Surviving in Trinidad in the 90's


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Category: Trinidad Society Date: 07 Apr 96

Bishop Gertrude Mundy, a Spiritual Baptist has lived and worked among the poor for over thirty years. Along with thousands of her faith she has also struggled and triumphed against prejudice encountered by Spiritual Baptists as early as 1917 when the religion was banned.


“I was born in Guanapo in Arima in 1938. My mother was 20 when she had me. I was eight months when my father died. I was baptized as a Catholic. My mother worked in Arena in San Raphael and Valencia in the in the coal pits for $1.50 a day, for over ten years between 1940 and the early 50’s.

“When I was 14, my mother took sick. I was in fourth standard. We were poor. I left school and went to the forest in Arena in the coal pits to work as a labourer. We had to tote logs to the coal pit. Then we bagged the coals and took them to trucks which were far off. There were times when we had nothing to eat. I was 16 when I had my only baby.

“In town, I did servant work. I remember working in Queens Park West. You washing, cooking and cleaning and you getting 30-40 dollars a month. They never consider us as people because the madam knew we had nowhere else to go. Today when we see pictures about slavery, we say to each other, “Girl, last night I watch a picture and it make me remember how we was treated.”

“People never care about people of African descent. The Spritual Baptists suffered because we are black. If this faith had white people in it, people in the society would have considered us. Whatever we get is our due.

“I was 24 when I became a Baptist. I was working at the Wharf for 12 dollars a week and living in John John. It was Lent. One night I hear some singing. When I heard the bell, I come out of my house and followed a procession going up the hill in St Marks church. When we reached the church, I started to feel needles in my legs and feel cold cold. Something happened to me. I don’t know what.

 “When I ketch myself, I was kneeling at the corner of Laventille Road and St Marks Road and the first thing I hear is a pastor say, “We have send out the life line and we have caught a fish.” I get frighten. I had on a tight dress and the dress split on two sides from my shaking. When I open my eye, I see they tie up my head. On that day I had a manifestation. I get the power and was baptized in 1962.

“The Baptist faith is a Christian religion which comes from John the Baptist, who was baptized in the river Jordan. People who want to stain the faith say its Obeah, but it is based on the bible.

“Two years later, I was sent to the mourning room. You can’t take people into wilderness as Jesus did for 40 days, so we have the mourning room, where in seclusion, you fast, you travel, you catch the spirit, you gain strength to overcome trials. You lie on the ground in the room but your spirit travels. The bible says the spirit of God comes and makes intercession with your spirit and show you things of God and bring you back.

“In my first travel I was given ten children and a shepherd rod and sent to teach them under a mango tree. That’s how I became a teacher in the church. I met my present husband in the church. I was the youngest person to be ordained in 1965, as a Deaconess by Archbishop Griffith. I have a church in Never Dirty, one in Morinbay road, and one in Chin Chin Kanaham Trace.

“I start doing charitable work. I get thousands of dollars to help the poor, from people who don’t want their names mentioned. I build a home for the needy in Manzanilla and am building a few rooms in Never Dirty, Morvant and I am hoping to get land for a lovely structure I design.

“There are thousands of women out there with eight and nine children and no bread to eat. Single mothers. People don’t have food or place to live, children on the road with nowhere to live, so they buy a piece of board and live in it. They sleep by a friend one night, a next friend another, and sometimes in the street. That hurt me.

“If you was never poor you would never know what poverty is about. I always say God bless Stollmeyer. We used to go on his land in Laventille to get breadfruit and yam and he never lock up a man. He let the poor people eat their fill. Lord bless him.

“Things so hard. The School Feeding programme helps but not much. We need work to help unwed mothers. But don’t blame no government for hunger and poverty, blame sin. A woman tell you she have eight different children for eight different men. She say “if you don’t make a child for the man he will leave you.”

“You may be poor but instead of going with a next man, take some flour and make sugar cake and sell something. You could open a good business with only that. When I tell women that they schoops.

“I speak plain. It’s only in our African race that you have all these bastard children. I believe our people still have a slave mentality. The Africans were always oppressed at work, at home, in their religion and in society, and up to today they oppressed.

“Thank God for Eric Williams because through him black people rise. Dr Williams provide amenities for the African and if the children don’t learn, that not his fault. He helped the poor man educate his children, give him work in banks and position in the police service. He give us good homes. That is why people of African descent love Dr Williams.

“God put Panday as the Prime Minister and we have to accept that. I am happy for the holiday. Now Baptists have to come together as a people to get their due.”


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur