We Are To Pay For Trump’s Wall?


HR 1813 is not the name of a deadly virus like H1N1. It’s the Border Wall Funding Act 2017. Republican Congressman Mike Rogers from Alabama and eight of his colleagues introduced the act on March 30. If approved, it would be as lethal as swine flu. The act would impose a two per cent tax on all remittances from the US to Latin America and the Caribbean. Tax evaders could face up to 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

Jamaica is listed among the foreign countries to which the law would apply. But not Trinidad and Tobago. They’re not on the map? How we get mixed up in funding Trump’s wall? It’s a clear case of ‘cyaan ketch Kwaku, yu ketch im shut’. Donald Trump promised his supporters that Mexico would pay for the wall. It seems as if it never occurred to him that the Mexicans would kiss dem teeth and tell him to go to hell.

NBC’s comedy show Saturday Night Live did a clever skit on February 4 in which Trump calls the Mexican president, Enrique Pena Nieto. Taking on the role of a scammer, Trump goes straight for the kill: “Congratulations! You’ve just won a free cruise for two to Hawaii. We just need your country’s credit card number.” Trump is definitely not as successful as our MoBay experts. Pena Nieto immediately recognises his voice and mockingly says, “We’re not paying for the wall, Donald.” And hangs up.

Fun and joke aside, Trump now seems to realise that he can’t force the Mexicans to pay for his wall. So he tried to get American taxpayers to foot the bill. But Trump couldn’t muster enough support from even Republicans to get the wall in the Budget. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer sums up Trump’s dilemma this way in a Washington Post article published on May 1: “Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate were closer to one another than Republicans were to Donald Trump.”


Congressman Mike Rogers and his posse of eight have broadened the search for sacrificial victims. It’s all of Latin America and the Caribbean that must now pay for the wall. It’s a lunatic proposition. There is no rational basis for it. Why should hard-working American citizens and legal immigrants be taxed to send remittances abroad? Even illegal immigrants should not be taxed. They already pay taxes all the time on goods and services. A two per cent tax might sound like nothing to rich people like Donald Trump who are ‘smart’ enough to evade taxation. But it’s a huge burden on the poor.

Furthermore, the proposed tax is counterproductive. By reducing the amount of money sent abroad, the tax would actually increase the likelihood that new migrants would try to get into the US to make money for themselves. Doesn’t it occur to the anti-immigration brigade that it would it make more sense to support potential immigrants outside the country with untaxed remittances? Then, in this unconscionable scheme, remittance companies would be paid five per cent of the new taxes they collect to cover their administrative costs. That’s on top of their own fee for doing the transfer.


As one of my witty friends says, if the act is passed, a specialist job category would emerge: remittance mules. They would join the band of operatives who are trafficking illegal money across the world. Except that this trafficking would now be in perfectly legal money that the US government would have wickedly turned into contraband as a consequence of the inhumane remittance tax.



The headline of a New York Times article published on February 6, 2017 tells a complicated story. I suppose Donald Trump would say it’s fake news: ‘California Farmers Backed Trump, but Now Fear Losing Field Workers’. It’s a contradiction that makes perfectly good sense. Vote for Trump and cut off your nose to spite your face: “‘If you only have legal labor, certain parts of this industry and this region will not exist,’ said Harold McClarty, a fourth-generation farmer in Kingsburg whose operation grows, packs and ships peaches, plums and grapes throughout the country. ‘If we sent all these people back, it would be a total disaster.'”

Despite all the evidence that Trump’s wall will not stop illegal immigration, he simply refuses to abandon his fantasy. So the petitions keep swirling on the Internet to defeat his plan. The latest I’ve seen is an appeal to the Caterpillar company: “US President Donald Trump is about to take the next big step to make his 1,600km (1,000-mile) concrete wall along the US-Mexican border a reality. And he wants Caterpillar Inc, one of the world’s biggest construction equipment manufacturers, to help build it. Most of the world already sees this wall for what it is: a racist waste of resources and an international symbol of hate. With a majority of Americans against Trump’s wall, we think Caterpillar ought to reconsider the business opportunity.” Will they?

Even legal farm workers from the Caribbean would be trapped behind Trump’s wall. They would be caught in the remittance-tax scam. Caribbean governments must stand up to defend our citizens against exploitation. CARICOM must join with our Latin American counterparts to fight the Border Wall Funding Act. Like it or not, the economies of the region depend on remittances. It’s a matter of life and death.

Di ancestor dem a bawl

Two spelling systems are used for the Jamaican language below. The first, which I call ‘chaka-chaka’, is based on English spelling. The second, ‘prapa-prapa’, is the specialist system designed by the Jamaican linguist Frederic Cassidy. It has been updated by the Jamaican Language Unit at the University of the West Indies, Mona. After the two Jamaican versions, there’s an English translation.


imagesLast week Sunday, mi go a Stony Gut fi tek part eena di march go down a Morant Bay. Nuff a wi deh deh fi celebrate wa Paul Bogle do 150 year aback, pon October 11, fi lead im people dem outa sufferation. Governor Eyre kill dem off. An wi naah figet. African people teach wi seh, yu no dead, dead, dead so till nobody no member yu. An wi naah stop member fi wi warrior dem. Man an woman!

To tell di truth, mi never directly walk from Stony Gut to Morant Bay. Mi left town late, so by di time mi ketch pon di Stony Gut road, march left out already. Wen mi a go up, dem a come down. So mi wait till dem pass an mi go a Stony Gut fi see weh Paul Bogle did live. An mi drive back down eena motorcade, backa di marcher dem. One long line a vehicle.

Irie FM eena di motorcade a broadcast all wa a gwaan. Dem carry dem ‘Running African’ programme outa road. Mi seh, mi ha fi big up Kabu Ma’at Kheru. Andrea Williams Green change her name fi suit her livity. A 25 year now she a run ‘Running African’. It come een like church fi nuff a wi. Every Sunday morning wi ha fi tune een six o’clock fi hear wa a gwaan eena Africa – pon di continent an all over di world. It no easy fi keep up one radio programme fi so long. Respect due to Kabu!


