“Self-Reparations: Repairing the Damage”
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE SANKOFA PANEL ON REPARATIONS
Spirit Bond, opposite Boardwalk, Bridgetown
26TH FEB. 2014
Host Sonia Williams did the libation, welcome, referenced a young man whose dream and tenacity led to the production of Our African Heritage magazine and the annual Sankofa Fair.
Introduction of Moderator & Panelists in order of presentation:
- Moderator, Keturah Babb is of the Order of Nyahbinghi. She is passionate about the black race and women’s rights. Her personal philosophy is to shine the Empress Menen in each and every black woman. Keturah’s professional specialty is policy analysis. She is currently Treasurer of the RastafarI Sisters Council, Trustee of the Caribbean RastafarI Organisation, member of the RastafarI Reparations Repatriation Working Group, and the B’dos Reparations Task Force.
- Rodney Worrell PhD, is a lecturer in the Department of History and Philosophy, UWI Cave Hill campus. His interest is in Pan-Africanism. He teaches/has taught the following courses: African History 1800 – 1900, Liberation Struggles in 20th Century Africa. African Civilization 1000 – 1800, Political History of West Africa 1880- 1970, African Political Philosophy in Antiquity; Caribbean Political Philosophy. He is a member of the Barbados Reparations Task Force.
- Mr. David Commisong, Attorney at Law is a political activist and noted Pan-Africanist. Take bio from back of “Healing of the Nation”.
- Ras Iral Jabari has been trading RastafarI since 1975 when Ras Boanerges from the Order of Nyahbinghi in Jamaica visited Barbados. He participated in a commemorative visit to seven Eastern Caribbean islands during the 1992/3 tour celebrating Haile Selassie Ist Centenary 1892-1992, with Ras Boanagers’ delegation from the Order of Nyahbinghi. Ras Iral was one of the initial organizers of the RastafarI community International Conference and Trade Fair August 1998. He represented the RastafarI community at the 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa and presented a position paper on Religious Intolerance. He is currently Chair of ICAR, Co-chair of the Caribbean RastafarI Organisation and Chair on CRO’s sub-committee on Reparations and Repatriation.
Dr. Deryck Murray has been making an outstanding contribution to the development of the Barbadian social landscape for well over 23 years. His focus medicine and technology at Cave Hill Campus, and is currently the Deputy Director of the Commission for Pan-African Affairs.has largely been placed on the empowerment of persons through community development projects. Deryck is a graduate of Ellerslie Secondary, United World College, and UWI Cave Hill campus. His passion for science and his calling in community development merged to produce a reconstructed approach to African-Caribbean systems of knowledge. His PhD thesis is entitled Obeah: West African Medicine in the British West Indies (1645 -1838). Dr. Murray serves on several Boards, lectures on science.
MODERATOR: Welcome again to everyone. Permit me to give you an overview of the elements of this PANEL ON REPARATION which climaxes the SANKOFA fair celebrating Black History Month.
"The work of rehabilitating a people who had experienced moral breakdown, and whose culture had been undermined, requires going back and revisiting what had happened."
HIM Emperor Haile Sellassie 1st Autobiography Vol. 2 (1966: 169)
Topic: “Self Reparations: Repairing the Damage”
Invitees: General Audience
Time: 7.00 – 9.00 pm Wednesday 26th February 2014
Place: Spirit Bond, opposite Boardwalk, Bridgetown
Dimensions: Cultural, historical, legal, spiritual
Objective: To begin learning from the past in order to rebuild the future
Moderator: RastafarI Reparations Repatriation Working Group
Proposed Panelists and Topics:
Rep. Ministry of Culture: Government’s Leadership in setting the framework for repairing the damage through cultural development
Chair of Task Force: Centering African History in the heritage of Barbados to Repair the Damage of Enslavement and Colonialism
Chair of PACO: Repairing the Damage through legal reform: what a real Justice System would encompass.
Chair of ICAR: Repairing the Damage to body, mind, and spirit: lessons from RastafarI
Sponsors: Our African Heritage Magazine in association with SIRIUS
Tonight we are gathered here to discuss Reparations. The call for Reparations is not new, the record shows that it dates to at least 1760s, but it has now become very topical. Reparation is redress to victims for a terrible wrong. Reparations can take many forms but there are two principal aspects: compensation to the victims, and self-repair by the victims from the effects of their terrible suffering. The perpetrator of the wrong is called to repent of the wrong and give assurances that it will never be repeated.
