Moves to bolster reparations movements

Don Rojas, communications director of IBW, delivering a statement on behalf of Sir Hilary Beckles.
Photo courtesy Mission of SVG to UN

Participants at a major reparations summit in New York have agreed to consolidate the growing African global reparations movement and to call on all civil society organizations and governments in countries around the world with Afro-descendant populations to establish national reparations commissions or committees.

According to a communiqué issued on Monday night, after the three-day summit ended on Sunday, participants also agreed unanimously to engage in vigorous outreach efforts to educate and organize the youth, including those active in the #Black Live Matter Movement in the United States.

In the spirit of the “Durban Declaration” of 2001, which declared the Atlantic Slave Trade and chattel slavery as historical crimes against humanity, The National/International Reparations Summit, convened by the Institute of the Black World 21st Century (IBW), brought together hundreds of participants from some 20 countries in the Caribbean, Europe, Central, and South America, as well as from Canada and the U.S., to meet for three days in New York City, from April 9-11.

IBW, a leading research, policy and advocacy group with offices in New York and Baltimore, said summit participants held discussions and “engaged dialogues on the imperative of reparations for people of African descent around the world and also for the indigenous peoples of the Americas who suffered genocide at the hands of European slave-holding powers.”

These Pan-Africanists and reparations activists viewed the National/International Summit as “beginning the final stage in the long historical process of seeking justice, repair, restitution and recompense for the monstrous crimes of African enslavement and native genocide,” IBW said.

The communiqué said The CARICOM (Caribbean Community) Reparations Commission (CRC) committed to support the National African-American Reparations Commission (NAARC) in “the form of encouraging and facilitating Caribbean political leaders, artists, civil society leaders and scholar/activists to participate in various NAARC initiatives in the months and years ahead.”

“NAARC recognized the vision of CARICOM in establishing the Reparations Commission and will support the CARICOM Reparations Commission in its activities and initiatives in the future,” it said.

The NAARC and the CRC welcomed the establishment of a European Reparations Commission, along with those recently established in Britain and Canada, adding that both will seek to meet with these commissions within the next year.

The New York Summit resolved to organize two global reparations summits, the first in 2016 in the Caribbean and another in 2017 in Europe, according to the communiqué.

It called on the CARICOM Heads of government to proceed urgently with the recommendation that the slave-owning and slave-trading European nations be invited to attend an inter-governmental reparatory justice summit in 2015.

The New York Summit also recognized U.S. Congressman John Conyers as a “champion of the reparations movement and the consistent sponsor of HR40,” the reparations study bill in the U.S. Congress.

It urged the U.S. Congressional Black Caucus, major civil and human rights organizations in the U.S., and the U.S. labor movement to support the global reparations movement.

The New York Summit applauded the General Assembly of the United Nations on the declaration of 2015-2024 as the Decade for People of African descent, expressing strong support for the Decade’s program of activities.

It also called on member-states of the U.N. to officially launch the Decade and applauded the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for its continued support of the “Slave Routes Project” and the General History of Africa Project.

Additionally, the summit applauded the government of Brazil for declaring mandatory the study of African history and culture at all levels of the educational system in that country, and called on all countries with African-descended populations to do likewise and to recognize the “validity of traditional African spirituality.”

The summit called on the global reparations movement to develop sustainable funding strategies, urging the international community to work towards a 21st Century new moral order for sustainable development in which reparatory justice is an integral component, according to the communiqué.

The summit featured rousing speeches by, among others, U.S. civil rights leader, the Rev. Jesse Jackson; U.S. actor Danny Glover; and Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, Sir Hilary Beckles.

The IBW International Reparations Summit came two years after the 15-nation CARICOM group decided unanimously to form a reparations commission and to demand that the former European colonial and slave-trading powers pay the debt owed to African people in the Caribbean region for the enormous wealth made off of their forced and uncompensated labor during the centuries of African enslavement.

In January 2014, CARICOM issued a 10-point program for “Reparatory Justice” that frames their reparations demands as a “development strategy”.

The New York Summit’s stated goal was to “use reparations payments to deal collectively with pressing economic and educational problems facing the citizens of the Caribbean that trace their origins to the underdevelopment imposed by slavery, slave trading, native genocide, and economic exploitation by the European nations” IBW said.

Don Rojas, IBW’s Vincentian-born director of communications and international relations, described the historic and unprecedented international reparations summit in New York as “a tremendous success.”

“It was inspired in large measure by the unanimous action taken almost two years ago by the CARICOM nations to establish a regional reparations commission, and it will provide a huge momentum to the growing global reparations movement,” the former press secretary for slain Grenada revolutionary leader and Prime Minister, Maurice Bishop, told Caribbean Life.

Douglas Slater – CARICOM Assistant Secretary General.
Photo courtesy Mission of SVG to UN

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