October 2017

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Usually, when we think of lawyers, not so positive associations come to mind. We at the Faculty of Law want to change that. The Faculty of Law, St Augustine wants to create, not only graduates with excellent lawyering, technical skills, but more importantly, wonderful citizens. As Dean, it has been one of my most important goals and a burning passion to inculcate in our charges a sense of community, a vision of law as a social engineer and a multidisciplinary instrument of progress for the improvement of society. We must promote lawyers who will be active proponents of positive change with a view to people-centred justice.

From its inception, the Faculty of Law, St. Augustine has shaped its offerings of legal education, scholarship and outreach to reflect these values. We have been promoting a conscious activism, as part of the Faculty’s image and in our students. This has been demonstrated by our involvement with human rights projects, work with non-governmental organizations and other public education programmes, over the years.

The Faculty of Law is also focussed on broadening access to legal education, long considered a privileged education, while at the same time, making certain that the products of such education represent the core tenets of law, that is, justice and progress, in sustainable ways. Lawyers should come from all walks of life, to better serve the society.

The Makandal Daaga Scholarship in Law was created to fulfil these objectives. Persons with a proven track record of community service, or activism, who would not normally have the opportunity to pursue The UWI law degree, are the target applicants. Such advocacy includes work on issues of justice, equality, or democracy, whether in an NGO, governmental, regional capacity or in an individual capacity. Candidates are selected after satisfying a select committee on interview that he or she will use the once in a lifetime opportunity to add value to the society, for the public good, to uplift, inspire and elevate.

It is named in honour of someone, who, although not a lawyer, embodied that very passion for social justice and egalité that we wish to envelop our law graduates with.

The work of late social activist Makandal Daaga, the “Chief Servant” of the people, who spearheaded the Black Power Movement, focused on the central tenets of law: equality, social justice and fairness. His advocacy made substantial impacts on areas that are of particular relevance to law and legal policy. Makandal Daaga (born Geddes Granger) was one of Trinidad and Tobago’s most distinguished and inspiring sons. He was a revolutionary leader best known for his leadership of the transformational Black Power Movement in the 1970s, striving to create a nation and region that elevated the place of persons of African and non-white heritage. The struggle that Mr. Daaga and his comrades engaged in challenged the status quo to create a more egalitarian and just society, including the goal of economic justice. Mr. Daaga and what his lifework represents, exemplify what the Faculty of Law believes those who shape and implement the law should be. His advocacy, and that of the several organisations he instituted, made significant impacts on areas that are of particular relevance to law and legal policy. These include race relations, non-discrimination and equality, labour relations and employment practices, equity in property ownership and commercial arrangements, democratic governance and constitutional reform, gender empowerment, youth development and the protection of our cultural heritage.

Mr. Daaga did not only lobby for change. He succeeded in bringing about important, tangible reforms, not least in relation to the employment opportunities for persons of African and East Indian descent in Trinidad and Tobago, which itself influenced other countries. His work also helped to reshape the commercial infrastructure of the country in terms of the legal ownership and control of capital, which previously had been dominated by external and ‘white’ interests. This notion of concrete progress is an important indicator for the Scholarship.

Our inaugural Makandal Daaga Scholar, Kareem Marcelle, is a young man from Sea Lots, Port of Spain with a determination, not just to succeed in his own life despite the odds, but to elevate his community. He exemplifies the raison d’être of this Scholarship and the life and work of Makandal Daaga. His story is inspiring to us and we hope to our students and stakeholders. We are ready to do all that we can to help him succeed, and in so doing, create a better country and region.