Tonight we want to discuss the self repair aspect of Reparations as it relates to those of us who identify as descendants of the Africans who were enslaved in the new world. Specifically, we want to look at self repair at the personal level. What ideas, reflections and actions can we take to repair ourselves and our community? We also want to look at how such self-repair will affect the nature of national development. The process of self repair involves facing what transpired in the past. One framework for doing this is Sankofa.
The concept of SANKOFA is derived from King Adinkera of the Akan people of West Afrika (Ghana). SANKOFA is expressed in the Akan language as, "Se wo were fi na wosan kofa a yenki." Literally translated, it means "it is not taboo to go back and fetch what you forgot".
"SANKOFA" teaches us that we must go back to our roots in order to move forward. That is, we should reach back and gather the best of what our past has to teach us, so that we can achieve our full potential as we move forward. Whatever we have lost, forgotten, forgone or been stripped of, can be reclaimed, revived, preserved and perpetuated. Visually and symbolically "SANKOFA" is expressed as a mythic bird that flies forward while looking backward with an egg (symbolizing the future) in its mouth.
Our ancient African societies were founded on moral communal living, and research and documentation has proven that the teachings of these cultures and traditions will aid in the moral development of society. If we return as is suggested in the name SANKOFA, we can rid ourselves of some of the social ills that plague us; thereby returning to a communal identity and pride as great Afrikan people. We are cognizant that by hosting events such as this, whereby Afrikan consciousness can be re-introduced, and by formulating or adjusting our present educational directions, we can rebuild our communities from the residues of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Afrikan culture offers us healthier lifestyles, greater valuing of women, tolerance and forbearance of each other, greater respect for life and property, a reduction in crime, and a closer connection to nature. We cannot afford to be steeped in post slavery cultures and attitudes. We must take a look back at what made Afrika the cradle of civilization in order to find answers to the multiple crises of development that plague the modern world. This panel discussion is especially for the people of African descent, now living in the Caribbean where a lack of self pride is fueling the decay in our societies.
The panel seeks to discuss the following dimensions of “Self Reparations: Repairing the Damage” that has been done to Descendants of Africans, with a special focus on Barbados: We will first look at the historical dimensions, then the legal and political governance systems, followed by the Spiritual. We will round off the panel discussion on the theme of culture.
RMC position paper Sept. 2013 page 1 also asserts that repatriation started from the 18th Century.
MODERATOR: As part of the process of repair, what renderings of the history of Barbados can be popularized to preserve the dignity of the African descendants of the formerly enslaved, and inspire racial justice?
The question is prompted by certain antecedents. For example, Barbados established a Committee for National Reconciliation in 1999 to develop, co-ordinate and implement a programme for the process towards national reconciliation and to distil and develop a shared vision among us as a people.” The history of Barbados is currently being packaged as “Heritage Tourism” of which the prime symbols are historic Bridgetown and its environs. To date the public offerings of this product highlight buildings and sites that recall the unjust system of slavery through which the prosperity of Barbados was obtained. Current reenactments of that history appear to glorify and normalize an inferior place of African Descendants in the history of Barbados instead of elevating it. It does not highlight any symbols of how Africans asserted their humanity both by founding institutions and processes of survival as well as resisting continued oppression. Having gained Emancipation from physical enslavement in 1838, they rose up en masse during the late 1930s to protest the conditions of life, which had improved little since the official end of slavery. The symbols of the oppressed persons are by-passed in the recounting and embracing of Heritage.
RODNEY WORRELL PHD:
I do not support the pattern of promoting our bitter experience of enslavement as Heritage Tourism. There can be alternative tours of Bridgetown which capture the efforts and aspirations of black people to create a better life and their struggles against continued oppression.
On this 100th Anniversary of the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) it is fitting to highlight the participation of African Descendants in Barbados in this world wide organisation. Our first tour starts on:
Reid Street – location of the UNIA Headquarters. We could have a reenactment of its inauguration in 1920. We would then move to, stalwart
Westbury Road where a branch office of the UNIA was located; then on to the
Queen’s Park Steel Shed where Garvey spoke in October of 1937 to stalwarts of the black liberation movement. We could memorialize those who avidly read the
Black Star newspaper, its staunch distributor Leroy Heywood, and organizers of the Workingmen’s Association. The Bust of Clement Payne is in Golden Square.
