The 'perfect storm' to propel reparation


Monday, April 23, 2018

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The recent crisis for the Windrush generation coming to a head during last week's Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting created a perfect storm to propel the movement for reparation for the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade. It roused the consciousness of the Caribbean Diaspora for the contribution that its people have made to the development of Britain — not only since the arrival of the first emigrants in 1948, but also from the centuries of slavery.

A Guardian News video which has been making the rounds notes that with the start of the slave trade in the 18th century, conducted by the Dutch, British and French, they gained some £4 trillion in unpaid labour. With the abolition of slavery in 1833, plantation owners received £20 million; its equivalent value today is estimated at £2 billion. The video notes that some 10 million captives died during the transatlantic slave trade. Now 15 Caricom states, including Jamaica, are coming together to demand from the countries the equivalent granted the planters — the same £2 billion. The video gives statistics on illiteracy and poverty and asks: When historic crimes have generational victims, who should pay?

It is interesting that there are some who will not entertain discussions on slavery or reparation. Let us embrace the fine example of the Jewish community, who ensure that the seven million Jews slaughtered in the Holocaust are memorialised, and who have persevered to reclaim the wealth stolen from the victims.

Yes, we acknowledge that some Africans also gained from the slave trade, but nowhere near the scale of the Europeans. Indeed, I witnessed an apology for the African role from the eloquent Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle of Accra in June 2012 at the National Arena, which I reported in my Jamaica Observer column of July 2 that year: “I apologise for the acts of my ancestors for selling your ancestors into slavery,” he declared. “Please join me as we sing Redemption Song.” At the end of an emotional rendition, he declared: “Now we are connected.”

The current crisis of sons and daughters of the Commonwealth who are fearing deportation resulted in a meeting of Caribbean leaders with Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May, who responded contritely, as reported by the AFP in the Observer: “I want to apologise to you today because we are genuinely sorry for any anxiety that has been caused… I want to dispel any impression that my Government is in some sense clamping down on Commonwealth citizens, particularly those from the Caribbean.”

We were impressed with the swift response of our own Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who declared that these long-standing Caribbean emigrants “have significantly contributed to the building and enrichment of the country. Now these persons are not able to claim their place as citizens”.

He continued, “Prime Minister, we welcome your response and we look forward to a speedy implementation of your proposed solution… It will lead to security, certainly for those who have been affected... It is time for the inclusive prosperity for which we stand as Commonwealth people.”

At a subsequent town hall meeting in London, Prime Minister Holness touched a personal chord for my family observing, “When the request was made of the colonies to support the war effort, we responded.” My father, of blessed memory, Joscelyn Lowrie, was one of those who responded to the call and joined the Royal Air Force. He returned on a stretcher after the merciless cold seeped into his young bones, later immobilising him, though thankfully not his career as a highly respected chartered accountant. Such are the sacrifices made by the people of the Caribbean.

We congratulate the Caribbean leaders for their timely response and join with their advocacy that those British West Indians who have lived in and worked hard for the development of Britain will not be denied their rights.


AFJ reaches 41 more

“There is something about Jamaica that captures almost everybody who goes there,” explained Ambassador Sue Cobb, one of the six former US ambassadors who serve on the board of the American Friends of Jamaica (AFJ), which has contributed over US$13 million ($1.6 billion) since its launch 36 years ago. In a Miami Herald feature by Jacqueline Charles, Ambassador Cobb explained that, while she was chairman in 2007, the organisation experienced lean times but persevered. In typical fashion she understated their generosity: “Our donations are not huge to these organisations, but to the Jamaicans who contribute their time to run their groups and are frugal, it's very rewarding.”

Jamaica has been fortunate to attract excellent diplomats. US Chargé d'Affaires Eric Khant, and his wife Halima, graciously hosted the AFJ board members and friends before last week's presentation of $600 million to 41 organisations. In every conversation, they spoke of the importance of sustainability, and their respect for the efforts of Jamaican volunteers, among them chairman of the Union Gardens Foundation Glen Christian, National Baking Foundation patron Gary “Butch” Hendrickson, board member of Breds Foundation Justine Henzell, and Mustard Seed board members Thalia Lyn and Howard Mitchell.

The dedicated AFJ board members, led by President Wendy Hart, are: retired ambassadors presidents Emeriti Sue Cobb, Glen Holden and Brenda Johnson; Pamela E Bridgewater, J Gary Cooper, and Luis G Moreno, who has also joined the board of Mustard Seed Communities. Other board members are Vice-President Sydney Engel, Treasurer Barron Channer, Secretary James A Cada, Paula Campbell Roberts, Pat Falkenberg, Monica Ladd, Michele Rollins, Laura Tanna, and Glenn Creamer. Caron Chung is their dedicated executive director.


A brilliant JMA/JEA Expo

Congratulations to the newly merged Jamaica Manufacturers' Association and Jamaica Exporters' Association for their most successful ever Expo Jamaica trade show. With extra shine from major sponsor Digicel Jamaica, an impressive display of National Baking's 'Bold Ones of Manufacturing', and keen interest in the offerings of Rainforest Seafoods, we were reminded of our potential to produce quality products for international markets. When we consider that Digicel Jamaica became the launching pad of global networks, that the Bold Ones were small manufacturers who now export far and wide, and that Rainforest Seafoods is now harnessing solar power to boost productivity, we understand why Leahcim Semaj has stuck to his guns that Jamaica can become a world power. Kudos also to the Jampro team for attracting over 600 buyers. This private-public sector partnership augurs well for us.




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