Lloyd Best is most appropriately defined by the title of his seminal work, “Independent Thought and Caribbean Freedom”. First presented by Best at the age of 32, the title captures this Caribbean thinker’s uncompromising position that the Caribbean needed to find its own voice in defining its own path towards its own idea of development.
For him, the greatest challenge facing the region was that of liberating the Caribbean imagination and rebuilding its damaged psyche from the devastation of the colonial experience. He was fierce in his insistence that the Caribbean should avoid the trap of borrowed ideologies and borrowed solutions as it embraced the responsibility for creating a new society out of the many fragments of cultures that had been brought here, under duress, in the service of European colonial expansion.
This perspective led him to develop the Plantation Theory of Economy and Society which explains the modern Caribbean as a product of its unique history. Out of this historical framework, he developed a broad range of culturally-relevant proposals for reforming almost every sphere of Caribbean life: from education to the economy; from politics to sport; from the arts and culture to science; from business to community and family life.
Lloyd Best said he drew his inspiration from looking at the lives at the people of the Caribbean and urged generations of young people to do the same. He believed that the people of the Caribbean could master the challenges of creating a viable civilization if they were true to the reality on the ground. With this in mind, he encouraged students to map the landscape around them from the perspective of their respective disciplines. He saw enormous scope for original research and encouraged the youth to follow their dreams, live their passion and commit their energies to whatever work excited and inspired them.
Lloyd Best was born in 1934 in Tunapuna, a community he called home for his entire life. He went to Queen’s Royal College on a college exhibition and later to Cambridge University in London on an island scholarship. His post-graduate work was done at Oxford University. After a brief stint working in Paris, he returned to the West Indies in the late 1950s during a period of heightened political consciousness as the Independence momentum surged forward throughout the English-speaking Caribbean. From that moment, he dedicated his life to the Caribbean, championing its cause throughout the world and building bridges across the Caribbean Sea to unite the people of the region.
He believed passionately in the importance of democratic engagement and organized discussion groups everywhere he went. In the 1960s, he founded the New World Group which would become a highly influential group of intellectuals in the Caribbean. He later founded the Tapia House Group in Trinidad, out of which came a political party, the Tapia House Movement and the weekly Tapianewspaper. He was Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (1974-75 and 1981-83). The party contested the 1976 elections without success but later became a key force in building the opposition alliance that led to the birth of the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) which swept to office in 1986. Best, however, stayed out of the NAR on the grounds that it did not meet his own minimum conditions for offering itself for office.
He was a senior lecturer in economics at the St Augustine campus but resigned to start the Trinidad and Tobago Institute of the West Indies (now known as the Lloyd Best Institute of the W.I.) in Tunapuna in 1976. In 1977, he launched the Trinidad and Tobago Review newspaper which continues to be published as a monthly review of national life. Professionally, he worked as an economist with various organisations, most often with the United Nations Development Programme.
Above all, Lloyd Best believed in the people of the Caribbean and was a committed integrationist who remained completely confident in the generations to come, and in the eventual triumph of the Caribbean spirit.