Bocas talks reparations for slavery

Marina Salandy-Brown -
Marina Salandy-Brown -

INTERNATIONAL Day for Reparations is marked on October 12. What does that mean for people in the Caribbean?

In an era of the Black Lives Matter movement, the NGC Bocas Lit Fest believes people in the region are being presented with an opportune moment to further examine this contentious issue of reparations for slavery.

In a media release, the NGC Bocas Lit Fest said it will address the highly-debated issue on October 11 via an online conversation with professors Hilary Beckles and Andy Knight from 11 am.

Beckles, chairman of the Caricom Reparations Commission and vice chancellor of the UWI, is advocating a high-level Caribbean reparations summit geared to turn European and British apology into solid action.

Knight, a former director of the Institute of International Relations at the UWI, St Augustine campus, will engage Beckles on the subject. Citing the movement brought about by the death of George Floyd in the US, Knight said in the release that the manner of Floyd's death represented "the asphyxiation of opportunities black people have had to endure for over 400 years.”

Hilary Beckles -

He said, "The George Floyd Moment, displayed on television for all the world to see, was a 21st-century 'lynching' of a 46-year-old black man by four Minneapolis police officers. As Floyd begged for his life, one white police officer knelt callously on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. That grown black man called out for his mother (who had died two years earlier), repeating the phrase, 'I can’t breathe' – which has now become a familiar refrain not only in the US but all over the globe; representing the asphyxiation of opportunities that black people around the world have had to endure for over 400 years.”

Knight believes Caribbean people are misguided in thinking that events such as the Floyd killing do not relate to people in this region.

He commended Beckles for his research and writings on slavery which, he said, helped to make a solid case for reparations.

“Sir Hilary Beckles in his excruciatingly detailed empirical study, The First Black Slave Society, connects the dots for us between the Slave Code of the 17th century which legalised 'whiteness' and the ideology of white supremacy which has endured to the present day, perpetuating structural and systemic racism and global apartheid," Knight said.

Prof Andy Knight -

"Unless we understand how that history of slavery has led to our modern-day discriminatory and segregationist thoughts and practices, we will fail to confront adequately the foundations of anti-black racism or to make a convincing case for reparatory justice. Beckles in his research and writing uncovers that systemic barbarism of the British colonial slavery project and, combined with his advocacy, helps us make a solid case for reparations.”

Founder and director of the NGC Bocas Lit Fest and Newsday columnist Marina Salandy-Brown said, “The notion of reparations divides people because we all have different ideas of what it might actually mean. However, most Caribbean people recognise the harmful legacy of colonialism; we live with its effects in every aspect of our lives, and as everyone agreed in our recent, very popular festival panel discussion on Caribbean leadership, our post-colonial leaders and citizens are not winning in our struggle to sort out the mess.”

This discussion on reparations is one of the Big Idea talking points the NGC Bocas Lit Fest has been offering during 2020 to mark ten years since the start of the annual literary festival and the OCM Bocas Prize, the release said.

Among other online events still to come in 2020 are the six-part Bios and Bookmarks series of conversations with leading Caribbean and guest writers, and a series of webinars for budding writers.

For children under 12, there is still a chance to win a tablet or mini computer in the Dragonzilla Story-writing Challenge, which is open for submissions till October 19.

The one-on-one reparation conversation, which will include regional audiences, can be viewed at,

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"Bocas talks reparations for slavery"

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