Lickle before wi ketch pon di main road, rain start fall. Big rain. Di marcher dem wet up. Dat nah stop dem. Dem gwaan same way. An pon di radio, mi hear Prof Verene Shepherd seh, di rain a di tears a di ancestor dem. A true. Di ancestor dem a bawl. Fi joy an sorrow. Dem glad wi member dem. But dem sorry fi dem backward one dem weh no waan look back fi true. Dem dis waan move on an figet bout wa gwaan long time aback. Dem no business wid no talk bout reparation. Dem no waan fix up wa mash up.

Prof Shepherd a di chair fi di National Commission on Reparation fi 2012-2015. An a di Commission sponsor di IRIE FM outside broadcast. Next week Sunday, wi a go back a Morant Bay fi ‘The Trial Of Governor Eyre’. Dat a one play weh Bert Samuels write. Im a one lawyer an im deh pon di National Commission on Reparation. An a Michael Holgate direct di play. Im teach a University of the West Indies, Mona.

If unu cyaahn come a Morant Bay, unu cyan ketch di trial pon IRIE FM. It a go start eight o’clock a morning. An a di National Commission on Reparation a sponsor di play an di broadcast. Dem a do nuff work fi mek wi know bout reparation. But wi cyaahn siddung a wait pon Commission fi do evriting. Wi ha fi help wiself.

Wi ha fi send letter go a newspaper. Wi ha fi call radio station an mek di case fi reparation. Wi ha fi aks Govament an Opposition weh dem a seh an do bout di issue. Wi ha fi put reparation pon di election agenda. Wi naah vote fi who naah vote fi wi. An wi ha fi tell CARICOM fi send off di letter weh dem a siddung pon fi demands reparation. An wi ha fi go a British High Commission go demonstrate. Mek dem know seh wi know seh a fi wi people dem shoulda get reparation eena 1834. No fi dem. Wi naah joke. Time fi seckle di score.


Laas wiik Sonde, mi go a Stony Gut fi tek paat iina di maach go dong a Morant Bay. Nof a wi de de fi selibriet wa Paul Bogle du, 150 ier abak, pan October 11, fi liid im piipl dem outa sofarieshan. Govana Eyre kil dem aaf. An wi naa figet. Afrikan piipl tiich wi se, yu no ded, ded, ded so til nobadi no memba yu. An wi naa stap memba fi wi wariya dem. Man an uman!

jFJ0_rIRTu tel di chruut, mi neva dairekli waak fram Stony Gut tu Morant Bay. Mi lef toun liet, so bai di taim mi kech pan di Stony Gut ruod, maach lef out aredi. Wen mi a go op, dem a kom dong. So mi wiet til dem paas an mi go a Stony Gut fi si we Paul Bogle did liv. An mi jraiv bak dong iina muotakied, baka di maacha dem. Wan lang lain a viikl.

Irie FM iina di muotakied a braadkyaas aal wa a gwaahn. Dem kyari dem ‘Running African’ pruogram outa ruod. Mi se, mi a fi big op Kabu Ma’at Kheru. Andrea Williams Green chienj ar niem fi suut ar liviti. A 25 ier nou shi a ron ‘Running African’. It kom iin laik chorch fi nof a wi. Evri Sonde maanin wi a fi chuun iin 6 a’klak fi ier wa a gwaahn iina Afrika – pan di kantinent an aal uova di worl. It no iizi fi kip op wan riedyo pruogram fi so lang. Rispek juu tu Kabu!


Likl bifuor wi kech pan di mien ruod, rien staat faal. Big rien. Di maacha dem wet op. Dat naa stap dem. Dem gwaahn siem wie. An pan di riedyo, mi ier Prof Verene Shepherd se, di rien a di tiirz a di ansesta dem. A true. Di ansesta dem a baal. Fi jai an saro. Dem glad wi memba dem. Bot dem sari fi dem bakwod wan dem we no waahn luk bak fi chruu. Dem dis waahn muov aan an figet bout wa gwaahn lang taim abak. Dem no bizniz wid no taak bout riparieshan. Dem no waahn fiks op wa mash op.

Prof. Shepherd a di chier fi di National Commission on Reparation fi 2012-2015. An a di Commission spansa di IRIE FM outsaid braadkyaas. Neks wiik Sonde, wi a go bak a Morant Bay fi ‘The Trial Of Governor Eyre’. Dat a wan plie we Bert Samuels rait. Im a wan laaya an im de pan di National Commission on Reparation. An a Michael Holgate direk di plie. Im tiich a University of the West Indies, Mona.

If unu kyaahn kom a Morant Bay, unu kyan kech di chraiyal pan IRIE FM. It a go staat 8 a’klak a maanin. An a di National Commission on Reparation a spansa di plie an di braadkyaas. Dem a du nof wok fi mek wi nuo bout riparieshan. Bot wi kyaan sidong a wiet pan Commmission fi du evriting. Wi a fi elp wiself.

Wi a fi sen leta gaa nyuuzpiepa. Wi a fi kaal riedyo stieshan an mek di kies fi riparieshan. Wi a fi aks Govament an Apazishan we dem a se an du bout di ishyu. Wi a fi put riparieshan pan di ilekshan agenda. Wi naa vuot fi uu naa vuot fi wi. An wi a fi tel CARICOM fi sen aaf di leta we dem a sidong pan fi dimaans riparieshan. An wi a fi go a British High Commission go demanstriet. Mek dem nuo se wi nuo se a fi wi piiipl dem shuda get ripariershan iina 1834. No fi dem. Wi naa juok. Taim fi sekl di skuor.



Last week Sunday, I went to Stony Gut to take part in the march down to Morant Bay. Lots of us were there to celebrate what Paul Bogle did 150 years ago, on October 11, to lead his people out of prolonged suffering. Governor Eyre executed them. And we’ll never forget. African wisdom teaches us that you never truly die until no one remembers you. And we will always remember our warriors. Men and women!


