UWI Launches Centre for Reparation Research

Photo: Michael Sloley
Dub poet and talk-show host, Mutabaruka (second left); First daughter of Kwame Nkrumah, the first President of Ghana, Samia Yaba Christina Nkrumah (second left); and son of National Hero, the Rt. Excellent Marcus Garvey, Dr. Julius Garvey (fourth left), unveil a plaque at the official launch of the University of the West Indies, Mona’s Centre for Reparation on October 10. Sharing in the moment are (from left) Vice-Chancellor, UWI Mona and Chair, CARICOM Reparation Commission, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles and Director, Centre for Reparation Research, Professor Verene Shepherd.

The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, officially launched a Centre for Reparation Research on October 10 at the campus Endorsed and approved by heads of government of Caribbean member states during the 24th meeting July 2013, they developed a 10-point action plan to seek recompense from European colonizers that shipped Africans against their will to the Caribbean islands in order to exploit them by working them without pay on the sugar plantations from which they built prosperous economies and even empires. Notwithstanding is the context of a slave trade that had irreparable consequences on the entire African population while proving to be an economic boon to the slave owners and their benefactors. It is with those issues at the forefront of the united initiative that a 10-point plan for reparatory justice was approved to decide — Full Formal Apology, Repatriation, Indigenous Peoples Development Program, Cultural Institutions, Public Health Crisis, Illiteracy Eradication, African Knowledge Program, Psychological Rehabilitation, Technology Transfer and Debt Cancellation. “The owners of today’s international banks and telecoms networks are the ideological heirs of the “old pirates” who continue to “rob I,” UWI Professor Dr. Carolyn Cooper said referencing lyrics from Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song.” Cooper, a specialist on culture and development added that “trafficking of Africans was financed by capitalists who put profit far above any concern about the humanity of the ‘goods’ they were transporti­ng.” “That’s a lesson we simply cannot afford to forget.” Last month marked the 65th anniversary of the signing of a $13.8-billion reparation agreement by West Germany to provide compensation and reimbursement to the Jewish people. Victims of the Nazi inflicted holocaust, they were compensated for losses and suffering the German racists meted out to them. “Unfortunat­ely, we are not Jews and the former colonists not Germans who, incidentally, were not colonizers of Caribbean countries,” an editorial in the Jamaica Observer noted questioning the viability of the CRR. The publication’s position was one of skepticism for the CRR but proposed “moreover, as the Caribbean islands are so tourism-dependent, those countries might be more easily persuaded to deepen disaster prevention and mitigation assistance to their present and former colonies as a way of reparation to Caribbean people living in these hurricane-ravaged territories to which we were brought by them.” The center will serve as the official outlet to study how best to resolve the issue long debated by CARICOM nationals of how to engage a global reparatory justice movement “to respond to the terrible crimes against humanity that enslaved Africans endured.” The initiative of establishing such a center emerged out of the need to support the movement and “build awareness, engage advocacy, and conduct research which will advance the claim to Europeans for various forms of reparation for native genocide, African enslavement, deceptive indentured service, colonialism and its legacies.” The council of reparations is co-chaired by Verene Shepherd, professor of history, and Laleta Mattis Davis, chairman of the Jamaica National Heritage Trust. Shepherd will head the CRR. Cooper suggested that in order to glean any viable results CARICOM should “swiftly take the case for reparation to the International Court of Justice.”