PM Wants Harvard To Urgently Address Matter Of Reparations To Antigua

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Prime Minister Gaston Browne has called for an urgent meeting with Harvard University to discuss the matter of reparations which he believes the university owes to Antigua.

In a letter to Harvard University President Dr. Lawrence Bacow dated October 30, 2019, the prime minister said he was writing “to advise that we consider Harvard’s failure to acknowledge its obligations to Antigua and the stain it bears from benefitting from the blood of our people as shocking if not immoral.”

The country’s leader told Dr. Bacow reparation is not aid; it is not a gift; “it is compensation to correct the injustices of the past and restore equity.”

Browne said Harvard should be in the forefront of this effort.

He called on the president not continue to ignore the government’s outreach and agree to a meeting between representatives of the University’s Council and my Government “to determine how best Harvard could make amends to Antigua through assistance to the Campus of the University of the West Indies at Five Islands on Antigua.”

The government has written to Harvard twice through Antiguan Ambassador to the United States Sir Ron Sanders. The university never responded.

In both instances, Ambassador Sanders recounted that Isaac Royall derived his wealth from the labour of persons he enslaved on a plantation in Antigua and Barbuda.

The bequest to Harvard came from the proceeds of the plantation in Antigua and from the exploitation and sale of human beings that Royall regarded as chattel.

Ambassador Sanders pointed out that, consequently, the reputation that Harvard enjoys internationally is intertwined with the dark legacy of Royall’s Antigua slaves who died in oppression, uncompensated for their lives in slavery and their death in cruelty.

In this context, he sought a genuine effort by Harvard to make amends to the people of Antigua for the gains Harvard enjoyed at the expense of their kinfolk.

Specifically, in his letter  of 26 November 2018, Ambassador Sanders proposed assistance from Harvard to Antigua and Barbuda in the field of education as a form of making amends to the country.

 

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  1. Notes From A Native Son Of The Rock! The Reverend George Weston, “would begin a story by saying, ‘You don’t know your own history!’ and would go on to tell us what he knew of the Black man’s legacy in Antigua.” – Dr. Gregson Davis and Margo Davis: Antigua Black!

    A Year ago, when GoAB invited the Ambassador to pursue the issue of Reparations with Harvard University, this mere voice lauded the intent but suggested the names of other Antigua and Barbuda interlocutors! Not because the Ambassador was not a Respected Person in the US or eminently qualified scholar, but did so from a position of having spent a lifetime studying and understanding the administration and management of planning in the Academy with close and intense collaboration from Academic and Foundation Development Departments!

    A few days ago, before the PM penned his letter, this mere voice in the wilderness wrote: “The PM would be well advised, as this mere voice suggested in the past to begin discussions with Antigua and Barbuda’s Academics in the USA! Will GoAB do so, it is doubtful given a nativist penchant which ignores the potential contributions from Academics in the American Diaspora! Two prominent Antigua and Barbuda academics of African Descent in the US are: Dr. Gregson Davis, Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Research Professor in the Humanities, Duke University; and, Dr. Paget Henry, Professor of Africana Studies and Sociology, Brown University, respectively two US Ivy League Universities!

    “Both distinguished scholars are natural to begin this journey! Specifically with N. Gregson Davis, all students and seekers of knowledge of some of the best Intellectuals and Scholars from the Rock are encouraged to surf the web from Tanner/South Streets, the Davis family home and Hilda Davis School, to AGS at age nine, to Harvard University at 15 and at 19 became the first Black Man to deliver the Graduation Oratory in Latin at Harvard in 1960! LEST WE REMEMBER, His sister Cecille two years his senior had also attended Radcliffe and also graduated magna cum laude! They made Time Magazine in that year! Think about that, in the period when we were still a colony of Britain! The West Indies Federation was still struggling to overcome the Insular and Geopolitical destructive forces from its inception in 1958 that led to its collapse in 1962! Neither The Civil Rights Act nor The Voting Rights Act had been contemplated much less passed in the US! The Washington March 1963! The March in Selma 1965! In addition to his stellar professorship at Stanford, Cornell and Duke Universities (Ivy League Universities) he served in the Senior Academic Administration as Chair and Dean at Cornell (four years) and Chair and Dean at Duke for 15 years! “Gregson has been happily married to Daphne, also a native of Antigua, since 1980!” His brothers and sisters on the Rock would be better able to speak to his competencies and fit for such a noble task! Respect!

    “Dr. Paget Henry should be no surprise to anyone on the Rock! He has been the Rock Of Ages for an Antigua and Barbuda Institution: the Annual Antigua and Barbuda Conference or the UWI/ABSA Conferenec now going into its 15th year and the Review of Books by Antigua and Barbuda Authors! Paget “has served on the faculties of S.U.N.Y.Stony Brook, Open University of the West Indies (Antigua) and the University of Virginia and also as an external examiner for the University of the West Indies and the University of Guyana! His specializations are Dependency Theory, Caribbean Political Economy, Sociology of Religion, Sociology of Art and Literature, Africana Philosophy and Religion, Race and Ethnic Relations, Poststructuralism, and Critical Theory. He is the author of Caliban’s Reason: Introducing Afro-Caribbean Philosophy (Routledge, 2000), Peripheral Capitalism and Underdevelopment in Antigua (Transaction Books, 1985), and co-editor of C.L.R. James’s Caribbean (Duke UP, 1992) and New Caribbean: Decolonization, Democracy, and Development (Institute for the Study of Human Issues, 1983).”

    “The Bona Fides of these two Antigua and Barbuda Scholars complemented with UWI’s world wide academic recognition should be fully examined as GoAB – hopefully in conjunction with all stakeholders – ponders it’s decision to reengage Harvard by laying down its Reparations Marking: delineating a cultural boundary around the reparations cultural space in this the International Decade for People of African descent!” Why would the PM and GoAB not explore such academic collaborations rather than Government intervention and misadventure! If GoAB does not wish to invite these two, there are others in the The US and Caribbean Academy whose counsel should be encouraged!

    “We must be prepared to act upon our interpretation of what is in the best interest of black people, that is, black people as an historically oppressed population. This is the fundamental necessity for advancing the political process.” – Dr. Molefi Asante!

    The PM has launched his adventure without a historical referent point of Town and Gown Collaborations! As much as it is hoped that he will receive a positive hearing from Harvard, the Ambassador and the Chief of Staff should have reminded that the Academy responds to Scholarship! Clearly the PM has not engaged either Chair Omarde or Professor Beckles (who had been invited by Harvard University and The US Congressional Black Caucus as an eminent scholar to speak on the issue of Reparations), in this miss-education!

    LEST WE REMEMBER Harvard University Endowment Fund now stands at $37.1 Billion US! How Many Nations come close to that! Ponder on That Geopolitical Fact! The WTO Award anyone!

    “A bourgeoisie that has only nationalism to feed the people fails in its mission and inevitably gets tangled up in a series of trials and tribulations. If nationalism is not explained, enriched, and deepened, if it does not very quickly turn into a social and political consciousness, into humanism, then it leads to a dead end. A bourgeois leadership of the underdeveloped countries confines the national consciousness to a sterile formalism.” ― Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth!

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