Gold Coast, Australia.
*Deon Lendore; Jereem Richards; Asa Guevara and Machel Cedeno- 4X400 Gold Medal- World Relay Championship, Yokohama, Japan, 2019.
Weightlifting- Rodney Wilkes was the country's first medalist at the Olympics winning the silver medal in the featherweight category at the 1948 London Games. At the 1952 Helsinki Games, he won bronze at the same event.
It is quite evident from the selected few athletes and sporting disciplines that over the years the Afro-Trinbagonian community-produced both females and males who have excelled so much to the pleasure and celebrations of the diverse population of T&T. There is no question that sport will continue to be an avenue for all of our people in T&T to demonstrate their achievements which will redound to the benefit of this beautiful twin-island Republic.
I am sure you can recall a name or two yourself to help emphasise my point within the contest of this column.
"I don't feel it is necessary to know exactly what I am. The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning." Michel Foucault.