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It is important that black lawyers play leading role – Jamaican activist

It is important that black lawyers play leading role – Jamaican activist

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Although the just concluded Kingstown Reparations conference was deemed historic and hailed as a success by all, a number of concerns have been raised by delegates, which they feel should be addressed going forward.{{more}}

On the final evening of the event at the Methodist Church Hall, SEARCHLIGHT spoke with a number of participants, foreign and local, who shared their views on the three-day event.

Jamaican attorney Miguel Lorne, for example, lamented the fact that white lawyers were among those appointed to work on the legal aspect of the case.

He said that he was not racist, but was merely being an advocate for black history.

“It’s very, very important that black lawyers champion and play the lead role in this reparations struggle,” the political activist told SEARCHLIGHT.

“I think that there are certain things that our ancestors would not be pleased with, and I think it is important that black lawyers lead that reparations struggle.

“All I am doing is understanding history because to this day, William Wilberforce is credited for abolishing slavery, not the black freedom fighters in the Caribbean that were taking off white heads, they are not credited, [and] I don’t want to sit in an audience that my grandchildren and great grandchildren will see that I approved the appointment of white people to deliberate for my reparations. It’s very important.”

When reminded that Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, who is of Portuguese descent, was among the most vocal in the call for reparations, the Rastafarian exclaimed that he did not consider Gonsalves white.

“I wouldn’t regard him as white at all. Remember the honourable Marcus Garvey has taught us if a man have one ounce of black blood, he is a black man…. And I would credit your prime minister of having more than an ounce of black blood.”

Lorne, who filed a lawsuit against Queen Elizabeth in 2002, said that despite “the good beginning” he witnessed at the conference, those leading the charge must know that it takes “guts” to persevere.

“As you know things like reparations is such an emotional topic.

“We have now had the talking from CARICOM leaders, so we would like to see what action and pathway that is taken. So I am not jumping hallelujah yet because I have heard fancy talk before, and I must give it time to work, but I am willing to work along with it, I am part of the reparations movement; I have been doing this for over 30 years and consequently I will see now how the CARICOM governments having gotten involved, how they respond.”

Another Rastafarian, Terrence Nelson, a senator from the United States Virgin Islands, said that he applauded the strides taken by the Caribbean governments, but believed that Africans and non Caribbean territories should be included in the discussions.

“I am very thrilled to have been here. The idea that we are actually talking about reparations and we are talking about it from a government level is very significant.

“I know it’s not going to be an easy task, however; just the idea that it’s being spoken about, and we’re raising the consciousness of the people about reparations…is significant.

“I do have a concern however, being a representative from the Virgin Islands: we are not a part of CARICOM, but we share the same story, and I would hope that political barriers do not disallow our input and involvement in this effort, because it is something in this diaspora that we as descendents should embark on together, because there is strength in unity and we will bring into the fold Denmark and the United States, because they are like our colonizers of the USVI.”

Clairmont Chung, a Guyanese residing in the United States, presented a short film on the life and death of Guyanese writer, philosopher and political activist Walter Rodney, entitled W.A.R Stories, and launched his book “A Promise of Revolution,” which also detailed Rodney’s activism.

“Of course, he is related to a conference on reparations because he wrote “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa.” That information forms the basis on repairing ourselves, how we get back what is lost; so that’s the relevance and that’s the reason I’m here,” Chung said.

The author and film producer lauded the conference and called for all hands on deck if the reparations movement is going to achieve its goal.

“It was just great to get together, if nothing else, and to hear people’s stories, the similarities and the differences and so on, to air them publicly from throughout the diaspora. That was a great organizational achievement and a great political achievement.

“I continue to maintain that no request for reparations is going to be successful with just governmental organizations, until the people begin to move and to create a force behind the request, and where there is some kind of threat to the economics of the overall system, if they don’t cooperate with our demands, until there is that, I think we will be probably be selling ourselves short….”

Vincentian Clem Derrick, who incidentally stated that he was one part of a three-member Vincentian delegation who attended Rodney’s funeral after he was assassinated in 1980, said that the conference was one of the best functions of its kind that he has attended in a long time.

“It was very inspiring, because you had delegates from throughout the region… and we were seriously discussing reparations.

“We need to involve the people locally and educationally building awareness. It needs to be all-inclusive; we need to get everybody on board, because slavery affected every one.”(JJ)

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