T&T Reparations Committee Meeting and Lecture
By TriniView Reporters
Posted: August 28, 2014
On Monday 12th August, 2014, members of the Trinidad and Tobago National Committee on Reparations (TTNCR) held their 9th meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, level 14 of the Waterfront Complex, Wrightson Road, Port of Spain where the committee members were also presented with their instruments of appointment by His Excellency Mervyn Assam, Ambassador Extraordinaire and Plenipotentiary, in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Members of the Trinidad and Tobago National Committee on Reparations (TTNCR) with their
instruments of appointment.
(Standing L-R): Mr Anthony Birchwood; Der One Piankhi; Mr. Clyde Noel;
Mr. Khafra Kambon; Mr. Andy Johnson; Theresa Neblett-Skinner; Mr. Ricardo Bharath Hernandez;
Avril Belfon (Seated L-R): His Excellency Sir Edwin Carrington; Dr Verene Shepherd; Mr Aiyegoro Ome
and His Excellency Ambassador Mervyn Assam
This Cabinet appointed committee stems from CARICOM's reparation initiative where reparations committees have been set up in all member states as part of the process of seeking reparations from European nations. According to a release from the committee, it is a mechanism established to formulate and to press the case for Reparations across the Caribbean, in relation to the effects of what is decided as “Native Genocide against indigenous inhabitants, slavery and the slave trade against Africans, as well as the colonisation of countries in the region."
The committee is chaired by one of NJAC's founding members and and vice-president Mr. Aiyegoro Ome, and also includes His Excellency Sir Edwin Carrington, Trinidad and Tobago Ambassador to Caricom; Avril Belfon, National Archivist, National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago; Theresa Neblett-Skinner, Curriculum Development Division, Ministry of Education; Ms Lucia Phillip, (NALIS); Dr Sharon Legall, Attorney; Mr Anthony Birchwood, Department of Economics, U.W.I., St Augustine; Mr Andy Johnson, Chief Executive Officer, Government Information Services Limited; Mr Khafra Kambon, Chairman of Emancipation Support Committee; Chief Ricardo Bharath Hernandez, of the Santa Rosa First People's Community; Der One Piankhi, of The Council of Orisha Elders of Trinidad and Tobago and Mr Clyde Noel of the All Mansions of Rastafari, Trinidad and Tobago. The Committee also has representatives from the Office of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of the Attorney General, the Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism and the University of Trinidad and Tobago.
Clyde Noel, chairman of the Trinidad and Tobago Rastafari All Mansions
Several members of the committee took time to share their perspectives on reparations with Triniview.com. Mr. Clyde Noel, chairman of the Trinidad and Tobago Rastafari All Mansions noted that Rastas have always had a leading role in the struggle for reparations and expressed gratitude for being included in this important process. He expressed that our people suffered a lot and things must be put into place to repair the damage for all atrocities and inhuman acts.
Mr Aiyegoro Ome, Chairman of the Trinidad and Tobago National Committee
on Reparations, being interviewed by a TriniView.com reporter
Mr Aiyegoro Ome, Chairman of the Trinidad and Tobago National Committee on Reparations in a brief interview shared that the genocide of the First People and Slavery were crimes against humanity and justice must be done towards offering opportunities for repairing and compensating for these wrongs. He expressed that coming out of the legacy of Slavery is racism whereby people of African heritage are considered to be the lowest of the low, even by Africans themselves. He further stated, "We have also in the Caribbean classification by colour, where the closer you are to white, the higher you are in status."
To deal with the loss of history and the psychological trauma from this experience, Ome expressed that the committee will embark upon a campaign of heavy public education.
Mr. Ricardo Barath Hernandez, Chief of the Santa Rosa First People's Community
Mr. Ricardo Barath Hernandez, Chief of the Santa Rosa First People's Community, noted that reparations is very important to the First Peoples as they were almost wiped out by the colonizers, and much of their culture and spirituality erased. Reparations, he said, is an attempt to address some of these wrongs. The education that the process will bring is a plus. He declared that quite a lot of people don't know about the first peoples and what they suffered. He added that reparations is also an attempt to get the colonial powers to look back at the past and see the wrongs.
Dr. Verene Shepherd
Dr. Verene Shepherd, historian and Chairperson of Jamaica's National Commission on Reparations and also the co-Chairperson of the Caricom Reparations Commission (CRC) was a special guest at the meeting. In a brief address to the committee, she expressed that one of the most important activities of the national reparations committees is that of public education. She added, "It is a crime against humanity to deny people connection to their identity."
Dr. Verene Shepherd presents a copy of her book to to His Excellency Mervyn Assam
At the end of the meeting, Dr. Verene Shepherd presented a copy of her book 'Jamaica and the Debate over Reparations for Slavery' to His Excellency Mervyn Assam. In return, Dr. Hollis Liverpool presented her with a copy of his book 'Rituals of Power & Rebellion: The Carnival Tradition in Trinidad & Tobago.'
Dr. Hollis Liverpool presents a copy of his book to Dr. Verene Shepherd
Later on in the evening at a special lecture hosted by the National Action Cultural Committee titled 'In Their Name: Caribbean Women, Slavery & Reparation', Dr. Shepherd expanded on the significance of reparations and the mandate of the national committees. She asserted that the historiography tends to highlight the contributions of males more than that of females:
How widely known are the names of our women, enslaved and sometimes free, who were right there beside our brothers; whose narratives may not all be known, but whose names we can call and who are recognised as quintessential rebel women who embodied the spirit of Black women's resistance to systems of domination?
She went on to highlight some women and give historical examples of their involvement in resistance against slavery and called for them to be elevated to the position of national heroines.
Dr. Verene Shepherd presenting her lecture 'In Their Name: Caribbean Women, Slavery & Reparation' at NALIS
Speaking specifically about the reparations movement she shared that The CARICOM Reparation Commission in their Caribbean Reparatory Justice Programme has outlined a Ten Point Action Plan that has been accepted by all Heads of CARICOM Countries. These are:
- Full formal apology
- Repatriation and resettlement for those who desire it
- Indigenous Peoples Development Programme
- The establishment of Cultural Institutions
- Addressing the Public Health Crisis
- Illiteracy Eradication
- The development of an African Knowledge Programme to re-educate our people about their origins
- Psychological Rehabilitation to help us to get over the trauma of enslavement and its transgenerational impact
- Technology Transfer, which is located within the right to development framework.
- Debt Cancellation
She concluded that based on the injustices of European colonialism, the under-development of Africa and the Caribbean as a consequence of the trans-Atlantic trade in African captives and slavery, the harm done by slavery to the descendants of the enslaved ancestors and the failure of former colonial powers to apologise – statements of regret are great but not enough.
A member of the audience addresses Dr. Shepherd during the open discussion
The evening concluded with Professor Shepherd fielding questions and comments from the audience. One young lady articulated that she was fully in support of reparations but that the repatriation aspect of it did not seem logical. Dr. Shepherd responded by stating that no reparations activity will be taken seriously if repatriation and resettlement are not included. She reminded the audience that a lot of people (especially Rastafarians) claim the right to repatriation, and it is a choice for those who choose to do that. Another young man reminded the audience that history shows that the Arab slave trade preceded the European slave trade. Professor Shepherd agreed with this point and emphasized that all who did wrong needed to be called out on it.
As part of the proceedings, young artistes Anika Collins and Sasha Moses treated the audience to calypsos on the theme of freedom.
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