Nobel Laureates and ‘The Real Haiti Story’ highlight launch of 2021 Regional Online Reparations and History Lectures Series

The National Reparations Committee (NRC) and the Nobel Laureates Festival Commission, The UWI Open Campus Saint Lucia, Sir Arthur Lewis Community College (SALCC), Saint Lucia Archives Authority and other stakeholders have started 2021 running ahead like never before.

COVID Notwithstanding, each saw their scheduled January lectures take place honouring Sir Arthur Lewis and Hon. Derek Walcott and introducing Haiti to Caribbean schools in a brand-new light.

The first Nobel Laureates 2021 lecture was an address on by Independent Senator Adrian Augier on Tuesday 19th January and the second was by the Head of the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute for Social and Economic Studies (SALISES), Professor Aldrie Henry-Lee.

Augier’s lecture was dedicated to Hon Walcott and entitle ‘A Whole Country’, while Professor Henry-Lee’s was entitled ‘I Can’t Breathe – Sir Arthur Lewis and Caribbean Reparations’.

Augier (also a writer and private sector spokesman) and Professor Henry-Lee, both Saint Lucians, braved the day to defy the COVID nightmare and delivered addresses, online and in-person, that offered more positive food for thought about the two Laureates in 2021 – and both events were held at public sessions guided by Social Distance-seating and other COVID Protection and Prevention Protocols at the Finance Administrative Center in Castries.

The Nobel Laureates Festival Commission, represented by Chair and Governor General Emerita Dame PearletteLouisy, is a stakeholder-member of the NRC’s National Preparatory Committee (NPC) planning and executing the parallel national and regional schools lecture series launched here last year; and Professor Henry-Lee’s January 21 lecture had an early reserved-place on the NRC’s 2021 schedule for its continuing online National Reparations Lecture Series hosted on the third Thursday of each month.

The NRC on January 28 also co-hosted, with the Jamaica-based UWI Center for Reparations Research (CRR), the fourth Virtual Schools History Lecture Series with presentations by two prominent Haitian women researchers.

The theme was ‘Slavery, Resistance & Emancipation: The Haitian Revolution in Global Perspective’ with presentations by Professor Bayyinah Bello, a Historian and Anthropologist from the State University of Haiti and President of the Haiti-Jamaica Association MyrthaDesulme.

Both presentations were delivered online during school hours and followed in other CARICOM states, the latest being St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Haiti (for the first time), but also including schools and other online participants in Antigua & Barbuda, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis and Trinidad & Tobago, as well as beyond the Caribbean.

The two lecturers urged students and CARICOM citizens to learn more about Haiti and its place in Caribbean history, better know its contribution to world history and change the facts that although it’s also a fellow Caribbean country, fellow CARICOM citizens know too little about the history of the two Caribbean nations sharing the first small island raped and plundered by Europeans in 1492.

CRR Director Professor Verene Shepherd made a passionate appeal for Caribbean decision-makers to save the teaching and Learning of History at school levels by making it compulsory, as the subject is losing popularity and choice among students.

The virtual History lectures are also being recommended for CXC, CAPE and CSE students, while proponents are also advocating adoption of new and more relevant History texts at schools across the region, including publications by UWI Vice Chancellor Professor Sir Hilary Beckles and Professor Shepherd.

Sir Arthur’s ‘Labor in the West indies’, adopted last year by CARICOM as the ‘Caribbean Blueprint for Reparations for Slavery and Native Genocide’ being sought from Britain and European Union (EU) member-states was also highly-recommended during the January 28 lecture, which was presented more as ‘a conversation’ between presenters and their student audiences across the region.

The next national Reparations lecture will be on February 18 and the next schools History lecture is due on February 25th and the NRC and CRR are working with local, regional and international historians and researchers to ensure the topics assist students preparing for History exams across the Caribbean.

Earl Bousquet
Saint Lucia National Reparations Committee (NRC)

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