Yuruba Yard - the site of 1970s black activism and consciousness could be another tour
Bailey’s Plantation – the apex of the Bussa uprising – attracts a pilgrimage every Easter Sunday.
Samuel Jackman’s burial site (?)
Finally, I want to recommend that we return to teaching history at the level of secondary school. Currently we do not teach history at lower levels of the educational system. It is only when you get to tertiary levels that you may chose history course. By that time, without any grounding and exposure to the subject you are unlikely to choose it. So we grow up knowing very little about ourselves.
MODERATOR: Dr. Worrell has given us a snippet into the possible history of Black People that could constitute a Heritage Tour that has the objective of self-repair. We are going to examine another aspect of national life in which people of African descent continue to be disempowered, and identify the kinds of repairs that would serve the purpose of self-reparations.
MODERATOR: What are some of the philosophical underpinnings of the legal system which need to be revisited and recast to really promote justice as part of the process of repairing the damage?
The question arises from the fact that an unjust system was legal. Slavery was a law. Former European slave owners and slave owning nations cite the legality of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade as a defense against any obligation to pay reparations and to make restitution to the descendants of enslaved Africans. Barbados, one of the nations of formerly enslaved societies, retains the Queen of England as the Head of the State and its legal system is modeled largely on that of the United Kingdom. Although the Constitutional Review Commission of 1997/8 received proposals for a change of this relationship the status quo remains. In somany instances this legal system appears to deny rather than promotes justice, or peace-making and restitution. Examples include the fact that a homeless person can be charged with “vagrancy”. An itinerant vendor can be charged with breaking the law.
Read pages 74/75 of his book Healing of the Nation
Persons who come before the criminal legal system typically carry all the continuing legacy of the ravages of enslavement. They are then subjected to an adversarial battle between lawyers in which someone can win on a technicality.
The actual processes and procedures of law cause a level of humiliation and loss of self respect especially in cases of arrest, and subsequent appearances in court. The legal system as it stands causes a lot of damage and some people do not even recognize this. Others do but they benefit from it and therefore do not want to change the legal system and institute the many reforms that are needed. Although Barbados is politically independent its overpowering cultural image is British, European and North American. Therefore its legal system clings closely to all the conventions of Britain.
In the 1990s the People’s Forum on Constitutional Reform, a grounding of diverse groups and individuals examined the deficiencies of the legal system and made comprehensive recommendations for a system that would dispense justice and uphold human dignity. These included:
National institutions should cease to instill fear in citizens. Remove the words “Royal” and “Force” from the name of the police, and cease the practice of brutality. The Police Department or the Policy Service are preferable terms.
- The accused should be assured of being represented by a lawyer
- Their families should be informed
- Spend a limited time in custardy
- Selection of the jury pool needs to be improved
- The Dock should be removed from the courtroom
We must own our legal system by removing all the trappings of European dominance
Cuba has a redemptive model of legal practice in which a case is conducted in an investigative manner that probes why the person committed a crime. The legal system seeks to rehabilitate the prisoner. Each person who is imprisoned must learn a trade, is able to do paid work outside of prison and is required to pay for their maintenance in prison. They have regular family contact. This approach enables the prisoner to become a mature citizen who is integrated into a family and is able to carry adult responsibility.
MODERATOR: The insights shared by David highlights that the system is punitive and intended to intimidate and not to foster restitution. It also enables us to understand why there is such a high degree of recidivism.
We have considered how we may be healed of the wounds and scars of slavery by exposure to a more positive history of ourselves, our endeavours, the real story of our ancestors. We have also seen that in the area of law and governance there is much that can be done to build a wholesome society. The approaches to history and law proposed here fit into a certain spiritual frame. Our next presenter will address this question.
How can “African” spirituality be used in the process of repairing the damage?
