A Ripple with Prospects for a New Wave in the Continuing Global Quest for Reparations and Repair
By Earl Bousquet —
It was simply advertised as a “Reparations Forum’, but the February 27 launch of the Trevelyan Family Reparations Fund in and for Grenada also turned-out to be much more: a ripple that can send waves across the Caribbean and Europe, Africa and The Americas — and everywhere else that Slavery reigned supreme.
The proposed fund drew more criticism than support before the launch, with claims the promised US $100,000 was “too little”, compared to today’s equivalent three million British Pounds the family got in compensation after Abolition in 1834 for their five estates and hundreds of enslaved Africans on the island.
But after the launch, the story changed to one of better understanding and more appreciation and support for Laura’s personal sacrifice. The event at the Grenada Trade Center Annex was a full-house affair with a head table featuring Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell, Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies (The UWI) and Chair of the CARICOM Reparations Commission (CRC) Sir Hilary Beckles, Chair of the Grenada National Reparations Committee (GNRC) Arley Gill and Laura Trevelyan (representing her family).
The majority of the island’s Cabinet Ministers were also present, as well as teachers and secondary school students, Rastafarians and supporters of CARICOM’s Reparations quest – and a group of ‘protesters’ who eventually joined and participated throughout. The ceremony, chaired by GNRC Deputy Chair Nicole Phillip Dowe, was well-prepared and executed, starting with drumming by the Tumda Drummers and prayers by a representative of the local branch of the Twelve Tribes of Israel Rastafari Order.
A renowned English journalist for over three decades and based in New York as a veteran BBC World News presenter, the globally-popular TV news personality told the fund’s full story – and with six other family members, read and signed a formal apology already signed by 104 family members.
She confirmed that the initial contribution was entirely from her retirement pension – and not an overall or final family contribution; and will make five annual personal contributions, while other family members will also make deposits from the UK.
The author of the initiative reported she’d already been contacted by some families in Jamaica that also prospered from Slavery, who were attracted by her formula.
Sir Hilary, a renowned Caribbean scholar, historian and an authority on the CARICOM’s quest for Reparations for Slavery and Native Genocide from the UK and Europe, put the event in proper historical context, spelling-out, with facts and figures, the deadly effects of Chattel Slavery, which the United Nations (UN) has designated ‘The Worst Crime Against Humanity’ in Humankind’s history.
The author of ‘Britain’s Black Debt’ and ‘How Europe Underdeveloped The Caribbean‘ noted that while three million enslaved Africans were shipped to the Caribbean as cargo and insured property through the so-called Middle Passage (from Africa to the Caribbean and The Americas), at Emancipation in 1834 there were only 600,000 left.
Similarly, after Columbus opened the way for European conquest, the genocidal pursuit of the region’s First People also saw their numbers decline from millions to just a couple thousand, in very-few years.
Chairman Gill called on other British and European families that benefitted from Slavery to follow the Trevelyan example; and on CARICOM governments (including Grenada) to do more to support the National Reparations Committees, most of which have been operating (from birth in 2013) without government funding support.
The GNRC chair also called for more teaching of true Caribbean history at the region’s schools, where it’s increasingly becoming an endangered subject.
Prime Minister Mitchell delivered a quiet but clear indication of his government’s support for the CARICOM Reparations quest. The speakers appealed for the region’s First People and past and present leaders of Caribbean People of African Descent to be recognized for their historical roles as early Freedom Fighters and champions for Abolition and Emancipation; and for Reparations not to be treated as a “side show”, but one that has full support from every CARICOM government.
An appeal was also made to rename Grenada’s streets, schools and other public places after local and regional heroes. There was a call for a ‘national consultation on Republicanism’, to which the Prime Minister (during the later Q&A period) responded that his government would be willing to take that road, but only when the majority of islanders were ready to support such an initiative through a referendum vote, as required by the constitution.
The Prime Minister assured, however, that “We shall move forward on our feet and not on our hands.” The event’s cultural input featured an interesting and serious drum-and-poetry rendition by Nigel De Gale, a school principal, offering an uncomfortable but realistic poetic version of his vision of what life would have been like for Europeans under Slavery in the Caribbean, with Africans as the enslavers.
Also on display was an exhibition entitled ‘Say My Name’, prepared and presented by the Grenada National Museum and explained by Curator Angus Martin (also a member of the GNRC), featuring cards (distributed to the audience) with the names of all the enslaved Africans on the Trevelyan plantations, where in Africa each was born — and how they got their ‘slave names’.
Meanwhile, the Trevelyan initiative and the also-private ‘Repair’ initiative by Digicel Chair Denis O’Brian, have brough new perspectives to the movement for reparations through repentance and repair, apology and atonement, that can also be easily adopted and adapted in the USA and Canada, the Caribbean and The America, where Slavery also reigned before 1776.
It can therefore be expected that the National African American Reparations Commission (NAARC) and other reparations entities at national and state levels across the US, alongside Caribbean and South America, will examine the prospects of encouraging private and coordinated reparations funds to be established, after prior consultation with intended beneficiaries, by British and American families in the same boat, on both sides of The Atlantic.
Laura Trevelyan at the Feb 27, 2023 Reparations Forum in Grenada
Laura Trevelyan (Journalist) at the Feb 27, 2023 Reparations Forum in Grenada
Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell at the Feb 27, 2023 Reparations Forum in Grenada
Grenada Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell at the Feb 27, 2023 Reparations Forum in Grenada
Professor Sir Hilary Beckles at the Feb 27, 2023 Reparations Forum in Grenada
Professor Sir Hilary Beckles (Vice Chancellor UWI, Chair Caribbean Reparation Commission) at the Feb 27, 2023 Reparations Forum in Grenada
Arley Gill at the Feb 27, 2023 Reparations Forum in Grenada
Arley Gill (Chairman, Grenada Reparations Committee) at the Feb 27, 2023 Reparations Forum in Grenada