It was a pretty long day and as is usual for the times we are in, I had endured back to back virtual calls and conferences, you all know what I am talking about. However, I was determined to keep going and to end the evening with a journey to the Caribbean, ok via the screen. But this was no vacation, rather the occasion was a deep discussion of importance organised by the University of the West Indies (UWI), regarding the Caribbean's march towards its full independence, detachment from the vestiges of the royal Britannia. That's right, the Queen of England remains the official head of state for a number of Caribbean countries, not withstanding nations of the region having gained their independence between 50 and 60 years ago. But the discussion was much deeper than covering just this anomaly, with the forum's title providing the clearest of indication into what was to be addressed: VC Forum: Royalty Racism Republicanism & Reparation - Preparing for the 60th Anniversary of Nationhood in the CARICOM Region.
Those who know me are probably aware that I am no novice to these areas of discussion and contentions. And yet, I can assure those reading this short article that this particular forum will live long time in the memory, and I stress, MUST be watched (the link above will take you to the full recording).
As individual speakers, each are known authorities in their own right and would richly adorn any occasion. However, as a collective the speakers, as listed below, provided the audience with such an array of nuanced temporal, spiritual and emotional intelligence; faithful to the rigours of presenting evidence based narratives, delivered with razor sharp incision; chronicling the concrete linkages of ill gotten wealth through slavery, imperialism and colonialism, to the pinnacle of the United Kingdom's sovereign power base, which continues to reverberate to this day. That is right, the Megan, Harry and Archie story was a legitimate feature of the discussions, demonstrable of the ever fluid forms of disenfranchisement meted out to persons of colour across the board.
The ultimate claims for reparations, the need for societal disentanglement from an egregiously exploitative historical relationship, with its contemporary overhang, was voiced with grace, elegance, and a steely resolve; and properly represented, in gender, age and place.
With all that intensity and charge, the artistic flow was simply eased along, capturing and carrying the individual and collective messages home bound. This was not a drum and bass concert, but the songs of their voices swayed us deeply. I continued until the early hours of the morning; and by the end of the 3 hour plus session, I remained energised and clear minded.
PEMPAMSIE - symbol of strength through unity
as well as the importance of being prepared
We were reminded last night of the redemptive power that can come from tragedy. That is to say that peoples stolen from the motherland, commoditized and extracted in order to build up the wealth of sovereign rulers and their states, a process lasting several centuries, involved the extraction of some of Africa's finest; this latter reference shows up very obviously day in day out. The movement toward the regeneration and restoration of the peoples and places of Africa, by definition includes the Caribbean, the Americas, Europe etc: in other words, our definitive reference is Global Africa. It is of necessity that our efforts and thinking around the themes of racial equity and justice, come together. There is nothing new in that declaration, yet it is vital to continue to affirm and re-affirm this intention into reality. On the continent of Africa, we must make it our business, duty and honour to embrace our family members from across the seas. History has shown us what we can achieve when we return to the proverbial space we call home.
List of Speakers
Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor, The UWI
Professor Verene Shepherd, Director, Centre for Reparation Research, The UWI, Moderator
His Excellency David Comissiong, Barbados' Ambassador to CARICOM
Ms Afua Hirsch, Author, Broadcaster, Wallis Annenberg Chair at USC
Dr Ahmed Reid, Associate Professor of History, City University of New York, USA
Ms Maxine Stowe, Music Culture Executive and Rastafari Pan African Activist
Dr Kris Manjapra, Associate Professor of History Tufts University, USA
Mr Shabaka Kambon, Founder/ Director Cross Rhodes Freedom Project, Trinidad & Tobago
Ms Priscellia Robinson, UK Barrister and 2019 UN Fellow
Mr Bert Samuels, Pan-African Attorney-at-Law
Professor Carolyn Cooper, Author, Literary Critic and Culture and Development Specialist
Mr Franks Phipps, QC, Attorney-at-Law
Mr Dorbrene O'Marde, Chair, Antigua and Barbuda Reparations Support Commission