THERE is a saying: Trinis are like salt, they are in everything. A prime example of this can be found amongst the thriving Trinbagonian community in Houston, Texas, which boasts of small business owners, realtors, restaurateurs, landscapers, mechanics and the Trinidad and Tobago Association of Texas (TTAT)—a vibrant, inclusive non-profit organisation that has been impacting lives.
The TTAT’s vision is to develop, engage and connect the greater Texas community to the culture of T&T and be a hub of resources for the diaspora in Texas. One of the hallmark features of the TTAT is their scholarship programme which assists students with academic expenses.
The association was established in 1989 by James “Jamesie” Taylor and Kenny Rod who shared a deep affection for their home country. They had their first meeting in Taylor’s garage in south-west Houston. In 1997, a scholarship programme was implemented; the board got together and determined ways in which funds could be raised for high school students of Trinidadian descent. That same year, the TTAT held its first Independence Day Gala event where proceeds benefited scholarship applicants.
The TTAT was dormant for a number of years until Michelle Paul and former national track athlete Alicia Cave-Green came on board and decided to reform and revamp the association. The women wanted to create a sense of community for Trinbagonians in Houston while also being a hub of resources for the diaspora and those curious about Caribbean culture. They applied to the Secretary of State for legitimate documentation to do business as an association and began fine-tuning their scholarship policies. They met every month during the Covid-19 pandemic, writing by-laws during the confinement period. Then the association had its grand relaunch in August 2021 which coincided with T&T’s independence.
“We decided to re-emerge with a different set of values and a different mission,” said Paul who is president of the TTAT which has 10 board members and close to 200 members.
The intention of TTAT goes beyond cultivating T&T’s culture and promoting Carnival, steelpan, parang, soca, food and fashion. Their mission includes increasing scholarship opportunities, empowering and informing constituents with relevant and impactful information and building community networks in Texas. One of the pillars of the association is education; for Black history month the TTAT will be shining the spotlight on prominent Caribbean men and women. While there are several small businesses in Houston owned and run by Trinbagonians, many could not apply to the Paycheck Protection programme for a small loan during the pandemic because their books were not in order. Therefore, the TTAT will also be focusing their efforts on financial education and informing persons about investments and ways in which they can generate income and build wealth. The association also has plans to provide a passport service for its members; at the moment, persons who have to renew their passports or do immigration-related serves must go to Washington DC or Miami.
Strong love for country
Both Paul and Green share a strong love and passion for their country. Paul migrated to the US at the age of nine, initially it was a challenge but living amongst other Trinidadians in the same apartment complex and having that cohesive support system made acclimatising to a new environment easier. Today, she is the executive director of a non- profit organisation which lifts persons out of poverty through educational services; her passion and story aligns with TTAT’s mission. Years ago, she met Green who came to the US on a track scholarship to the University of Houston at 19. Even though Green had family in the US, being connected to the TTAT and the diaspora within Houston made her feel at home.
“Knowing that I had a support system apart from my family in the form of the association was great,”she said.
Being a past recipient of a TTAT scholarship inspired Green to give back and help others; wherever she goes, the former national athlete who is now the TTAT’S director of PR and an account onboarding specialist at Wells Fargo Bank tries to recruit new members.
The association may be small but it’s making an impact. This year it raised $12,000 for scholarships.
“Being a part of this association and knowing we can make an impact is great. Those who are here on a scholarship have a student’s visa, they can’t work and earn money so to be able as an association to fill the gap for the students and help them pay for books and offset costs is incredible,”said Paul.
The association will be hosting a parang mixer and flood relief event on December 16 to benefit those affected by floods in T&T.
As far as the future is concerned Paul and Green’s goal is to grow the board and the association; they are calling for more volunteers to come on board. They are looking for passionate, young professionals who want to use their talent to make an impact. Like any other non-profit organisation, they are also seeking monetary donations.
“I would like the world to know that we’re small but mighty and we want to attract passionate individuals who want to be ambassadors for Trinidad in Texas and have an impact throughout Texas and give back to those in need,” said Green.
The TTAT can be contacted via their website: www.tnt-texas.org, on Facebook: Trinidad and Tobago Association of Texas and on Instagram: tnttexasorg.
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