Kabu Ma’at Kheru

To tell the truth, I didn’t actually walk from Stony Gut to Morant Bay. I left town late, so by the time I got on the Stony Gut road, the marchers had already set off.  I was on my way up as they were coming down. So I waited until they passed and then went to  Stony Gut to see where Paul Bogle lived. And I drove back down in a motorcade, behind the marchers. A long line of vehicles.

Irie FM was in the motorcade broadcasting the event. They took their ‘Running African’ programme on the road. I tell you, I have to big up Kabu Ma’at Kheru. Andrea Williams Green has changed her name to reflect her way of life.  It’s now 25 years that she’s been running ‘Running African’. It’s like church for lots of us. Every Sunday morning we have to tune in at  six o’clock to hear what’s going on in Africa – on the continent and all over the world. It’s not easy to keep a radio programme going for so long. Respect is due to Kabu!


Just before we got to the main road, it started to rain.  A lot of rain. The marchers were drenched. That didn’t stop them. They just kept going. And on the radio, I heard Prof Verene Shepherd say, the rain is the tears of the ancestors. It’s true. The ancestors weeping. For joy and sorrow. They’re glad we remember them. But they are sorry for those backward ones who don’t want to look back in truth. They just want to move on and forget about what happened a long time ago. They can’t be bothered with any talk bout reparations. They don’t want to repair what has been damaged.

Prof Shepherd is the chair of the National Commission on Reparation for 2012-2015. And it’s the Commission that sponsored the IRIE FM outside broadcast. Next Sunday, we’re going back to Morant Bay for ‘The Trial Of Governor Eyre’. That’s a play written by Bert Samuels. He’s a lawyer and he’s on the National Commission on Reparation. And it’s Michael Holgate who’s directing the play. He teaches at the University of the West Indies, Mona.

If you can’t come to Morant Bay, you can catch the trial on IRIE FM. It’s going to start at eight o’clock in the morning. And it’s the National Commission on Reparation that’s sponsoring the play and the broadcast. They are doing a lots of work to educate us about reparation. But we can’t just sit back and wait on Commission to do everything. We have to help ourselves.

Screen-Shot-2015-07-01-at-8.09.23-PM-942x600We have to send letters to the newspapers. We have to call in to the radio stations and make the case for reparation. We have to ask the Govenment andOpposition what they are saying and doing about thei issue. We have to put reparation on the election agenda. We are not going to vote for those who are not voting forusi. And we have to tell CARICOM to send off the letter they’ve been sitting on, demanding reparation. And we have to go and demonstrate at the British High Commission.  We have to let them know that we know that it is our people who should have gotten reparation in 1834.  Not theirs.  We’re dead serious. It’s time to settle the score.

Time To Boycott Britain!

dettmer-popup“At his favorite seaside resort of Weymouth, the story goes, King George III once encountered an absentee owner of a Jamaican plantation whose coach and liveried outriders were even more resplendent than his own. ‘Sugar, sugar, eh?’ the King exclaimed. ‘All that sugar!'”

I found this gem in a book by Adam Hochschild, Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves. What King George should have said was, “Human trafficking, eh? All that human trafficking!” And it wasn’t only individual planters who were spectacularly enriched by the unpaid labour of enslaved Africans.

Historians and economists have amassed the evidence. Britain’s industrial revolution was fuelled by the blood money of plantation slavery in the Caribbean. Bristol, Liverpool and London all flourished on human trafficking.   So there’s no need for any more talk about the right to reparations! It’s time for action. It’s time to launch a boycott against Britain until the right to reparations is acknowledged and a carefully managed process of restitution is begun.

A Caribbean boycott of Britain, initiated by Jamaica, may seem like idle talk. But, with Norman Manley’s leadership, Jamaica was the second country, after India, to boycott apartheid South Africa. At the time, we were still a colony of Britain. But that didn’t stop us. The South African government complained to Britain. And their response was that Jamaica’s regulation of trade was our own business.


'And who ordered the table scraps?'

Unlike the PNP of Norman Manley, the present Government doesn’t seem to have the guts to stand up for our rights. Why are we agreeing to take scraps from Britain’s table when we are entitled to so much more?   Take, for instance, this promised piece of a prison.   According to a press release issued last Wednesday by the Ministry of National Security, a “non-binding” memorandum of understanding has been signed between the Governments of Jamaica and the UK to “improve prison conditions in Jamaica”.

But that’s not all. The prison will also be used to get rid of Jamaicans convicted of crime in the UK! The proposed prisoner transfer, which has to be approved by the Jamaican Parliament, is designed to turn us into a penal colony.   According to UK Prime Minister David Cameron, “This is in the interest of both of us and is a good example of how we can work together to benefit people here in Jamaica and in Britain, too”.

Cameron definitely tek wi fi eedyat! What is Jamaica actually going to get out of this ‘gift’? A whole heap of criminals in a megaprison. That’s what. And when our home-grown criminals buck up the deported yardies and they start plotting together is going to be hell and powderhouse!

On top of that, I suspect that Jamaica is not going to make much money out of the construction of that prison. I bet you anything British architects will be hired to design the complex. And the Brits will get all of the high-paying jobs. Local construction workers might get a break doing the heavy lifting   But most of the promised millions will stay in the U.K. We will become a penal colony all for nothing.

It’s a well-known ‘development’ model. Foreign experts are usually the ones who benefit the most from overseas projects. Cameron himself admitted as much. Jamaica will have access to a new £300 million fund for improving infrastructure across the Caribbean. But guess who will get the contracts? The UK Prime Minister tells it like it is: “I believe that this will benefit British businesses that have the knowledge and expertise to deliver infrastructure improvement”.


Cameron also promised that US$9 billion would be spent in the region on climate change projects: “I am determined to ensure that some of that money will be spent right here . . . .” Cameron knows that it takes a lot of political clout to actually allow development money to flow into so-called developing countries. And “some” doesn’t sound like a high percentage.

