OWTU: Stalin identified with working class

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Black Stalin. Photo by Angelo Marcelle

The Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU) is making an appeal to those with the power to preserve the work of the late Black Stalin for future generations.

Declaring Stalin as an extended member of the OWTU family, having shared a relationship for some 30 years, the union said he identified with the working class.

The OWTU joined with others in expressing sadness “At the passing of the indomitable Dr Leroy Calliste aka the Black Stalin.”

In a statement, the OWTU extended condolences to his family, the people of TT and all who were impacted by his words and voice.

It said the southern-born calypso giant’s voice and lyrical compositions ensured calypso lovers had a fun time when enjoying the art form.

Stalin died peacefully at his San Fernando home on Wednesday morning, never recovering from a stroke which he suffered in 2014.

The OWTU acknowledged that in Stalin’s career that spanned over 50 years, he stood as a fearless and uncompromising “People’s Calypsonian,” who ventured into all genres within the calypso fraternity.

“With his songs used by many in the cry for equity and justice, it was his cry for black independence that stands paramount among the rest.

“Speaking truth to power in the subtlest form, he used his lyrics to inject a consciousness into our society as he spoke to the ordinary man informing him that the power to make change rests in his hands and not in the hands of those at the head.

“Additionally, in using voice, he reminded us that there is a time and season for all things and for the black man in society it cannot be all work and no play.

“Black Stalin, as a former calypso monarch, is a stalwart and treasure to the people of TT who have bestowed him with numerous honours – from an honorary doctorate to the renaming of a street in his hometown.

“To us at the OWTU and in the trade union movement, however, he was an extended member of our family, with a relationship that spanned over 30 years.

“Black Stalin, having a strong love for his southland and in identifying with the struggles of the working class, was always present to the union’s call whenever asked.”

The union said that love and support continued over the years despite Stalin being unable to grace its annual Labour Day stage since his stroke in 2014.

In 2022, however, the baton for this duty was passed from grandfather to grandson, calypsonian and ex-tempo artiste Kevan Calliste.

“Reminding us in song that ‘his pleasure always come second to his duty,’ it is heart wrenching to bear the knowledge that the “Black Man” is no longer with us.

“His works and contribution which has shaped many upcoming artistes however stand as a testimony to the great impact he has made to the calypso art form in this country.”

From using his lyrics to talk about society’s ills from colonial rules and racism in songs such as Bun Dem and Sufferers, to bashing the powers at be in satirical manner with tunes such as Wait Dorothy Wait, to telling the ordinary man to stand and fight with songs such as We can make it if we try, one notable fact about this lyrical maestro was his ability to bash but remain neutral, the union said.

It noted that a legacy that has been cemented in the hearts of every person who has heard his music, “The ‘Caribbean Man’ has been taken from us.

“His legacy is here and therefore we implore the powers in charge, to please ensure the works of this icon is preserved for future generations.

“To this end the OWTU again extends deepest condolences to Black Stalin’s wife Patsy, the rest of the Calliste family, TT, the Caribbean and all music aficionados and lovers of the Black Man’s music.”