[Caribbean Literature]

The Caribbean Artists Movement (CAM) and the Trinidad February Revolution of 1970

Kathleen Ho '05, Northwestern University

The Caribbean Artists Movement was born in 1966 with the meeting of John La Rose and Edward Kamau Brathwaite and later Andrew Salkey in London. As West Indians, these men came from Barbados, Trinidad and Jamaica. Drawn together by their literary and political interests, La Rose, Brathwaire and Salkey began the movement with a few guiding principles and goals in mind. First, they wanted to increase the recognition of West Indian art forms within the British society. They also wanted to branch out and create an aesthetic not solely informed by European ideology. Furthermore, they sought to revive this art form in an effort to create a new audience, that is, the contemporary West Indians in London.

The movement made an interesting turn as the founders attempted to form CAM within the Caribbean. The three main points of entrance were through Jamaica, Trinidad and Guyana. CAM languished in Trinidad due to the political and social context of the 1970s. Trinidad was swept up in the New World movement, and the youth were preoccupied with Black Power and youth power ideologies as they applied to the social issues of Trinidad and the West Indian society. All this signified an intense politicization of culture, a barrier that CAM could not overcome.

Activities reached a fevered pitch by February, culminating in the Trinidad February Revolution of 1970. Reports documented student demonstrators clashing with the police and storming a bank and cathedral. The students asserted their political motivations by shouting such slogans as, God is black! The protest was a show of solidarity with the West Indian society in Canada whose members had allegedly rioted at the Sir George Williams University. The students were arrested by Trinidadian policemen the next day, which only incited further protests. Movement groups, particularly the Black Power movement, used this event as a symbol for their frustrations, among which were lack of employment for Trinidadians, the nationalization of the oil and sugar industries, and the governmental marginalization of black people by a white-controlled economy. The turmoil grew and grew with labor union strikes and army mutinies, culminating in the Trinidad governments declaration of a State of Emergency that was in force until November 1970.


Source: Walmsley, Anne. The Carribean Artists Movement 1966-1972. London: New Beacon Books Ltd., 1992.

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