Cameron probably thinks that these ‘monkey money’ projects will stop CARICOM from vigorously proceeding with a legal claim for reparations. Addressing the Jamaican Parliament, he brazened it out, “I do hope that, as friends who have gone through so much together since those darkest of times, we can move on from this painful legacy and continue to build for the future”.

imagesNo prospect of deporting to the colonies the direct descendants of enslavers to serve their ancestors’ sentence for crimes against humanity committed here! We would need a rather big penitentiary that the British government would most certainly not be willing to build. Not in their best interests. And no repatriation of their ill-gotten gains! Like many a modern criminal, the known descendants of former enslavers are living high on the hog, luxuriating in the proceeds of their ancestors’ crimes.

The word ‘reparation’ comes from the same Latin root as ‘repair’ – reparare. Its fundamental meaning is ‘re’ (again) and ‘parare’ (make ready, prepare).   Money can never repair the damage that was done to Africans, both on the continent and in the Diaspora, as a consequence of trans-Atlantic slavery. But we certainly can’t move on without it. Even if it means boycotting our ‘friends’.

UTech Deputy President Beating His Gums

If he’s not careful, Professor Colin Gyles, deputy president of the University of Technology (UTech), will soon need the services of a graduate of an accredited dental degree programme. He’s just beating his gums in response to my column published last Sunday, “University fi stone dog in the UK?”

There, I state the truth: “UTech hasn’t even applied for accreditation of its dental programme! And the first graduates are about to be let loose on an unsuspecting world”. In his evasive column, “Carolyn Cooper and the UWI cartel”, published last Tuesday, Professor Gyles takes almost 800 words to avoid addressing the issue of accreditation.

redherringInstead, he puts some rather smelly red herrings on the table, hoping, I suppose, to distract readers from the meat of the matter. Professor Gyles says he’s a graduate of the University of the West Indies. That’s irrelevant. Then he makes a nonsensical claim: “It should be evident that any criticism of UTech’s capacity to deliver quality education is a criticism of the institutions from which those experts got their training”.

Perhaps it should be evident. But it is not. Accreditation of a university’s academic programmes – the primary issue here – is not solely dependent on the qualifications of those who are offering training. And, in any case, I was not criticising UTech’s capacity. The quality of actual delivery may be quite different from capacity.


What Dr. Gyles fails to admit is that the University of Technology is not accredited by The Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Education in Medicine and other Health Professions (CAAM-HP). As stated on its website, CAAM-HP “is the legally constituted body established in 2003 under the aegis of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), empowered to determine and prescribe standards and to accredit programmes of medical, dental, veterinary and other health professions education on behalf of the contracting parties in CARICOM”.

Furthermore, the website states that “CAAM-HP will serve as the means of providing the assurance of quality that generates confidence in the principal stakeholders, students and the public”. When I checked with the local office of CAAM-HP two Fridays ago, I was informed that several attempts have been made to get the University of Technology to begin the accreditation process. With no success.

Apparently resisting local/regional review, UTech has turned to the US-based Commission on Dental Competency Assessment (CDCA) to legitimise its academic programme. In his response to my column, Prof. Gyles states, “UTech’s dental programme is recognised by the Commission on Dental Competency Assessment (CDCA), which assesses and approves dentists to practise in the United States and Canada. The CDCA is described as being like the GOLD standard for dental competency assessment.

“It is of note that UTech’s College of Oral Health Sciences became the first institution outside of North America to be approved by the CDCA. The current final-year cohort of students from UTech’s dentistry programme will be sitting the CDCA examinations in less than a month”.


headerCDCAWhat, exactly, does CDCA recognition and approval mean? Nothing much, it would appear. Last Tuesday, I spoke to Dr. Ellis Hall, Director of Examinations at the Commission on Dental Competency Assessment. He immediately confirmed that the Commission is not an accrediting body. It administers exams. That’s it.

Professor Gyles argues that because UTech dental students are about to take the CDCA exams, “It therefore gives a completely false impression of the quality of the cohort of students who will shortly graduate from the programme as fully trained and qualified dentists for them to be described as ‘about to be let loose on an unsuspecting world’”.

The UTech graduates may very well be “fully trained and qualified dentists”. But this is another red herring. How many of us would suspect that the UTech dental degree programme is not accredited? Try as he might, Professor Gyles cannot deny the fact that UTech is pressing along with its dental programme, with no regard for the CARICOM accreditation requirements.

As for the platitude that “We cannot become so fiercely competitive that we tear each other apart and undermine the collective strength that we could muster in order to bolster our own collective survival and competitiveness in the wider world”. Professor Gyles clearly didn’t see my statement that we need more than one university in Kingston. The issue is not competition; it’s competitive advantage.


Surprisingly, Professor Gyles doesn’t seem to appreciate the value of polytechnic education. He dismissively states, “The impression being given that UTech is some kind of polytechnic that simply tries to duplicate the offerings of traditional universities such as UWI is not true”. The College of Arts, Science and Technology was a polytechnic that did an excellent job of providing professional education. CAST graduates easily found jobs for which their UWI counterparts were unqualified.

imagesAnd it is true that some foolish administrators at UWI turned up their noses at academic programmes they considered beneath them. Like sports. Now, the University is desperately trying to catch up in some of these fields. But the solution to the problem of shortsightedness is not duplication of effort.

The administrators of both UTech and UWI need to sit down and talk about how the limited resources of both the nation and the region can be used to full advantage. Ensuring that all academic programmes are accredited is the first step.

Paying For Emancipation

images-7Britain’s Black Debt is the intriguing title of a provocative book launched to much fanfare earlier this month by the University of the West Indies Press. The Nyahbinghi House drummers and chanters set the tone of the occasion. ‘Black Liberation Day’, ‘Open de Gate Mek We Repatriate’, ‘Four Hundred Million Black Man’ and ‘Every Time We Chant Nyahbinghi I an I Waan Trod Home a Yaad’ were some of the ‘heartical’ chants that heralded the launch.

The book’s author is Prof Sir Hilary Beckles, distinguished Barbadian historian and principal of the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies. In Britain’s Black Debt, Beckles tackles the contentious issue of reparations for both the genocide of the indigenous peoples and the enslavement of Africans in the so-called West Indies. Christopher Columbus lost his way to the ‘East Indies’ and our region is now stuck with a name that perpetuates the great discoverer’s error!

viewer-1The cover of the book brilliantly illustrates its theme. The main image is a 1966 photograph of Queen Elizabeth II with her cousin, George Henry Hubert Lascelles, the 7th Earl of Harewood, on his sugar plantation in Barbados. The property was bought by one of the earl’s relatives in 1780, along with 232 slaves. In the background, at a respectful distance, is a large group of well-dressed, carefully choreographed spectators, mostly white, whose body language suggests decorous delight at finding themselves in the presence of royalty.