Descendants of the victims of Trans-Atlantic Slavery are understood to have endured a terrible suffering and great tragedy through the dehumanization of their ancestors. The very souls of the black folk were destroyed. As Willie Lynch stated in his foolproof method for making a slave, “…they must love, respect and trust only us. Gentlemen, these kits are your keys to control. Use them. Have your wives and children use them, never miss an opportunity. If used intensely for one year, the slaves themselves will remain perpetually distrustful…”. RastafarI has been recognized at Africa Union forums as having preserved the spirit of Africa.
This presentation will draw on the RastafarI faith as one spiritual approach to self-repair. RastafarI paid heed to the teachings of Marcus Garvey that we should look to Africa for the time when a Black king would be crowned as this would signal the redemption of the African race. We used the available bible to identify the Black Christ, in his kingly character. RastafarI has therefore been a means of healing from the post-slavery traumatic syndrome which propels us to claim “I am a Bajan. I am not an African.” The inate/inward realization and acceptance of who we are guides us in the right direction as regards law.
RastafarI rejected the European imagery of Barbadian culture, even before learning of the Willie Lynch Syndrome. We are well aware of the African origins of Christianity and that makes the role of the Anglican Church in perpetuating slavery all the more despicable. We know that slavery is not a law of the Almighty although we have been taught that this is our curse.
RastafarI’s Sacrament, ganja or cannabis, has been essential for reconnecting us to the Almighty and repairing our minds. The three Wise Men who visited Jesus used cannabis. The science of incense and aromas is well known among the Zulus, Bantu, Bushmen, in South Africa. When I went to Uganda I was greeted by a new fragrance - a very different and yet very familiar scent. It was as though I was remembering the past. His Imperial Majesty teaches us about the unity of spiritual kinsmen. We need to reconnect and communicate with our ancestors
MODERATOR: The call for reparations began as early as the end of slavery. Africans were always aware that slavery was wrong. They continually rebelled against it. When slavery ended they knew they had been done another wrong in not receiving compensation and they demanded it. The calls echoed to us across the corridors of time. Currently we are renewing the call and considering what this means for our national development. Can we claim reparations and continue as usual? How will reparations impact our sense of who we and how we live? Dr. Murray, our final presenter, who is deputizing for the Minister of Culture, addresses this question.
. How is transformative national development envisioned at the level of culture?
Culture is linked to every sphere of our lives. The culture and tradition of any people are the tested and tried foundation of their nation and society. The Ministry of Culture is host to the Reparations Task Force set up in October of 2012 by the Government of Barbados with the stated view that any resources acquired should be used for “transformative national development”. The ministry also includes the Commission for Pan-African Affairs which was one of the main mechanisms through which Barbados participated in the United Nations World Conference Against Racism (WCAR). Political independence marked a transition to development in the lives of Peoples of African Descent in the Caribbean. Today Barbados is seeking to attain the status of developed country in the near future. What does this auger for the culture of Barbados at the same time that it claims reparations?
DR. DERYCK MURRAY:
Let us emphasize from the start that reparation includes payment of the debt that is owed. This debt has local, regional and international dimensions. The other aspect of reparation is self-repair.
Culture is everything we do. It includes science, both western science and local science. There are several different cultures co-existing in the space of Barbados and hence the ways in which they complement or clash is also a science.
The government gives direction to and reinforces expressions of national culture through two main agencies: the Cultural Division and the Commission for Pan African Affairs. Also, there are two main cultural approaches to promoting and contributing to individual and collective self-repair: commemorations, and planned programmes of a transformative nature. Commemorations occur through observance of a Season of Emancipation that begins in end of April and ends August 1st and includes the following highlights:
- Heroes Day, Bussa
- Day of National Significance
- UNESCO Day to Remember Enslavement
- Emancipation Day
The planned programmes of self-repair managed by the CPAA are:
The Mabalosi consists of training individuals to be Cultural Ambassadors of African beauty, and disseminating books and literature that promote knowledge and awareness of Africa. The Mabalosi is conducted in primary schools and now involves 70 teachers and associates who are acquiring skills in how to nourish the self-esteem of children. The increase in Black History Month celebrations in primary schools across the island is the product of several years work. Our aim is to begin in kindergarten to create a confident generation.
