Letters & Opinion

Heirs and Repairs, Apologies and Atonement in New UK-Caribbean Thrust for Reparations

Earl Bousquet
Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

AS part of continuing observances of Emancipation Month 2023, the Saint Lucia National Reparations Committee (NRC) on Wednesday (23rd August) hosted a regional online discussion to observe the International Day for Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition.

The day is observed by the United Nations (UN) since 1998, in commemoration of the triumph of the Haitian Revolution on the night of 22-23 August 1791, which eventually led to banishment and outlawing of the Slave Trade there in 1804.

The 2023 theme for the International Day is: “Fighting slavery’s legacy of racism through transformative education”.

The Day is intended by the UN “to inscribe the tragedy of the slave trade in the memory of all peoples” and “to offer an opportunity for collective consideration of the historic causes, methods and consequences of this tragedy, and for an analysis of the interactions to which it has given rise between Africa, Europe, the Americas and the Caribbean.”

According to Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, “It is time to abolish human exploitation once and for all, and to recognize the equal and unconditional dignity of each and every individual.

She called on citizens of the world to “remember the victims and freedom fighters of the past, so that they may inspire future generations to build just societies.”

UNESCO invites Ministers of Culture of all member-states to organize events, every year, to commemorate that date, involving the entire population of their country and in particular young people, educators, artists and intellectuals.

The UN’s hope is to get today’s world citizens to better understand issues related to the enslavement of over 13 million Africans during the Transatlantic Slave Trade — and that it was driven by the racist ideology that these women, men and children were inferior because of the colour of their skin.

The UN observes three annual dates associated with memory and condemnation of Slavery: March 25 in Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade; August in Remembrance of the Slave Trade; and December 22, in commemoration of the UN General Assembly’s adoption of the Convention for Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and Exploitation of Others in 1949.

In keeping with all the above, the online conversation was on the theme ‘Heirs of Enslavers and Heirs of The Enslaved – Building Bridges for Justice’ and featured representatives of Heirs of Slavery and The Repair Campaign, the former comprising families of former enslavers in the UK and the latter a private campaign by Irish businessman Denis O’Brien.

Former BBC presenter in New York Laura Trevelyan represented Heirs and Lucy Maguire spoke for Repair and all the presenters shared with their Caribbean audiences the results of what was described as a “free, fair and frank” exchange between the Saint Lucia NRC’s Executive Members and the visiting guests the day before (August 22).

Grenada’s Ambassador to CARICCOM, Arley Gill, shared that the Trevelyans’ apology in February that also included launching a US $127,000 seed fund to which members of the family will make annual contributions had “opened the floodgates” of inquiries from other like families — as close as in the Caribbean and as far as New Zealand — wishing to apologize, atone and repair.

Saint Lucia’s former Governor-General Dame Pearlette Louisy (also a NRC member) welcomed the initiatives by the Heirs and Repair Campaign, but also urged that NRC’s not treat the external assistance as replacements or relaxation “for all the work still needing to be done at home, to take the CARICOM 10-point Plan for Reparatory Justice to all our people…”

Historian and St. Mary’s College (SMC) lecturer Nkrumah Lucien has responsibility for youth affairs on the NRC and emphasized the relevance of the 2023 theme to taking the Reparations message to people through education.

He emphasized such education was not only through schools but also using all means of communication, including indigenous languages, as well as directly to communities.

The Repair Campaign is currently engaged with all 14 CARICOM governments, the University of the West Indies (The UWI), the CARICOM Reparations Commission (CRC) and NRCs in all CARICOM member-states; and Heirs have also been crisscrossing the Caribbean developing links with the same entities.

Heirs and Repair are also targeting the UK political directorate, the Royal Family, the UK parliament and the private and public entities wishing to engage in apology, atonement and repair.

The Repair Team has engaged teams from The UWI to prepare socio-economic plans for all 14 CARICOM nations, to submit 25-year plans for sustainable development for each, hopefully to be funded by UK and European governments and public/private sector agencies, companies, churches, families and all others willing to contribute to Caribbean Reparations by way of apology and atonement, repair and healing.

The bilateral discussions and the regional online conversation were both in keeping with the objectives of the UN’s call for observance of August 23.

But it also marked the continuity of the process of Transatlantic engagement between Caribbean and European heirs of the enslavers and enslaved in the common desire to apologize and atone, heal and repair.

This is not a race for the swift and all sides in Saint Lucia agreed that while the talking is giving way to action in many respects, these are still very initial measures.

The Heirs and Repair Campaign have agreed to assist the Saint Lucia NRC in its efforts to fulfil the theme for this year – “Fighting slavery’s legacy of racism through transformative education” by sharing respective online platforms and mechanisms.

The guests have left and the hosts will now move to the next stage of developing the elements for continuing cooperation, but also hoping other NRCs will do likewise to engage with the likes of Heirs and Repair, to maintain the pace of progress registered over the past year.

Meanwhile, the talking must and will continue, but we’re all in this for the long haul.

1 Comment

  1. Saviors are sent upon the mountains to bring back RIGHTEOUSNESS dry shod through this 21st. Century Red Sea;


    To transport COMPASSION and KINDNESS on the backs of horses, donkeys and mules to the generation that will receive reparations for the oppression inflicted upon their fore fathers.

    To a generation that will pay 50 cents to take trips to the pit to look down at their oppressors burning in unquenchable fires ;

    And there to take instructions, as our ancestors taught –

    -e- pay en san tanaah nom
    cai pays pour quiotay-a yo faire
    le zot.

    It can be in a million years, recompense will be exacted from the hands of the oppressor and the rights of the oppressed will be redeemed.

    When SAVIORS come upon the mountains to

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