Beneath the photograph, there’s a row of shackled Africans: three children; three women, each with a baby wrapped on her back; and seven men. Two black overseers with guns are keeping them all in line. The enslaved humans are the literal subtext of the main story about colonial masters and their loyal subjects. Beckles compellingly argues that forced labour in the Caribbean is the foundation of much of the wealth of Britain, including that of the Royal Family.

images-2Beckles pays tribute to Eric Williams’ revolutionary book, Capitalism and Slavery, first published in 1944. There, Beckles argues, Williams “constructed the framework for the reparations case”. Beckles does concede that Williams “stopped short of making an explicit call for reparations”. But, he asserts, the book “still represents the most persuasive articulation of evidence” that “Britain’s magnificent, enviable industrial civilisation emerged from the foul waters of colonial slavery”.

The Earl of Harewood died on July 10, 2011 at the age of 88. His obituary in the London Telegraph substantiates Beckles’ case: “The Lascelles family had made their fortune in the West Indies. An 18th-century ancestor, Edwin Lascelles, had built the magnificent Harewood House in the family estates in the West Riding of Yorkshire”.   Harewood House is not a house. It is a palatial monument to capitalist greed.


Harewood House

And its owners have no shame about the source of their tainted wealth. The Harewood House website states quite matter-of-factly that, “[b]y 1787, the Lascelles family had interests in 47 plantations and owned thousands of slaves in Barbados and across the West Indies. The Lascelles weren’t unique – most merchants of the period were involved in the slave trade”.  And Harewood House is now a tourist attraction. It costs £14 for adults to tour the ‘house’, including staterooms, and £10 to visit just the grounds and below stairs. Class privilege comes at a price.


The most startling fact I learnt at the launch of Britain’s Black Debt is that the British government had wanted emancipated slaves to pay reparations to their former masters for the loss of their service. A lunatic proposition! Where was the money supposed to come from? The Haitian people had been forced to borrow money to pay reparations to France for claiming their freedom. In the case of the British, it was they who were claiming freedom from us. True, rebellious slaves across the British colonies had fought for freedom. But, in effect, Emancipation was designed to free the British government of all legal and moral obligations to the formerly enslaved.

Sir Thomas Buxton

Sir Thomas Buxton

The abolitionist, Sir Thomas Buxton, had urged his fellow parliamentarians to pay reparations to emancipated Africans. But, as Beckles notes, “[T]he British Parliament, densely populated with slaveholders and other beneficiaries of slave investments, did not take Buxton’s suggestion seriously”.   Eventually, the British government decided to pay reparations to slave owners on behalf of the enslaved. But no reparations were to be paid to the primary victims of this demonic crime against humanity.

It’s bad enough that some British MPs still don’t take reparations seriously. But why do most of us, the descendants of enslaved Africans, act as if the idea of reparations is a big joke? Is it because we believe the lie that slavery was good for us, taking us from ‘savagery’ to ‘civilisation’? Have we not read Walter Rodney’s brilliant book, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa?


The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was established on May 25, 1963 in Addis Ababa. A primary mission of the organisation was to end colonial rule on the African continent. On May 26, 2001, the OAU was rebranded as the African Union (AU). May 25 has come to be known as African Liberation Day. It is an occasion to reflect on the protracted struggle of Africans on the continent and in the diaspora to reclaim the right to determine our own destiny.

PrintThe theme for the 50th anniversary celebrations is ‘Panfricanism & African Renaissance’. If we are serious about the rebirth of the continent, reparations must be put on the agenda of the AU. And if we are to escape recolonisation by the International Monetary Fund, reparations must be put on the CARICOM agenda.

Reparations is the urgent message Professor Beckles took to Ethiopia last week, where he addressed a conference that was convened ahead of the 21st African Union Summit. Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller is there. I hope she knows she must speak out on behalf of Rastafari and all those heroic Jamaicans like Paul Bogle and Sam Sharpe who have long been fighting for reparative justice.

Somewhere in South America and Trinidad

This week’s earlier post, “Not Even One Token Woman!”, was published on Monday in Guyana’s Stabroek News, thanks to the initiative of  Dr. Alissa Trotz who gave up her ‘In the Diaspora’ column to air what she considered to be a pressing issue:  gender politics in the Caribbean.

I got a most entertaining response from ‘Somewhere in  South America’:

Carolyn is right – the Caribbean Methuselahs are in charge and pity the poor woman or young man or woman who wants to be a part of the PM and DM process – you might catch their eye, but for all the wrong reasons! These men are in charge of everything up and down the Region and no one else is expected to gatecrash this particular party because the pickings are so rich – consultancies galore until you literally drop dead from the weight of the money you have accumulated from the likes of Caricom, the CommSec, UWI and international organizations with largesse to divest and settle their balance sheets. Carolyn is right -being Methuselahs, not even the young get a look in – and these are the people whose future these geriatrics are trying to commandeer and manage for them.

Sir Shridath to the left of the Queen

Sir Shridath and his ilk do not know when to stop and bow out gracefully – kind of like those boxers who come out of retirement at 55 to find themselves pummelled, punched, outclassed and out of date but still believing that they have a point to prove. Embarassing spectacle for all concerned – did their part, were recognised amply for it, but still want to feed at the trough in the guise of ‘Caribbean Elder Statesmen’. So now we have the cushy prospect of yet another commission (on Migration) bearing the stamp of the Ramphal Centre, and financed by the hapless CommSec – with all sorts of ‘old boys’ from the Commonwealth dishing out advice as our elder and wise statesmen – I haven’t seen any old men migrating recently, have you? Im sure Sir Shridath and the boys being in touch with Caribbean reality when they have their time from their busy schedules will dispense loads more wisdom to clog up the bookshelves of even more Caribbean libraries.