SIRIUS, Social Identity-Renewal and Integrated Upliftment Strategy, is for persons aged 18 to 35. It seeks to provide skills in leadership, entrepreneurship, project management and fundraising. SIRIUS has an information technology and heritage awareness component. Participants have the opportunity to implement profitable businesses that are nationally relevant. SIRIUS is also about trade projects with Africa. SIRIUS was created to address some of the current, social challenges affecting our youth. Freedom corridor – Hastings, Culloden Road, Spring Garden …
Our sense of beauty is a foundational feature of self-reparations for African Descendants. Our self-esteem and self-confidence is grounded in our sense of our beauty. We have been programmed to see beauty in others and their creations. Lack of self-confidence is a problem which plagues us as a people. We see this problem even in our leaders. We are confident among our peers but become uncertain as soon as a white person enters the room. At both personal and national levels we need to build self-confidence in a systematic way. One facet of culture is what we consider beautiful. We have to give credit to RastafarI for their relentless fight to define beauty. The dreadlocks is one of the most powerful symbols of this assertion of an African esthetic of beauty. Affirmation of our own beauty, our own science, our own culture is a journey that we must embark on and complete.
Our spiritual identity is something few of us recognize how much we have lost and need to recapture for our self-repair. Enslavement and colonization included dismantling of the African system of healing described as Obeah/Obi (O-bay). The African priests were the keepers of this spiritual technology of healing. It is for this reason that they were always associated with rebellion. We should research and understand how much we gave up.
The intangible heritage that emphasizes African traditions must be built up. We must never give up the fight. Never believe that you have won the battle and that you can be complacent because the enemy is always busy undoing what you are building.
MODERATOR: Our presenters have stimulated the discussion in four mains areas of national life. They have put forward some perspectives, provided us with new information, and challenged us in some fundamental ways. Now it is your turn to put new thoughts in the mix or respond to some of what you have heard.
I will recognize a show of hands. Can we make a pact to listen to each other and to respect each other’s view points?
QUESTIONS AND STATEMENTS
- Bongo Isaiah:
I have a question. At the meeting in the Steel Shed in September there was a promise of a meeting in Gall Hill. Up to now, no meeting!
I also have a concern. Minister Lashley recognized RastafarI as the vanguard of the Reparations Movement. Yet not one was chosen to go to the Reparations Conference in St. Vincent. Reparations/Repatriation go hand in hand for Rasta.
RastafarI was ostracized in the 1970s. People laughed at InI, called us stupid for having locks, eating vegetables and smoking herb. Now they are promoted.
We have to get the Jesus conception out of our minds. Our knees buckle when a white person enters the room because [symbolically] Jesus just enter [and you kneel to Jesus] Fire burn Jesus!!! In 1976 while I was at St. George Secondary School they took us to church. I was forbidden to seat in a certain pew because they were owned and reserved for white people. It is a waste to talk about self- repair and continue to praise Jesus.
- Ricardo Henriquez, USA
Thank you. This is a wonderful event, very informative. Why is history not taught in secondary schools? Do you have any ideas or proposals?
Dr. Murray’s response to the question on History: The 300 years of trauma and programming we experienced in slavery is so severe that even our best thinkers did not escape the traps. Imagine that there is a belief that the ordinary Haitians could not have crafted the revolution that they won! We are trapped in the Eurocentric languages that separate subject and object. To correct the damage we have to begin with our teachers. We have to promote an Afri-centric perspective in mathematics. The binary code used in computers which we never know came from the Dogon.
David to Ricardo: Following IMF/World Bank programmes funding we started phasing out history and replace it with social studies. So fewer and fewer people are growing up with a sense of history and choosing history at tertiary level. A chief education officer declared that she had no use for history when the then Minister of Education set out to put a Black Studies programme in schools. She set up a team of Barbadians who developed a very comprehensive programme. It has never been implemented in a compulsory way. Some people will have no interest in repairing the damage. However the CPAA has used it to teach some teachers and students.
Rodney to Isaiah’s question: the Task Force must take collective responsibility for not carrying out the work programme. However the St. John meeting is scheduled for 19th March.
- Ian Douglas
We have to pay attention to language. The keys to our self-repair and spiritual renewal are not in the language we currently speak. There is metaphysics in the language. A lot of negative things went out from Barbados to the world – the making of a slave; apartheid.
- Young Man(I did not get his name)
We have to have projects which include our leaders because they also need repairing.
