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Slavery is still killing us – Professor Beckles

Slavery is still killing us – Professor Beckles

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The meticulous record keeping skills of the British people would make it easier for Caribbean slave nations to lay claim to reparation funds that could be due, when the time is right.{{more}}

Professor Sir Hilary McD. Beckles, during a lecture at the Methodist Church Hall on Tuesday night, made the revelation that slave owners kept such excellent records of their “property”, that it is easy to trace the number of slaves in the region at emancipation, as well as their value at the time they were freed.

“We have the records for every island, the name the age… sex… place of birth of every Caribbean slave at emancipation,” Beckles stated during his lecture entitled “Britain’s Black Debt: Reparations for Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide.”

Beckles, who is the Principal and Pro Vice Chancellor of the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies, has written a book by the same name, which he used as his guide for the lecture, outlining why Britain has a case to answer for the murder of indigenous peoples, the slave trade and enslavement of Africans centuries ago.

“We have the list for St Vincent… because if you wanted your reparations, you had to put down the name of the person, whether they were born in St Vincent, in Africa, how old they were, if they had any infirmities…. so we have a complete list of the Caribbean black peoples in every Caribbean island at emancipation and of course how much they were worth.

“In St Vincent the Vincentian slave owners said ‘our slaves are worth £1.3 million,’ and the British government said ‘no, your slaves are worth £576,000, so in almost every case the British government cut the value in half because this was a chance for the slave owners to cash in.”

Beckles pointed out that after slave owners received monies for their freed slaves, they invested in the British economy, which led to 50 years of economic growth, while the Caribbean countries slipped into poverty.

“It is important for us to know this because… this enslavement of our African peoples became the basis of the rise of the British aristocracy as an important commercial force in the world in the 18th century, empowered the Royal family, empowered the elites and all their corporations. Without the enslavement of the Caribbean peoples, none of this would have been possible at that level of development,” Beckles said.

The professor of social and economic history reminded his listeners, which included government officials and the clergy, that reparations is not about “Black people standing around, waiting for hand outs,” but is more of a process which begins with acknowledgment of wrongdoing.

“Bear in mind that the British government and the other European governments have launched a campaign to discredit the concept of reparations. They know they have to pay it sooner or later, but what they do in the first place, they discredit the concept.”

“It begins with you (Britain) saying that ‘we have committed a crime against you, and for this we apologize, and the then the consequences we will participate in dealing with them with you’.”

“So it is about partnership. It is not about conflict, it is not about confrontation, it is about helping the British people to rise up to their own potential as a nation.”

The lecturer also touched on a number of issues that stirred the emotions of the audience, and led to productive discussions for the most part, after his delivery.

Some issues he touched on included slave ownership by the church; the rape of the black slave woman; the Zong Massacre, in which Jamaica-bound Africans were murdered and the fact that some present health and social problems being experienced in the region, are by-products of centuries of slavery.

“When people say to you slavery is over, it is in the past, we are in the jet stream of it… slavery was not just killing us in the slavery period, slavery is still killing us at a faster rate.

“The British government has to come to the Caribbean and sit with us and help us to deal with all of these issues. We have a legal and moral right,” Beckles stated.(JJ)

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