There really is no shame about it – and in fact a lot of righteous indignation – as Im sure she will get – when one has the temerity to disturb/question the ‘party’. Number One they don’t like being called ‘Old’ and Number Two they really believe that the solutions need to be found by them and them alone. Funny thing is, if they were so good – and as we all know, these guys have been at it for donkeys years – where are the results? Limited to say the least and they then lay it at the door of the leaders. The leaders can carry a significant portion of the blame but our ‘Methuselahs certainly need to be put out to pasture by now. They really are way past their ‘sell by date’. Bring on the women and the young people – maybe an intellectual Jasmine revolution in the region might be the thing we need….

Norman Girvan

One of the sympathetic  ‘poster patriarchs’, Norman Girvan, posted the column on his blog:


The development consultant, Mervyn Claxton, gives an intriguing response which I reproduce here in its entirety:

It is unclear how many women were initially invited to participate in the Conference on Collective Responsibility in the 21st Century; when they were actually invited (was it a last minute act to deflect growing criticism of the gender imbalance in the composition of the panel?); and the reasons why several women invitees declined to participate. How many did so because they felt that they were invited as an afterthought? Even if the answers to those questions exculpate the conference organizers, it is most damning that the flyer for the conference featured only male participants – eleven of them. That single action, probably a subconscious reflex, is an eloquent illustration of the considerable hurdles women face in overcoming gender inequality in the region. It was further compounded by the fact that the gender ratio of the participants who addressed the conference or presented papers was 23 males to 2 females. Carolyn Cooper summed up this most intractable problem perfectly: “Women end up on the margins or are completely written out of the story. So we women…still have to put up a fight to insert ourselves into history.”

With a certain amount of hesitation (because I am on the other side of the gender divide), I would like to propose a strategy that might help women in the region succeed in winning that fight, namely, “to insert ourselves into history.” A number of economic reports and research projects over the past decade have concluded that not only are women an engine of economic growth but, even more importantly, that they are the single biggest force for world economic growth. In the light of those reports, which I detail below, I suggest that Caricom women seriously consider shifting the emphasis of their struggle for gender equality from righting wrongs to the centrally important role that women could play in Caricom in dealing with the redoubtable challenges of globalization and economic development, among others.

Jamaican market woman

If they succeed in getting that message across to the region’s (patriarchal) political, economic and business establishments (and they have unchallengeable conclusions from the research findings from authoritative sources at their disposal to support that message) Caricom women would then move from the margins to centre stage and will thus insert themselves into the region’s 21st century history.

The conclusions of a 1999 report from France’s Conseil d’Analyse Economique demonstrate that women are an engine of economic growth. The report makes a correlation between the level of unemployment in certain European countries and the percentage of women in those countries who remain economically inactive. Thus Denmark, with an overall unemployment rate of 4.6% that year, had 74.2% of its adult female population in economically active life, while Spain, with 18.2% of its population unemployed had only 45.6% of its adult female population in active economic life. The report concluded that countries desiring to stimulate economic growth should promote a greater participation of women in the work force and reduce the inequalities they suffer.

Qualitative female participation in the work place is equally, or perhaps even more, important than quantitative participation. In a March 2009 Financial Times article, entitled “Soapbox: why women managers shine”, Michel Ferrary, Professor of Business and Human Resources Management at the University of Geneva, shared the results of his research on the performance of the leading companies quoted on the French stock exchange during the recent global financial crisis: “My research project on companies from the French CAC  40 stock exchange index pointed out that the more women there were in a company’s management, the less the share price fell in 2008. A significant coefficient of correlation links the two variables.”

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/27836d74-04e4-11de-8166 000077b07658,dwp_uuid=1d22aad4-0732-11de-9294 000077b07658.html?nclick_check=1#axzz1EDjjZDy

Ferrary advanced the reasons why firms with more female managers weathered the global financial crisis better than those with few or no women in higher management:

“Gender diversity supports managerial efficiency by creating a more diverse culture and favouring the exploration of different business opportunities. However, creating a diverse culture implies a critical mass of female managers. To reach this point, companies must recruit more women. They also have to promote and train women when the labour market does not supply enough.”

To access the Financial article via the link above, one must register with the paper, which is free. However, those who do not wish to do so can read about Ferrary’s findings, together with the results of two other studies (a 2007 study by the consulting firm McKinsey and a 2001 study by Pepperdine University), in an accessible article in the Boston Globe, “The female advantage: A new reason for businesses to promote women: it’s more profitable.” (May, 3, 2009).


The article states: “Several studies have linked greater gender diversity in senior posts with financial success. European firms with the highest proportion of women in power saw their stock value climb by 64 percent over two years, compared with an average of 47 percent, according to a 2007 study by the consulting firm McKinsey and Company. Measured as a percent of revenues, profits at Fortune 500 firms that most aggressively promoted women were 34 percent higher than industry medians, a 2001 Pepperdine University study showed. And, just recently, a French business professor [Michel Ferrary] found that the share prices of companies with more female managers declined less than average on the French stock market in 2008.”

‘This mounting body of evidence represents an important twist in the debate over women in business. For decades, women’s advancement has been seen as an issue of fairness and equality. Now some researchers are saying it should also be seen in another way: as a smart way to make money.” Applying those conclusions to our region, Caricom women should argue that their advancement, is not only ‘a smart way [for Caricom business firms] to make money’ but, even more importantly, a crucial policy action that can help the region cope effectively with globalization, as well the negative consequences for Caricom of the fallout from the global financial crisis.

Putting women centre stage on the economic scene would also be an innovative, catalytic strategy for accelerating Caricom countries’ socio-economic development and improving its overall economic performance at a time when the increased competition generated by a globalized market. l developing countries (particularly small ones like ours) to make optimal use of their national assets and, also, shrewd national investment decisions, if they want to avoid becoming future basket cases, that is to say, countries dependent for their survival on AID, EPA’s and sundry handouts from the industrialized countries and the international community.