I agree that RastafarI contribution to self-repair really must be applauded in terms of history, herb, health, dreadlocks.
My proposal is that we have to go into communities; the idea of the university in the community. I am so grateful to CPAA that my son is learning about Marcus Garvey at school but when he gets to Form 1 he will not be getting any history.
- Ras Martin
These discussions have the potential to turn over the world. Pedro Welch and Fruendel Stuart do not have the fortitude to sustain a fight for reparations. Things are already getting weak although no IMF loans ain’t get turn off yet! What is the programme to take things to the next level?
- Rev. Omkphra – Spiritual Baptiste and PACO
Greetings to Simba, panelists, and all those we do not see but how have a part in organizing this event. Here we are talking about self-healing. This is about brotherhood and sisterhood. Do you know that the African people hold the life force of spirituality at the same time that African Countries are creating strife; black on black violence? I worship Jesus Christ as my God and king. No one has the right to disrespect that. We have to respect the mystic traditions and brotherhood of spirituality as Ras Iral mentioned. We should not fight against ourselves. Peace and Love.
Greetings. I am the culprit behind tonight’s panel. We have to agree that Bajan culture is post-colonial at best exemplified in a King and Queen of Crop Over. There are no authentic African celebrations in Barbados and we have to devise a way to reverse that.
MODERATOR: We have had a wonderful discussion which is really a continuing conversation and strategizing in the journey for Reparations. Tonight’s proceedings have been recorded and will be on the website of OurAfricanHeritage. We are out of time so we will take a final round of responses from our panelist.
Responses from David:
Professor Pedro Welch is an excellent Chair of the Task Force. There is no evidence that he is not fully dedicated to the cause. His research, writings and public statements bear this out. I cannot sit here and allow such statements to be made about him. To the comment that there is no authentic African celebrations: Culture evolves. Our ancestors fought back against the erosion of African culture but they also invented in order to adapt to their changed circumstances. We can boast of what we have done to our African brothers and sisters. RastafarI, Santeria, Reggae, Steel Pan are all efforts to regain what we lost.
Responses from Dr. Murray:
I agree with David. The original is not necessarily more authentic. We must not make assumptions that alienate us from one another. Our leaders too have been programmed in the same way we have been. We are all in the matrix. Our noted novelist CLR James did not escape the Matrix. He conceived the Haitians as Black Jacobins! As we lobby we win some battles, we lose some. We have to strategise on how to solve our problems. We have to start with our children.
Response from Dr. Worrell:
I am a Pan Africanist, always in the community ready to challenge hegemonic power.
We have to work on our unification process and take a regional/Diaspora approach to strengthen our positions. Some institutions - UWI, West Indies Cricket Team - are supposed to bring about unity but can also show up as a weak link; especially when they are eagerly accepting knighthoods. Rastafari is a grass-roots institution that can also unify us.
MODERATOR: As we close I specially thank you the audience for your attendance, attention and participation in the discussion. It would be remiss of me not to remind you of some of the key recommendations that have been offered. I also want to draw your attention to the educational materials and refreshments –both of which are on sale. Why? Because we have to begin to practice cooperative economics, pay for our struggle and invest in our solutions. As we support each other’s work we affirm our African culture. Take note also that the University of Independence Square meets every 3rd Saturday and the next forum will be 22nd March. Kindly be there and be part of the collective move forward.
ACTIONS FOR FOLLOW-UP
- Lobby for and be a part of:
- Black Heritage tours of Bridgetown
- Black History Studies in primary and secondary schools; written by us and taught by us
- Reach out into communities and share knowledge, devise solutions to the problems that confront us – economic, social, governance, black identity
- Define our own legal systems of justice by removing the European trappings and developing a model of rehabilitation, peace building and justice. Implement these recommendations from the Constitutional review.
- Draw examples from RastafarI’s reconceptualization of beauty, locks, ital levity, language, etc. We need to pay attention to language; reconnect and communicate with our ancestors
- Affirmation of our own beauty, our own science, our own culture. Continuously build and reaffirm our self esteem and self confidence to solve our own problems. Remain vigilant; never be complacent that you have won the battle.
- Develop trade and other linkages with Africa and the African Disapora.
- Devise, design authentic African centered celebrations.