With the poise of a Cazabon Martiniquais creole, Ms. Davis sold chillibibi and chennette in the soft shadow of a Samaan tree outside the gates of a primary school in Barataria. Basil Davis was her son. He was a pupil at the school. It was a time when the ‘Black-Market’ economy thrived with sales of foreign exchange and everything else conceivable under the orange sun. Basil wrote the Common Entrance but was not offered a place to continue his schooling. Like countless children of that period, he sensed the inhumanity of a faceless monarch barring him from progression into a secondary school of his choice. His powerless mother pleaded with Mr. Hollis Liverpool, who was Basil’s teacher, to prepare her son to write the admissions test to a private secondary school. Hollis was already preparing Basil to write the School Leaving Certificate.
The young Basil could barely grasp the economics of Lloyd Best which was sold as penny catechisms of useful knowledge for 25 cents everywhere. He could not fathom the protestations of Geddes Granger to the authority of Dr. Eric Williams. But he understood poverty. He understood unemployment. He understood that he was caught in a dead-end. He reasoned that the cul-de-sac of no job prospects and no opportunity to go to school was a misery. Basil wrote the entrance test, but as he tarried for the results in a tangle of sentiments, he decided on the 6 April 1970 to journey to Port of Spain to garner whatever Geddes Granger had on offer at Woodford Square. His mother never saw him alive again.
What followed- changed Trinidad. Winston Suite and several others were ‘Blacklisted’. They were the new ‘Black sheep’- measured as disreputable persons. Outcasts. Suite was imprisoned in due course. He wrote his university engineering examinations from a tiny stone cell on Nelson Island. A student in his class would smuggle the lecture notes to him into his prison cell. In recent times, Winston and I visited his cell. I could not see how such a towering man could fit inside such a cramped space. But his mind was larger than the cage they used to ensnare his body. His brilliance could not be contained. Education has the power to impact lives. Basil Davis and Winston Suite are two signposts in the dark. Pointing to the power of education to transform the prospects of poor and marginalised children if we hope to ever build a meritocratic society rich with active citizenship.
The process of ‘Blacklisting’ first occurred during the mass enslavement of Africans to work in European colonies. ‘Blacklists’ were catalogues of suspicious persons who were suggestive of disgrace, censure and punishment. ‘Blacklisting’ remains a clause in the social contract and is coded and hardwired into the structure of society. Scott Hanselman, a programmer at Microsoft, has penned a blog post on renaming the ‘master’ branch in code repositories with alternatives. This censoring of the code beneath the words on our screens emanates from a publication of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), an open standards association, that promotes voluntary internet standards.
Arvind Krishna, IBM’s CEO, has decided in the wake of mass anti-police protests sweeping the planet, that the company will no longer offer general purpose facial recognition analysis software. He announced that the company may no longer develop nor research such technology. IBM now opposes and will not condone the use of facial recognition technology for mass surveillance, racial profiling, violations of basic human rights and freedoms, or any purpose which is not consistent with the values and principles of trust and transparency. Krishna believes that now is the time to open a national dialogue on whether and how facial recognition technology should be employed by law enforcement agencies.
The black-white polarity explicit in contemporary binary classifications is traceable to the epistemological dualism of Plato, Aristotle and Descartes. It is a way of knowing associated with the Enlightenment and the subsequent scientific revolution and the industrial revolution at the heart of the transatlantic slave trade. This foundational ontological dualism accepted in Western cultures creates the binary categories of good and evil, the sacred and the profane and the civilized and the barbarian.
Enhancing connectivity and promoting peace through trade, education and development is the principal goal of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The New Silk Routes are bridges that will shatter social codes and code repositories that scaffold racism. Buddhism from India blossomed in China. Leibniz and Voltaire appreciated Confucianism. But this requires joining forces to drive new approaches to fundamental challenges in education.
On 6th June 2020, a freight train pulling eighty-two containers trudged out of Hefei heading for Tiburg. The iron horse will take fifteen days to reach Tiburg. The China-Europe freight train service has twenty routes linking Hefei to eight economies including Germany, Poland, Finland and Russia. Steel wheels on the Silk Roads will spur new ideas and boost the ﬂow of knowledge. They will cultivate talent to buttress the efforts of participating countries toward policy coordination, connectivity of infrastructure, unimpeded trade, ﬁnancial integration and a vision for a new ecology of schooling and scholarship.