In a paper presented at a CDB Conference (Barbados, December, 2008), entitled ‘The Global Financial Crisis – Implications for the Caribbean”

http://www.caribank.org/titanweb/cdb/webcms.nsf/AllDoc/ECEA4E69DFA09D50042575210067FEF2/$File/GlobalFinancialCrisis.pdf, Trevor Alleyne outlined the important negative effects on Caricom countries of the global financial crisis, which gives an indication of the enormous challenge the region faces: Growth in the Caribbean has been revised downward in light of the global financial crisis and the economic slowdown will result in lower tourism receipts; lower remittances, lower FDI and other private capital, lower commodity prices, slower economic growth, and balance of payments pressures.

The reports cited above show that women are better than men in risk assessment and risk management in respect of investments. Alleyne further pointed out that current account deficits in the region are financed by financial flows which are expected to slow down in the future and that spillovers from a US credit crunch will likely involve reduced capital inflows, remittances, and exports. Caricom countries will seriously handicap their efforts to cope with the economic fallout of the global financial if governments and business firms decline to take full advantage of possibly their most valuable, and undoubtedly, the most underutilized asset for doing so – the region’s women.

A number of articles published in the Economist over the past decade confirm and reinforce the conclusions of the reports cited above. An article in the Economist, ‘A guide to womenomics: The future of the world economy lies increasingly in female hands’ (April 12, 2006)


opens with the following attention-grabbing comment: “WHY can’t a woman be more like a man?” mused Henry Higgins in ‘My Fair Lady’. Future generations might ask why a man can’t be more like a woman…. Arguably, women are now the most powerful engine of global growth.”

The article continues: “Making better use of women’s skills is not just a matter of fairness. Plenty of studies suggest that it is good for business, too. Women account for only 7% of directors on the world’s corporate boards—15% in America, but less than 1% in Japan. Yet a study by Catalyst, a consultancy, found that American companies with more women in senior management jobs earned a higher return on equity than those with fewer women at the top. This might be because mixed teams of men and women are better than single-sex groups at solving problems and spotting external threats. Studies have also suggested that women are often better than men at building teams and communicating.”

“In poor countries too, the under-utilisation of women stunts economic growth. A study last year by the World Economic Forum found a clear correlation between sex equality (measured by economic participation, education, health and political empowerment) and GDP per head. Correlation does not prove the direction of causation. But other studies also suggest that inequality between the sexes harms long-term growth.”

Even without the impetus of the fallout from the global financial crisis, an era of globalized markets and the much greater competition associated with them, Caricom would fall by the wayside without that “capacity for solving problems and spotting external threats.” As the Economist reports, such a capacity is enhanced by “mixed teams of men and women” at the senor level. Can Caricom governments and business firms afford to ignore those compelling findings?

In a second article, “The importance of sex: Forget China, India and the internet: economic growth is driven by women”, (12 April 2006), the Economist states: “The increase in female employment in the rich world has been the main driving force of growth in the past couple of decades. Those women have contributed more to global GDP growth than have either new technology or the new giants, China and India.” http://www.economist.com/node/6800723

In yet another article, “Helping women get to the top: How to get more females into senior corporate jobs” (21 July 2005)


The Economist states: “Many firms are worried about the coming demographic squeeze that threatens to reduce the supply of qualified men. A few think that women have a unique contribution to make in running modern firms. They are often better at team-building and communications, for example, an advantage in a corporate world that is today increasingly characterised more by informal networks than by ordered cohorts. IBM is convinced that it ran into trouble in the early 1990s partly because its blue-suited, like-minded top male executives failed to see the implications of changes in the computer industry. It has sought to diversify its workforce at all levels ever since, and promoting women has been a big part of this effort. Diverse groups are acknowledged to be better at spotting threats coming from unlikely directions.”

Caricom countries will surely run into much greater trouble than IBM did if they continue to ignore the game-changing role that informal networks play in a globalized world and thus fail to make full use of the critically important team-building and communication skills offered by women managers.

In his paper, “Caribbean Integration and Global Europe: Implications of the EPA for the CSME”, (August, 2008) http://www.normangirvan.info/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/caribbean-integration-and-global-europe-18aug08.pdf

Norman Girvan described the strategy of the CSME: “The CSME embodies a strategy in which Caricom regional integration is a springboard for engagement with globalisation. The consolidation of a single economic space in the Community will facilitate cross-border production integration, economies of scale in production and synergies from factor combination; which will lead to internationally competitive production and growth of regional enterprises.”

Despite the plethora of reports and research findings on the unique contribution women can make, and have made, to world economic growth and business firms’ performance, I have not come across a single comment in the on-going regional debates on Globalization, the CSME, the Cariforum-EU EPA and other key regional economic issues and problems, which draw attention to it. I strongly suggest that the role Caricom women can and should play in those key areas become a central factor in such debates. The CSME stategy outlined above by Norman Girvan cannot be successfully implemented, in my opinion, without the unique contribution that the women in the region could make, if given the opportunity to do so.

Norman’s paper continues: “The rationale for economic integration is to create a platform for internationally competitive exports to global markets; and to pursue functional cooperation to exploit institutional and resource synergies among the countries.” That rationale, and its implementation, is tailor-made for women and their unique skills. In the light of the above cited reports, no future debates on Caricom integration, regional economic development and performance, the CSME, the challenge posed by Globalization would make any sense without factoring in the role and potential contribution of women in the region.

Because of its great environmental vulnerability, climate change poses a potentially existential risk to the entire region – a risk for which past experiences can provide no reliable guidelines for meeting. We need to think “out of the box”, to envisage possibilities that fall outside established paradigms. It would mean developing a sophisticated national risk-managing capacity to assess and manage both the environmental risks posed by climate change and how best to manage them. As the reports cited above convincingly demonstrate, women possess a greater capacity than men in those areas. Can we afford not to make the fullest use of that capacity?

In respect of my comments above, I draw attention to the South Centre’s Fact sheet on MARKET ACCESS FOR TRADE IN GOODS IN ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENTS (EPAS)


Which concludes with the following two paragraphs:

“The scope and extent of liberalisation of trade in goods under the EPAs is unprecedented for ACP governments, highlighting the WTO-plus aspect of EPAs, even with relation to the core provisions regulating trade in goods. These agreements will entail major challenges, both for governments implementing the EPA required reforms and for the private sector trying to adjust to new”competition conditions.”

