A maze of narrow lanes flanking the eastern side of the Queen’s Park Savannah, BELMONT is one of the most densely populated areas of Port of Spain. It was the city’s first suburb, settled in the early nineteenth century by Africans who had escaped slavery on other Caribbean islands, and many original wooden houses survive from this era, proudly displaying their characteristically ornate gingerbread fretwork. After emancipation, freed slaves from Trinidad and a number of peoples from West Africa also settled here. In 1868, the tribal chieftain of the Rada community – a religious group from the French protectorate of Dahomey – bought land in the area to establish a settlement. Representatives from the Mandingo, Ibo, Yoruba and Krumen tribes also came to live here, and Belmont became an established African settlement. The community was well organized and close-knit, ensuring the survival of African traditions such as the Orisha religion, whose feasts and festivities are still practised here – though you won’t see much evidence of this as a casual visitor. Belmont was also the birthplace of Stokely Carmichael (1941–1998), founder of the Black Power movement and one of its vocal activists during the 1970s. Carmichael migrated to Harlem, New York, aged 11, and his civil rights work is today commemorated by a plaque outside his former home at 54 Oxford Street, now a community education centre.
At Carnival time, the community centre just off the Savannah on Jerningham Avenue is also worth a visit, as it hosts what’s known as Five Nights, a brilliant reggae jam staged by the Twelve Tribes Rasta sect and a great antidote to the frenetic menu of soca, soca and soca.