– Over 200 leaders and advocates from 22 nations revisited the 2015 Reparations Summit in New York, birth of the NAARC, the CRC’s contribution to galvanizing the movement on four continents and bringing Africa fully on-board
By Earl Bousquet
The Global Reparations Network is on the threshold of its next logical stages of development and expansion following an evening of recollection and celebration of an event seven years ago that welded the links of separate chains across borders, boundaries, and barriers.
On the evening of April 22, leaders and representatives of the National African American Reparations Commission (NAARC) and the CARICOM Reparations Commission (CRC) met online to remember and be further inspired by the historic April 17, 2015, Reparations Summit in New York.
The memorable 2022 memorial gathering was themed ‘Expanding the Global Reparations Movement’ and it gathered people, thoughts, and actions in pursuit of a common goal with different approaches, based on similar principles forged by time and history.
The NAARC delegation was led by its Convenor, Dr Ron Daniels, who’s also president of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century and the CRC delegation by its Chair, Sir Hilary Beckles and included representatives from states and member-entities across the US.
The ten-member CRC delegation also included the CARICOM Secretariat’s Director for Culture and Community Affairs Dr Hilary Brown, and Chairs of seven CARICOM National Reparations Committees (NRCs) from Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Dominica, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia and St Kitts and Nevis.
The gathering acknowledged the way the joint initiative by 14 CARICOM member-states in 2013 together calling for Reparations from Britain and Europe for Slavery had galvanized the US Reparations Movement to such an extent that the NAARC was born just two years later.
The 2015 event that gave birth to the NAARC was attended by celebrated icons of the African-American struggle for Equality, Justice and Reparations and against institutional racism, including the unyielding champion of the HR-40 Bill over four decades John Conyers, Civil Rights leader of the Black Power era Jesse Jackson and celebrated actor Danny Glover.
The fillip from the CARICOM governments initiative and the continuous collaboration that followed between NAARC and CRC had brightened the dimming lights of the US Reparations movement in quick time, to the extent that Reparations for African Americans became an issue that all Democratic Party contenders for the Presidency in 2019 necessarily had to state their positions on reparations, outdoing themselves fishing for African-American votes.
Then came Joe Biden’s thumping of Donald Trump on November 4 and the defeated Trump’s engineered insurrection on Capitol Hill on January 6, leading to the forced cancelation of what was planned to be a memorable Martin Luther King birthday holiday.
And then came George Floyd and the tsunami from the Black Lives Matter movement that hit Africa and America, Asia and Europe, touching every shore in every part of the globe.
And then John Conyers left, drawn across a once-forbidden bridge in a ceremony followed worldwide like he’d never have thought or dreamed of while listening as a young activist to Martin Luther King delivering his ‘I have a dream’ speech.
And then came the traction behind the HR-40 Bill on the Hill in the hands of teams led by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee and backed by NAARC and others.
Looking back and ahead, the over 200 representatives of Caribbean, African and American peoples in 22 countries talked about expanding the global movement to its next logical stages through sharing and activating their diverse ideas, common 10-Point Plans for Reparations and riding the respective waves of the regional and continental movements to shore-up the movement on disperse shores.
Sir Hilary and Ron Daniels, the co-chairs, both noted the 2022 event, like 2015, had also helped re-energize the Reparations Movement on both sides, giving birth to seven years of fruitful cooperation that was further strengthened beyond imaginable bounds by George Floyd’s death, which gave life to tumbling of statues associated with slavery on both sides of The Atlantic, from Bristol to Barbados, to General Lee’s last horse-ride into his final sunset.
The gathered clans heard from Barbados’s CARICOM Ambassador David Commissiong about Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s leadership of the CARICOM Prime Ministerial Subcommittee on Reparations (PMSC) and the need to ensure the African continent and India, as common victims of the Slave Trade and Involuntary Indentureship, work together in the new dispensation where European and US governments are stalling on offering Full and Formal Apologies for their roles in Slavery, despite the UN having declared Slavery a Crime Against Humanity in 2001.
The UN’s Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024) drew attention to the need to ensure coordinated approaches to participation in what’s left of the decade by embracing the activities to be undertaken by the UN’s Permanent Forum, on which both CARICOM and the USA are represented.
Representatives of NAARC updated on recent events at colleges, universities and legislative levels of respective jurisdictions, from the status of Reparations initiatives in different US states, to continuation of what Guyana’s Eric Smith described as “decolonizing people’s thinking on Africa.”
The CRC is expanding new ties with traditional African Queens and Kings and building on the foundation laid by last year’s first CARICOM-African Union (AU) Summit to deepen new and old trans-Atlantic ties.
