Letters & Opinion

Despite COVID-19, the Caribbean Reparations Train Remained on Track in 2020! – PART 2

A November to Remember!

Image of Earl Bousquet
Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

November 2020 was a Reparations month to remember.

On November 3, while American voters were busy deciding President Donald Trump’s future at the White House, the United Nations (UN) Security Council held an unprecedented Open Debate on ‘Peace-Building and Sustaining Peace – Contemporary Drivers of Conflict and Insecurity.’

With St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves in the President’s Chair in Kingstown, UWI Vice Chancellor Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, speaking from Jamaica, led a round-table panel discussion that strongly urged the international community to start taking concrete steps to ensure Reparations is finally delivered in what’s left of the 21st Century.

On the same day, Dominica observed its 42nd independence anniversary with the National Reparations Committee (NRC) and the island’s Kalinago First People using the occasion to reiterate the Caribbean governments’ 2016 demand for Reparations from Europe for Slavery and Native Genocide – and centuries of colonial exploitation.

Image of the ‘Neg Mawon’ statue by Rickey George in Soufriere
The Neg Mawon (Runaway Slaves) statue in the Soufriere Square, sculpted by Rickey George, celebrates the Freedom Fighters who fought fearlessly to free the islands from colonial bondage and the First People who, long before them, resisted the European conquests to their bitter end – and whose spirits will be proud to know today that the governments of these same islands are now pursuing Reparations for Slavery and Native Genocide from Europe. (PHOTO Courtesy: Rickey George)

On November 5, Vincentian voters re-elected PM Gonsalves’ Unity Labour Party (ULP) for a fifth consecutive five-year term, assuring the original sponsor of the 2013 CARICOM Heads of Government Summit resolution that led to establishment of the CRC not only remained as CARICOM Chair, but also UN Security Council President – and with a new world record as the most-re-elected UN-recognized government leader alive — and still in office.

Flowing with Tempo…

On November 5 too, TEMPO Networks, a very popular US-based Caribbean TV channel, hosted the second in a series of monthly Reparations programs, the first featuring Sir Hilary Beckles and CRC Coordinator Dr Hilary Brown and the second with Center for Reparations Research (CRR) Director Professor Verene Shepherd, CRC Vice Chair Dobrene O’Marde (also Chair of the Antigua and Barbuda Reparations Support Committee (ABRSC) and Dominica’s Minister for Kalinago Affairs, Cozier Frederick.

A third discussion also took place on November 25, this time featuring O’Marde, Guyana NRC Chair Eric Phillips and Bahamas NRC Chair Dr Naimbi Hall-Campbell.

The Reparations message got another heavy audiovisual boost this year from the six-part series ‘Unchained’ (featuring legendary African American actor Samuel L. Jackson) broadcast on FLOW, the third part screening in November and unveiling an ongoing story of the continuing quest to recover and repatriate the bones of Saint Lucian Freedom Fighters (overcome on the island by joint French and British forces after they had defeated the island’s European settlers) who lost their lives during the wreck of ‘The London’ at Rapparee Cove in Ilfracombe, North Devon, in 1796, while being transported for sale into slavery in England.

On November 12, during a discussion on “History, Heritage and Identity’ in Barbados that touched on the historical role of the Church of England in Slavery, the CRC Chair, Sir Hilary, offered that the church in England should atone for its role in Slavery and centuries of designation of Black Barbadians to back pews, by providing educational scholarships for youth and financial support for island churches through a repentant policy of Reparatory Justice.

On November 15 it was announced in London that The City of Edinburgh Council had appointed Jamaica’s Honorary Consul to Scotland, Sir Godfrey ‘Geoff’ Henry Oliver Palmer (OBE) as Independent Chair to lead the Edinburgh Slavery and Colonialism Legacy Review Group, to review the appropriateness of certain historical structures throughout the city, such as statues and street names which commemorate the lives of individuals with close links to Slavery.

November 16 saw the long-awaited removal of the over 200-year-old statue of British Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson from his trident pedestal in Barbados and its appropriate relegation as a historical relic to a city museum.

On November 18, the Dominica NRC hosted an informative online multilingual panel discussion on ‘The Battle of Vertiers and Its Significance in the Liberation Struggles of the Caribbean and Africa’, during which CRC Vice Chair O’Marde delivered a wide-ranging and very informative expose on the importance of the Haitian Revolution and Caribbean figures in the early development of Africa’s liberation movements.

Reckoning Their Past…

November also saw a continuation of the post-George Floyd process of the US and Europe reckoning their past.

In the USA, the CARICOM Reparations experience came under scrutiny during a November 18 high-level discussion on ‘The Future of Freedom – Reparations After 400 Years’ at the University of California at Berkeley.

Then on November 27 there was another webinar discussion the ‘Post-Election Fight for Reparations Now!’ organized by the December 12 Movement and attended by New York State Assemblyman Charles Barron.

Switzerland was also called upon in mid-November to examine its colonial conscience, during a similar debate on ‘Banking and Slavery’ that revealed the association of the founder of modern Switzerland, Albert Escher, to slavery in Cuba.

On November 26, the CRR hosted its Third Regional Virtual Schools History Lecture on ‘Conquest, Colonialism and The Imperial Project’ featuring three prominent lecturers, journalists, historians and established authors – Drs Carrie Gibson in the UK, Roger Van Zwanenberg in the USA and Gelian Matthews in Trinidad & Tobago — specializing in African and Caribbean, European and North American history, with more schools participating in the monthly two-hour simultaneous series being coordinated in cooperation with the Saint Lucia NRC.

Among other welcome Reparations news in November:

  • Don Rojas, the CRC’s Communications Consultant, penned a published and well-received ‘Call to Action’ in America following the Biden-Harris victory, outlining recommended approaches for final start of delivery of Reparations to African Americans in 2021;
  • The CRC started a Reparations explanation column in the Jamaica Gleaner, the region’s oldest newspaper;
  • The Dominica panel discussion on the significance of the Haiti Revolution to Black struggles around the world also heard a loud call for erection of a statue of Jamaica-born Caribbean-American-African icon Marcus Garvey at the United Nations;
  • And the month ended with 82 top UK personalities signing a petition urging airlines not to fly 50 Jamaicans deported by the UK. (Part 3 Next Weekend)

(To be continued)

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