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The reparations walk

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When he addressed the British Parliament committee one year ago, Sir Hilary Beckles said: Native genocide, African chattel slavery and genocide and Asian contract slavery were three acts of a single play

– a single process by which the British state forcefully extracted wealth from the Caribbean, resulting in its persistent, endemic poverty.{{more}}

The tactic of a Trade Union negotiator, seeking the right to bargain for his/her members is what comes over in the 2,500 word text from CARICOM’s Reparations leader. ‘Let’s sit down around the table and settle this mess troubling our political economic relationship. It is a profound moral responsibility’. That was his message.

Professor Beckles received supportive applause from those present that night on 16th July in the Parliament Room 14.

Moral argument and persuasive data, however, do not go very far up the ladder in Parliamentary forums. That was the experience of the Abolitionist/Emancipation movement in Britain 200 years ago. After 40 and more years of speeches and pamphlets, it was the organizing and mobilizing of plural political forces, including our enslaved ancestors in the Caribbean, along with urban constituency reform in Britain, that resulted in a bland, unsatisfying form of emancipation. Reparations requires a moral and social mobilization of plural/popular forces, and CARICOM’s power style does not know much about putting such a process in motion. The CARICOM Reparations movement must come under more scrutiny and review and the talking heads must be multiplied, diverse conceptions be accommodated, the Trade Union tactic be complemented, and four million more legs take up the march, a million more hands be lifted in prayer, a whole region become integrated, so that Reparation Justice Roll Down like a river in flood, both for ourselves and for those who are our neighbours. A basis exists for a Caribbean Reparations Consensus before we launch a CARICOM-Western Europe Negotiation.

Taking on Terrorism in Britain

Today, Tuesday, July 20, British Prime Minister David Cameron made a laboured address on terrorism. He spent much of his time explaining the steps his government is to take, at home, to paralyse the growing influence of terrorist organizations on British citizens. Mr Cameron focussed especially on insulating young persons in Britain from the attraction of the propaganda of such organizations. At one point, he almost sounded as if he wanted to operate a spiritual charter in the manner of the NDP, to rescue British youth.

During the address, Mr Cameron spoke of the poverty and lack of opportunity that some communities experience in Britain. He was targeting deprived Muslim majority neighbourhoods with his concern, mentioning Bradford as an example. More must be done, he said, to draw these communities into the mainstream of opportunity and to entice them away from the terrorists. It may be a cynical observation, but true nonetheless, that it took the emergence of the appeal of terrorism to open the eyes and budget of the Government to the longstanding beggary of some deprived Britons. Mr Cameron’s attention to the plight of many young Black Britons was very slight, I think that is because Black British citizens do not migrate to the terrorist groups as much as others. Does this not send a message that if you are not an organized threat to our security and peace, then we will treat you with neglect?

At present, we in the Caribbean see ourselves as bystanders and couch potatoes as others do their worst to each other on the world scale. We even position ourselves in the camp of those powers with which we have had traditional contact. We support them, maybe shrugging off our discomfort, even when their own conduct is excessive and deserves condemnation. But we can do better. In 1973, some of our leaders said to Revolutionary Cuba; You are no outcast, you are one of us. Today, many others are following our footsteps. Is it possible that in the Reparations movement, the Caribbean intervention, properly executed, could open another page in international affairs? Is it possible to undo historical terror with cleansing honesty, justice and grace? There is room at the table for a people, fierce in their quest for justice, grace and peace. We could be that people.

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