Barbados has been at the forefront of the reparations debate for the past two decades.
Reparations call for any former coloniser to compensate the former colony for the heinous crime of slavery.
The island which is a signatory to the Caricom Reparations Committee (CRC) Ten-Point Plan is continuing its fight to have the Caribbean repaid for the over 400 years of slavery.
In an interview, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office with responsibility for Culture and the National Development Commission, John King, said now was the opportune time to speak about reparations.
“When you stop and think about the labour and the blood, sweat and tears that have been put in by our ancestors with the only reward being death and I am sorry if I offended anyone, that is just the way it was, and we have to speak the truth.
Therefore, that is why we need everyone to take this matter very seriously as there are examples of reparations around the world.
Within, the United Nations, people have been talking about reparation and side-stepping and dancing around it for many years and I am hoping that we can get serious about it and have it done so persons in the diaspora, African continent and living in other parts of the world can begin to feel that they are actually seen as a part of that movement,” he said.
King said that it is important that reparations take place to give the former colonised countries some of what they have lost over the years.
“Colonialism in my mind is just another form of slavery and it is important that reparations take place to give us back some of the years that we would have lost. I mean you have lost 400 years of being treated as chattel and having no value.
“Reparations is not just in terms of money; it is rebuilding of educational programmes and yes you would need money for some of those things but there is also the psychological reparatory damage that needs to be addressed and that for me is the area that we need a lot of assistance in being able to have the technical assistance to do that work.
“To have the conversation on reparations now is so exciting because I am very much encouraged by the energy our young people are bringing to this very important issue,” he said.
Barbados Ambassador to Caricom and Deputy Chairperson of the National Task Force on Reparations in Barbados, David Comissiong, also echoed King’s sentiments stating that the former colonisers had two opportunities to repay Barbados the reparations that were due -1834 and 1966 which they have ignored.
“Why now? We were owed these reparations a long time ago. On the first occasion that we should have been paid reparations was in 1834 when slavery was abolished.
This is a long-overdue payment as we should have received our reparations back then.
The white Barbadian planters who owned our ancestors were compensated by the then British Government for their loss of property in the form of human beings. So when you say why now this is something that we have been owed for hundreds of years.
“When we went into Independence that was another opportunity and we did not receive it then. We are simply trying to collect compensation that has been owed to us for a very long time and you know what, it is not just about the compensation it is also about if we value our ancestors because back then in the post-emancipation era when slavery was just abolished, we black people had very little power and autonomy as they did not even have the right to vote, the vast majority of them.
In 2021 we do have the power to vote, we do have autonomy and if having power and autonomy we refuse to demand compensation for the tremendous injustices that were inflicted on our fore-parents, then we would be sending a message to the world and ourselves that we do not consider our fore-parents as sacred and valuable beings deserving of justice and respect,” he said.
Programme Advisor, Reparations and Economic Enfranchisement in the Ministry of Culture, Rodney Grant, said that he agreed with the statements made by King and Comissiong as he believes that reparations were vital as the former colonizers underdeveloped the Caribbean by taking away development from slaves and their ancestors.
“We are underdeveloped because they took the development from us,” he said.
He painted the grim picture of how slaves worked for six years only for their profits to be exported to England allowing the country to become one of the wealthiest countries in the world while Barbados struggled to maintain its economy.
“Imagine your ancestors had no recourse nothing or no-one to turn to and they had to work in the boiling sun and rain for six to seven days a week and all of the wealth that they would have created went to another country to build that country’s institutions.
Imagine that when this process was over and finished in 1834-1838 that they left these plantations with no shoes on their feet, maybe a pants and a shirt or a pants and no shirt and after all of these years of toil that is all they are left with. But the very people who enslaved them got recompensed and rewarded for freeing persons that they enslaved. Imagine that!” he said.
The social media campaign which is being organised by the Barbados National Task Force on Reparations is seeking to sensitise and educate Barbadians on reparations and why it will take all of society advocating for reparations to make it happen.
Members of the public are invited to join and follow the movement on social media by following @mytridentisbroken on Instagram or Barbados National Task Force on Reparations on Facebook. (PR)