ST JOHN’S, Antigua, Wednesday October 15, 2014, CMC – A two-day conference on reparations has ended here with a call for Caribbean nationals “to rally ‘round the cause of reparatory justice”.
Chairperson of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Reparations Commission, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, said the movement has been energized and the Commission is working towards mounting a region-wide rally.
“We are going to organize, with the support of all of these national commissions, a regional rally in which we will move the reparations banner from the northern Caribbean, through to the centre, to the south, all the way through to Brazil,” Sir Hilary told reporters at the close of the Second Regional Conference on Reparations late Tuesday.
The renowned historian and Principal of the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), said such an event would engage the talents of artists, musicians and youth, while bringing regional and global attention to the matter.
“We believe that as a result of this conference in the last two to three days that we have moved further along than we would have been had we not come,” he said.
CARICOM assistant secretary general for human and social development, Douglas Slater, said that the key ideas and interventions from the conference would be submitted the prime ministerial subcommittee on reparations headed by Barbados Prime Minister Freundal Stuart.
“They will be aware of the proposals, the debates, the discussions that occurred here and the various recommendations for their consideration and later determinations of some of the more policy issues to move forward,” Slater said.
One of the major interventions in the conference came from a plenary session featuring Jamaican Youth and Culture Minister, Lisa Hannah who called for more youth involvement in the reparations movement.
Hannah noted that youths between the ages of 16 and 24 make up a quarter of the world’s population and they can play a key role in advancing the cause.
“The things that are a priority to them (the youth) now are career advancement, career development, and certainly employment and so to get the reparations agenda on their agenda is something that this group is going to have to recognize… unless you get the youth carrying your message, it’s not going to be carried,” Hannah said.
“I don’t think many young people understand the generation of psychological resentment that they also carry … even some of our men, some of our women with the kinds of things that they do in terms of health, in terms of how we process education, in terms of how we see ourselves,” she said.
But youth is not the only demographic the Commission plans to engage. Sir Hilary noted that the Diaspora is a group with considerable influence.
“It is recognized that we are building a global network of reparations commissions. In Britain, just two months ago, there as a major rally of Caribbean peoples, of African peoples to the British parliament, we are in contact with the African communities on this matter.
“Just three weeks ago in Washington, I addressed the Congressional Black Caucus and they agreed that one of the initiatives going forward is to establish an American national commission on reparations and to do so on the CARICOM model and they’ve also agreed to investigate how soon they can launch that national commission within the context of a meeting with the CARICOM commission,” Sir Hilary told reporters.
He explained that that early 2015, will likely see the establishment of an American Commission, launched in New York, largely due to the large Caribbean and African community and such a commission would be modeled after the one created by CARICOM. He also anticipates the establishment of a national commission in Brazil.
“We are going to build a global network of commissions. This is where we’re going because slavery and the slave trade were global crimes and the only way this is going to be effectively addressed in terms of reparatory action is on a global scale. And this is what we’re doing, step by step, brick by brick, we’re building this global alliance,” he added.
The two day event was hosted by the Antiguan and Barbuda government and the Antigua and Barbuda Reparations Support Commission.
The event took place even as Tropical Storm Gonzalo pummeled the twin-island nation, dumping rain, toppling trees and utility posts, and ripping away roofs.
As part of its mandate, the reparations commission seeks to establish reconciliation between victims and beneficiaries. It also seeks to achieve the Caribbean Reparatory Justice Programme 10-Point Action Plan that tackles various social, educational and economic issues including debt cancelation, public health, illiteracy eradication and psychological rehabilitation.