Some primary school students will have a better understanding of the meaning of reparations in the context of the Caribbean, thanks to a new book on the subject.
Barbados’ Ambassador to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) David Comissiong presented the book, R is for Reparations, to the Mabalozi programme, as part of reading material for schools, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade last Friday.
In his remarks, the envoy said the book expressed activism and was based on children’s simple and innocent ideas about what was fair and just, and why unfairness was wrong.
He described the book as “very positive” and “assertive”, with children approaching the issue of justice for themselves, their families, and community, and for African people in a very positive manner.
“For example, they tell you ‘B’ is for black people – strong, beautiful, black people with beautiful hair. We want to be treated as humans. Being human means not being treated like animals. Being together, being safe, being happy, not being afraid of anything. We want to be free; not being judged by the colour of our skin. No barriers, no bad words, and no banning [of] immigrants. No building walls between people; no bullying – [and that] everyone belongs,” he added.
Comissiong said that the book represents a childlike spirit for justice, fair play and decency, as well as the 12 principles of reparations, which include validation of our humanity, knowledge of our history, and completion of the emancipation process.
In addition, he pointed out that compensation must be proportionate to the crime; reparations must produce a just society, where no one must be left behind; and African people must exercise autonomy throughout the process.
“We must repair ourselves. Self-repair will generate mass support for reparations [and] reparations must be a broad movement. The mass of our people must be intimately involved [and we must] network and establish a new international legal structure,” he opined.
Explaining his role in the exercise, Ambassador Comissiong said reparations was part of the agenda and work programme of CARICOM, and that in 2013, the Heads of Government decided they were going to launch a claim for reparations.
He stated that they also established a Reparations Research Centre at the Mona Campus of The University of the West Indies. A CARICOM Reparations Commission was also set up and every member state is expected to establish a national reparations committee or task force.
In accepting copies of the book, Head of the Centre for Hybrid studies Dr Deryck Murray said that the Mabalozi programme was concerned about building self-esteem among persons of African descent.
He noted that it was important to examine all of the things that were positive about human beings so that persons develop their humanity.
The book on reparations was produced by the Nova Scotia branch of the Global African Congress. It was written in February 2018 by 30 children, aged seven to 12, in Halifax.