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Ending Royal Racism; The Republic and Reparations

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Ending Royal Racism; The Republic and Reparations.

Regional Headquarters, Jamaica. March 29, 2021. Royalty, Racism, Republicanism & Reparation: Preparing for the 60th Anniversary of Nationhood in the CARICOM Region was the theme of the virtual Vice-Chancellor’s Forum held on March 25, 2021 by The University of the West Indies (UWI). A collaborative effort of the Office of the Vice-Chancellor and the Centre for Reparation Research (CRR), the forum marked the annual International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

The anticipated 60th anniversary of Independence of Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago, as well as recent international reports of racism in the UK and within the British Royal family set the context as the panel of global voices discussed Britain’s role in transatlantic slavery, the need for it to join the dialogue on reparations and the critical question of republicanism for Caribbean states that continue to retain Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State.

At the end of more than three hours of rich dialogue and engagement, Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles concluded that the forum had expressed solidarity with the ‘black royals’, Duchess of Sussex and baby Archie as victims of the institutional racism embedded in the culture and consciousness of the Royal Family of the United Kingdom. He also projected that “the young black prince, Archie, is poised, in the years ahead to become a symbol and lightning rod of this movement.”

Proposing a draft resolution, the Vice-Chancellor called for “… republican status as a necessary precondition for the Caribbean region entering the second phase of nation building. That there should be an apology from the Queen, the Royal Family and their supporters that have benefited from slavery and colonisation and British participation in a dialogue for reparatory justice.” The resolution is still to be ratified and the Centre for Reparation Research has committed to gathering the experts and necessary supporting counsel to move the process forward.

Lamenting that the legacy of slavery is still with us, moderator, Professor Verene Shepherd, Director of The UWI Centre for Reparation Research asked the hard-hitting questions. “The international day presents a chance to raise awareness about the dangers of racism and prejudice as well as ask questions about the political future of a Caribbean of which too many maintain Elizabeth II, represented on the ground by a Governor General as Head of State. As we approach the 60th year of Independence for two countries in our region, what future do we wish to have; will we at last return to Republicanism as some have done and others are contemplating; have the scales at last fallen from our eyes in terms of the ideological orientation of the British Monarchy; will we make this century truly the reparations century?”

His Excellency David Comissiong, Barbados’ Ambassador to CARICOM praised The UWI’s historical consistence in providing the region with valuable intellectual and ideological guidance. “A fully-fledged and developed nationhood will be constructed, in our region, fundamentally on the intellectual and ideological work that has come out of The University of the West Indies… it will be founded on the basis of economic production integration, republicanism and reparations.” he said.

Other expert voices participating in the two-part panel discussions included Ms Afua Hirsch, Author, Broadcaster and Wallis Annenberg Chair, University of Southern California; Dr Ahmed Reid, Associate Professor of History, City University of New York; Ms Maxine Stowe, Music Culture  Executive and Rastafari Pan African Activist; Dr Kris Manjapra, Associate Professor of History, Tufts University; Mr Shabaka Kambon, Founder/Director, Cross Rhodes Freedom Project, Trinidad and Tobago; Ms Priscellia Robinson, UK Barrister and 2019 UN Fellow; Mr Bert Samuels, Pan African Attorney-at-Law; Professor Carolyn Cooper, Author, Literary Critic and Culture and Development Specialist; Mr Frank Phipps, QC, Attorney-at-Law and Mr. Dorbrene O’Marde, Chair, Antigua and Barbuda Reparations Support Commission.

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About the Centre for Reparation Research at The UWI

The focus of the Centre for Reparation Research (CRR) at The University of the West Indies (UWI) is threefold: to promote research on the legacies of colonialism, native genocide, enslavement and indentureship in the Caribbean, and how to bring justice and positive transformation to these legacies; to promote education at The UWI and across Caribbean school systems on the legacies of colonialism, enslavement and native genocide and the need for justice and repair; and to promote advocacy for reparatory justice by building a capacity for consultancy to CARICOM, Caribbean states, the UN and other relevant institutions, public awareness raising, and supporting activism for reparatory and decolonial justice from grassroots to governments. For more information on the CRR visit http://www.reparationresearch.org/.

About The UWI

The UWI has been and continues to be a pivotal force in every aspect of Caribbean development; residing at the centre of all efforts to improve the well-being of people across the region.

From a university college of London in Jamaica with 33 medical students in 1948, The UWI is today an internationally respected, global university with near 50,000 students and five campuses: Mona in Jamaica, St. Augustine in Trinidad and Tobago, Cave Hill in Barbados, Five Islands in Antigua and Barbuda and its Open Campus, and 10 global centres in partnership with universities in North America, Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe.

The UWI offers over 800 certificate, diploma, undergraduate and postgraduate degree options in Culture, Creative and Performing Arts, Food and Agriculture, Engineering, Humanities and Education, Law, Medical Sciences, Science and Technology, Social Sciences, and Sport. As the Caribbean’s leading university, it possesses the largest pool of Caribbean intellect and expertise committed to confronting the critical issues of our region and wider world.

Ranked among the top universities in the world, by the most reputable ranking agency, Times Higher Education, The UWI is the only Caribbean-based university to make the prestigious lists. In 2020, it earned ‘Triple 1st’ rankings—topping the Caribbean; and in the top in the tables for Latin America and the Caribbean, and global Golden Age universities (between 50 and 80 years old).  The UWI is also featured among the top universities on THE’s Impact Rankings for its response to the world’s biggest concerns, outlined in the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including Good Health and Wellbeing; Gender Equality and Climate Action.

For more, visit www.uwi.edu.

(Please note that the proper name of the university is The University of the West Indies, inclusive of the “The”, hence The UWI.)