An ailing Caribbean journalist and political activist in New York, referred to as a “freedom fighter”, has added his voice to a growing chorus of calls for reparations from European powers for slavery and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.
“Those of us who fight for reparatory justice, those of us who dream of a truly fair society and a just economy, must never forget those billions of black and brown people who work hard each day here and across the continents, yet are robbed by the ruling elites of the wealth and value they have created with their blood, sweat and tears,” said cancer-stricken, Vincentian-born Don Rojas, in addressing a fundraiser in his honor, at the House of Lord Church, downtown Brooklyn, New York to help defray gigantic medical bills.
“Yes, indeed, we writers and journalists have a sacred duty to tell the inconvenient truths of history to our people and to the world, and chief among these inconvenient truths are the living legacies of enslavement as manifested in the rapidly growing social and economic disparities in the USA, the Caribbean and Latin America,” added the press secretary for slain Grenadian Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, who has been diagnosed with bone cancer.
“And on an evening when we are talking about reparations, there is no denying that slave trading gave birth to the capitalist mode of production and that the warped and sick ideas of white Supremacy were used by the rising bourgeois classes in Europe and America, by believers of the so-called free market, by respected scientists, politicians, academics, clergymen and even the monarchy and the nobility to morally and spiritually justify the hideous crimes of slavery,” continued Rojas, the director of communications and international relations for the New York-based black group, Institute of the Black World 21st Century (IBW).
“In America, White supremacy built an empire based on theft of the lands and natural resources of the native Americans and the theft of the collective labor of enslaved Africans,” he said.
Rojas said that “the stolen labor of enslaved Africans remains a debt America owes to their descendants and this enormous historical debt can never be accurately measured in pounds, dollars or francs.
“So, we are clear: The historical debt owed to us has not been paid,” he stressed. “The physical and psychological damages and the collective trauma that has been passed on from generation to generation have not been repaired.”
Stating that reparations is “undoubtedly the most powerful moral issue of our times,” Rojas said expressed interest in the topic, by many mainstream politicians who have called for a national discussion on slavery reparations, is welcomed.
He urged patrons to place the consequences of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade at the center of any analysis of “the social cancer we call ‘Trumpism’”
Rojas described “Trumpism” as “a political and cultural phenomenon rooted in a sordid mix of White supremacist ideologies, manufactured lies, fake news and corrupt opportunism.”
“We must continue to play a key role in shaping the public narrative and the popular conversation around reparations and, in so doing, continue to champion the new and updated version of legendary Congress Conyers’s HR40 bill (on reparations) in the US Congress,” said Rojas, stating that the new version, which is being led by US Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, of Texas, calls for remedies, “not just studies of the living legacies of African enslavement in the Americas.”
“The time for action-oriented reparations is now,” he declared. “Let’s seize the time.”
In addition, Rojas called on the political leaders of the Caribbean to reject any revival of the Monroe Doctrine, named after former US President James Monroe.
The doctrine was a United States policy of opposing European colonialism in the Americas, beginning in 1823. It stated that further efforts by European countries to take control of any independent state in North or South America would be characterized as “the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States.”
In the same breath, the doctrine, issued on Dec. 2, 1823, pointed out that the US would recognize and not interfere with extant European colonies nor meddle in the internal concerns of European nations.
At that time, most Latin American colonies of Spain and Portugal had achieved, or were at the point of obtaining, independence from the Portuguese and Spanish Empires.
Rojas, therefore, urged Caribbean leaders “to defend the sacred principle of self-determination and to oppose any and all attempts by Trump and his cohorts to interfere in the domestic affairs of our sovereign states.
“Don’t be bamboozled into accepting the false promises of Trumpism,” he declared. “Stand firm and defend the Caribbean region’s right to be recognized and treated as a ‘Zone of Peace’”.
“Sad to say, but we are living in a dark and scary moment,” Rojas warned. “Despairing as it may be, we do not have the luxury of simply battening down the hatches and riding out ‘Hurricane Trump.’ These troubled times call for us to be proactive, to resist and to push back against the onslaught of white supremacy in all its odious manifestations.”