Sunday, February 18, 2018

A woman of etiquette and distinction


immense strength: Angela Cropper

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Dr Bhoe Tewarie, Minister of Planning and Sustainable Development, remembers former independent senator Angela Cropper, who passed away on November 12 in London, England. A memorial service for Cropper takes place today from 2 p.m. at the Daaga Auditorium, UWI, St Augustine.

I first met Angela Cropper in 1974 as a member of Tapia. We got to know each other slowly. Hello, how are you, pleasant greetings and small conversations defined the nature of our relationship.

I got to know John Cropper, too, her husband, during that period of the mid-1970s when our country and the region at large had known turbulence.

It was a heady time when the mood of change was in the air, when fresh thinking about new possibilities in Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean region reared its head and some of us aligned ourselves with Lloyd Best to create a political movement of ideas that we all hoped then, would bring radical change and make a fundamental difference to economic strategy, political culture and social relations.

John Cropper was shy, quiet and deep. Angela showed leadership strength and was not afraid to assume responsibility in various situations. They were, each to the other, a source of mutual support. The period of the mid 1970s which I am recalling now was not only a period of political ferment and intellectual engagement, it was also a period of cultural explosion. The words of the Guyanese post Martin Carter would have an influence on some of us: "You sleep to dream" Carter wrote in one of his poems, "but I dream to change the world".

In 1976 Angela and I, along with several other independent-spirited men and women, were Tapia candidates in the general election. We had become friends by then and I got to know that her middle name was Sarojanie (Angela Sarojanie, Angel, lotus flower) seemed perfectly suited to her. She behaved towards me as a big sister and she walked the streets of St Augustine constituency with me asking people to vote for me in the 1976 elections. But every Tapia candidate lost the election and, except for Lloyd Best and Allan Harris, we all lost our deposits.

Over the years Angela Sarojanie Cropper and I did not interact much on a personal basis but we kept in touch as she carved out a path for herself as a contributor and nation builder, a creator and supporter of institutions dedicated to progressive causes and she built overtime a network of international contacts to support initiatives that she believed in across the region.

Her work demonstrates clearly that, Trinidad and Tobago was her home, the Caribbean region was her place and she, the beautiful, personable, gentle, sophisticated, formidable and strong, Angela Sarojanie Cropper, daughter and sister of the Persad family of Penal, was an enlightened citizen of the world. She leveraged her influence in the world to do things for her country and to make things happen in her region.

In Trinidad and Tobago she and her husband built the Cropper Foundation. Her foundation invited me on several occasions to play a role in various projects having to do with culture, the arts and education.

In Guyana she played a major role in the Iwokorama project and invited me on two occasions to events held there but unfortunately other commitments did not allow me to attend.

At the London School of Economics, she established a scholarship in memory of her son Devanand after his untimely death.

During my tenure as principal of the St Augustine Campus of the University of the West Indies we signed a Memorandum of Understanding between UWI, St Augustine and the Cropper Foundation and that facilitated two important projects—a study of the Northern Range in Trinidad and a study of the Caribbean Sea funded by the United Nations. Prof John Agard, who has always been a close friend of Angela, played a key role in both of these projects.

When I became Minister of Planning, again working with the Ministry and the Department of Life Sciences at UWI, St Augustine she facilitated through UNEP (United Nations Environmental Programme) a study that will put a value to the various elements of the eco system of the Northern Range which is ongoing.

Angela Cropper had always been strong on environmental issues and over-time her knowledge of and sensitivity to the rich bio-diversity and unique ecology of Trinidad and Tobago grew. Her concern for people and her inclusive vision of humanity, the value she placed on community and the self-determination of communities, her recognition of the significance of individual talent and artistic endeavour, her belief in science and in economic progress—all these things made her a strong advocate for sustainable development and the principles of sustainable development.

Angela Sarojanie Persad Cropper was a highly gifted and generous human being. She played many roles, and served in several capacities. She always distinguished herself, made a difference and added value.

She lived through some terrible personal tragedies cumulatively disturbing to contemplate, loss that more than most of us can personally bear, yet in the face of it all what these experiences revealed, was a woman of immense strength, courage, compassion and depth.

Yes, Angela Cropper was a highly evolved soul. She lived to do good, she practised forgiveness. She understood love with a big L. She was ever a warm and generous spirit. She made friends, she worked with collaborators, she built networks, she worked hard with self-confidence and with a vision to do good.

I never knew Angela to be religious. But she carried herself with a calmness of spirit at all times. And the courage and composure she exuded in the face of adversity could only come from a person of immense faith, solidly rooted in the kind of values that make acceptance of the world as it is, possible. A wise acceptance of the reality that some things you can control, other things you just cannot.

Angela; she was an angel and a lotus flower in life, I wish her the peace beyond all human understanding in death. I am certain that for her as the poet Dylan Thomas wrote "Death shall have no dominion".

My sincere condolences to her family and friends whom I know will forever carry her in their memories and their hearts.