Speakers recalled that Columbus opened the way for Christian missionaries to bless European genocidal destruction of ancient civilizations with crosses and swords blessed by bishops and popes and outlaw First People’s religious rites to open the way for Christianity, then outlawed African religions the enslaved arrived with.
This is a time when Caribbean people are living Marcus Garvey’s dream of reconnecting with Africa and African Americans are living Dr King’s dream of knowing who they are and what they’re worth in a land they also built, without promised lands of milk and honey or on imagined homesteads of 40 acres to be farmed by one barren mule.
Indeed, America’s fight for independence from Britain had (and still has) its Reparations implications that successive transatlantic alliances between London and Washington have simply failed to erase.
But the unprecedented 2013 call by 14 independent Caribbean nations for reparations opened-up a new chapter in the continuing struggles in the Caribbean and The Americas, Africa and India, for Reparations from Europe for Slavery and Native Genocide.
The NAARC and CRC engaged in a healthy discussion on the ongoing debate and shared differing as well as common perspectives on ‘Who Should Receive Reparations’ – but all agreeing that on both sides in the USA and the Caribbean, reparations are owed!
The significance of the event was also underwritten by the presence of two acclaimed authors, who’ve recently released new titles telling the Reparations Story from different perspectives: Hilary McD. Beckles, author of ‘How Britain Underdeveloped the Caribbean’, and Kris Manjapra, author of ‘Black Ghosts of Empire’.
Britain and Europe are already busy planning ahead for the Bicentenary of Emancipation while ignoring CARICOM’s calls to start negotiating Reparatory Justice for the region; and eight years after CARICOM made the first call for discussions with the European Union (EU), there’s been no response from Brussels.
But participants left the session with renewed commitment to take the Reparations Movement to the next stages (local and national, regional and continental, global and universal), to continue what Ron Daniels described as a movement that’s “advancing, surging and exploding in ways that frighten them…” — those still dreaming of turning back the hands of time and history.
Participants agreed to undertake actions to Advance the Status of Reparations Movements in US and the Caribbean, develop Strategies to Work Together to Expand the Global Reparations Movement, Connect the Caribbean Political Leadership with the US Congressional Black Caucus, Examine Africa’s Role in the European Slave Trade and ‘Healing the Wounds’, as well as Expanding Africa’s Engagement in the Global Reparations Movement.
But while the Caribbean and American Reparations advocates discussed the past and present and planned for the future, another chapter was also being written and unfolding simultaneously by the Caribbean Reparations movement: ensuring the British Royal Family also got the Caribbean’s Reparations message loud and clear, especially given its own historical role in and benefits from Slavery.
The visits by Princes William and his wife Kate Middleton to The Bahamas, Belize and Jamaica and that by Prince Edward in April to Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines were all met with protests calling for Reparations at each port of call and most Prime Ministers indicated they were thinking of leading their nations out of the monarchy and into republicanism.
The visiting Royals were also reminded that it was under Queen Elizabeth I that the Royal Africa Company was established over 400 years ago, to ensure the Royal Family profited from the kidnaping and enslavement of Africans and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
They had come to the Caribbean to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s 70th year on the throne, but returned to Buckingham Palace with bad news for Her Majesty: the islanders not singing ‘God Save The Queen’, no longer ‘loyal to the crown’ and no longer wanting her to continue reigning over them – all thanks to the work of the CRC and its national committees in the last eight years.
The online meeting bridged the Caribbean and US Reparations Movements once more in ways that again demonstrated that the cooperation between NAARC and the CRC and their respective works in the Caribbean and the US are part of the global movement for Reparatory Justice that just keeps on growing and expanding, continually transcending seas and skies, countries and continents, or boundaries, borders and barriers.
Participants from all corners of the Caribbean and the US all agreed that all must be done, not just to work towards ensuring support for CARICOM’S efforts to organize Reparations Summits between Governments of Africa and the Caribbean, India and Europe, to take the causes of People of African, Caribbean and Indian Descent to the next logical stages of continuity in a struggle that started from the day the first indigenous person was killed by the Europeans and the first African was kidnapped for sale.
But, for the first time in history, Reparations is in sight — even on the distant horizon — and this generation, during this 21st Century, like those over centuries before, will continue to cause the ripples and ride the waves within all their means to ensure the struggle continues to continue.
As Sir Hilary Beckles said in his remarks: “We are a trans-boundary people and we’ll always pass-on the knowledge we acquired from those before us to the youth; and we will not relent until we achieve our ultimate goals…
“We are inspired by our ancestors to make the spiritual connectivity that drives us, which is why we have met here (online) because we as one people have no borders…’