The Antigua and Barbuda Reparations Support Commission joins the rest of the Caribbean in the celebration of Africa-CARICOM Day on September 07th 2023.
The Caribbean philosopher CLR James in an essay titled ‘Mighty Sparrow’ reminds us that ‘the recognition of Africanism, the agitation for recognition of Africa, the literary creation of an African ideology, one powerful sphere of African independence, all were directly the creation of West Indians.’
The yearning for a homeland, for Africa – understandably has been strongest among those who were forcibly removed from the continent. The development of a Pan African philosophy emerged through the work of great West Indians such as Haitian sociologist Dr Price Mars, Martiniquan politician and writer Aime Cesaire and Edward Wilmot Blyden born in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.
Henry Sylvester Williams, Trinidadian born, as early as 1897 had formed the African Association to promote and protect the interests of people of African descent. Four years later in 1901 he organized the first Pan African Conference.
It was that thinking that led to a re-centering of Africa and thrust the continent on the the world stage of the twentieth century. Prophet Marcus Garvey took the baton, he and others including Trinidad-born George Padmore, political organizer and theoretician worked to ‘achieve the heroic feat of placing Africa and Africans and the people of African descent upon the map of modern history’.
There is much to learn about Africa-Caribbean relationships in the study of the period 1890 to 1940 when there seemed to be a pause to the brilliant individual contributions. Since then, until recently, African-Caribbean relations were conducted ‘via an array of different groupings and configurations operating within the structures of multilateral organizations as well as at the regional and national levels.’
We can name – for example the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) organized around an agenda of solidarity in pursuit of independence; The United Nations: G77+ China; The African, Caribbean Pacific Group of Countries (ACP); The Commonwealth and The WTO. [Much of the following history in due to Dr Len Ishmael in her essay ‘Under Invested The Caribbean-African
More specifically however a number of African Union (AU) and & CARICOM frameworks have emerged aimed at promoting more focused region-to-region relations between Africa and the English-speaking Caribbean. The first African Diaspora Forum was held in Washington DC in December 2002. The South African, African Union and Caribbean Diaspora Conference of 2005, was convened in Jamaica under the theme ‘Towards Unity and United Action by Africans and the African Diaspora in the Caribbean for a Better World: The Case of South Africa’ where a call was reiterated for the need to revitalize the “historical and cultural bonds between Africa and the African Diaspora in the Caribbean, to establish mechanisms for building stronger political and economic relationships.
We have witnessed since 2003 visits to the region by various Heads of African countries starting with that of President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki to attend CARICOM conference where he proposed an ‘African Renaissance’ to encompass “all Africans, both in Africa and the Africa Diaspora – addressing poverty, under development and marginalization.’ Many CARICOM leaders have staged official visits to the continent.
The Global African Diaspora Summit was held in Johannesburg, South Africa 2012 under the leadership of the President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma. A Development of the Diaspora Initiative which was adopted by the AU’s Executive Council in Maputo, Mozambique, in July 2003.
In 2013, the UN launched the International Decade of People of African Descent (2015-2024). CARICOM’s Secretary General and the AU’s Deputy Chair have met to initiate further action on issues of mutual interest on the global stage – to include climate change.
Space does not allow for further detailed description of the various attempts over the last five years to reassure both regions of the importance of their relationship, promote cooperation and strengthen the deep bond of friendship. Special mention however must be made of the 2018 CARICOM-AU meeting with the International Civil Aviation Organization where objectives included the boosting of trade and tourism between the regions and strategies were discussed to improve connectivity between the Caribbean and Africa.
This journey let to the 2021 inaugural Africa-CARICOM Summit under the theme ‘UNITY ACROSS CONTINENTS AND OCEANS: OPPORTUNITIES FOR DEEPENING INTEGRATION COMMUNIQUÉ’ with the objective ‘to reaffirm the bonds of ancestry and friendship between Africa and CARICOM and to build a foundation for lasting robust socio-economic and political engagements as well as partnerships between the two regions for a collective prosperous future’. The Summit was chaired by Hon. Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda
The inaugural Session of the Africa-CARICOM Summit – inter alia – recalled the spirit and vision of Pan-Africanism championed by African and Caribbean forefathers in the first Pan-African conference of 1900 and affirmed the commitment of the current African-Caribbean leaders to revive and renew its tenets in order to affirm the unity and common aspirations of all people of African descent for a fairer more inclusive global order.
The Summit called for Member State to address issues of climate change, reparatory justice/reparations and the need to foster increased trade, investment, air travel, maritime shipping links with a view to realize greater economic integration and enhanced people to people contact between Africa and the Caribbean, and to this end committed to establish a Multilateral Air Services Agreement, to conclude an agreement to abolish double taxation, and to review the requirement for travel visas, and establish regular weekly direct flights between African and Caribbean regions.
Leaders committed to institutionalize cooperation between Africa and CARICOM and the diaspora by designating September 7th of every year as Africa-CARICOM Day and called on Member States to support this initiative.
ABRSC, in recognition of the day, stages a panel discussion ‘YOUTH and Reparations in the context of AFRICA-CARICOM unity’. Speakers will include representatives of the ABRSC, CARICOM Ambassadors, National Youth Parliamentarians, The Guyana Youth Reparations Movement and Spoken word artists.
We specifically highlight the commitment of the AU to support the CARICOM reparations claim for historical crimes. We call on those of us of African descent to give deeper consideration to the wide range of potential social and economic benefits that can accrue from solidifying the relationship between us and the mother continent.
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