“The improvement of the terms of EU-ACP through economic diversification and a higher value addition of exports depend on the capacity of the private sector to innovate towards new segments of the value chain, which in turns require ACP governments to enact supporting policies. Similarly, the capacity of firms to utilise greater competition from European products to modernise and gain competitiveness also depends on the availability of finance, workers retraining and skills development, and governmental incentives.”

To conclude, I suggest that gender equality should no longer be pursued as merely “an issue of fairness and equality” but, also and more importantly, as an economic imperative for the region. – Mervyn Claxton

Not Even One Token Woman!

This month it’s black history; next month it’s women’s history.  Women, like black people, now get a whole month in which to celebrate our collective contribution to world culture.  What a ‘poppyshow’!  Like black history, women’s history really ought to be everyday history.  But it is not.

In most societies, it is men who make history. And men also write or speak history.  So, naturally, men are the prime subjects of history.  Women end up on the margins or are completely written out of the story. So we women – especially black women – still have to put up a fight to insert ourselves into history.

Sojourner Truth

Last week Sunday, ‘mi head tek mi’ when I saw the poster for the conference on “Collective Responsibility for the 21st Century” jointly hosted by CARICOM, the University of the West Indies and the Commonwealth Secretariat.

I simply couldn’t believe it. The advertisement featured eleven men.  Not even one token woman!  Nor a single young man. The combined age of those poster patriarchs for CARICOM and the UWI had to be no less than 700 years!  Not quite Methuselah, but still.  The face of Caribbean regional integration was completely male and totally old.

I immediately sent off a despondent email to head office:  “I despair for our university and the region:  The flyer for the conference features 11 men!  Is there not one woman whose face can be used to advertise the conference?  Are any women slated to speak?  I would very much appreciate seeing the full programme.  Was there a call for papers sent out for this conference?  Or is this a closed shop?

At this very late stage, I’m offering a paper for the panel on “People-Centred Development”:  “Representations of Caribbean Regional Integration in Jamaican Popular Culture.”  It would be based on my essay published in Caribbean Imperatives:  Regional Governance and Integrated Development.  I’ve copied this email to the vice-chancellor but just in case he doesn’t see it, I would appreciate your bringing my concerns to his attention.”

Appalling gender ratio

Kamla Persad-Bissessar and comrades

I got an apologetic response.  The Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, had been invited to be the keynote speaker but she couldn’t come after all.  And most of the other women who had been asked to participate declined for one reason or another. The gender ratio of speakers was appalling; 23 male:  2 female.

I was offered the option of chairing the panel on “People-Centred Development”, which I graciously declined.  I was settling for nothing less than giving a paper.   My persistence paid off and I was allowed to speak on the panel, “Regional Integration:  Commonwealth Perspectives.” But I felt as if I’d committed a rapacious act.  Forcibly penetrating the programme.  Why couldn’t a call for papers have been issued so that potential participants, both male and female, could have felt free to offer their contribution?

That’s the nature of patriarchy.  Privilege is not readily surrendered.  The authority to invite participation guarantees complete control of the agenda.  Of course, my being permitted to speak confirms the fact that patriarchy can afford to be indulgent while still holding on to absolute power.  Indeed, my insistent recommendation that another, younger female scholar be invited to chair the panel I’d been offered was disregarded.

Against my explicit wishes, my name appeared on the programme as chair of the panel on “People-Centred Development.”  Resigned to my role, I decided to not look a gift horse in the mouth.  In my capacity as moderator, I took the opportunity to elaborate my dismay at the patriarchal politics of the conference.

Prof Joycelin Massiah

More than three decades after the path-breaking ‘Women in the Caribbean Project’, headed by Professor Joycelin Massiah; and more than a decade and half since the establishment of the regional Centre for Gender and Development Studies at UWI, women were still being marginalised in a most vulgar way.

The flyer advertising the conference, as well as the gross gender imbalance in the selection of speakers, was a slap in the face of Caribbean women and perceptive men who fully understand the need to undermine patriarchy.  This kind of psychological violence can be even more destructive than physical abuse.

Men ‘run tings’

These days, when I hear that tired story about the gender ‘imbalance’ between male and female students at the University of the West Indies, especially at Mona, I just kiss my teeth.  I know that gender imbalance is not a problem at the higher reaches of university administration.  Men still ‘run tings’ at the University of the West Indies.

It is true that a few token women have been appointed as administrators.  But do they really challenge patriarchy?  Or are they complicit with the system?  For example, the post of Deputy Principal seems to be reserved for women:  close enough to power but not really in the driver’s seat.

It was the calypsonian Penguin who mischievously proposed that “a deputy essential to keep you feeling vital.”  If women keep settling for deputy we will certainly ensure the continued vitality of patriarchy.   Quite frankly, I was most surprised that the female Deputy Principal who addressed the topic “The Politics and Economics of Gender in Regional Integration and Development” did not speak in any fulsome way about the gender politics of the conference itself.  But, perhaps, it was not politic to do so.

I keep wondering when the patriarchs at the University of the West Indies will relinquish their hold on power – if ever.  Mouthing gender equity and setting up a regional Institute on Gender and Development Studies is no substitute for what is actually needed:  a radical transformation of gender relations that will allow the best ‘man’ to rise to the top.  Even if it’s a woman.

Prof Simmons-McDonald, Principal of the Open Campus

An astute male colleague brought to my attention the delicious irony that only three of the four UWI Campus principals were represented on that now infamous conference flyer.  I myself was so vexed I didn’t even notice that the principal of the Open Campus, who happens to be a woman, was excluded from the portrait of the Old Boys’ Club! This speaks volumes about how the fledgling Open Campus is perceived:  decidedly peripheral.  And is it by accident or design that the most marginal (and impoverished) of the UWI campuses is headed by a woman?


In my paper on “Representations of Caribbean Regional Integration in Jamaican Popular Culture” I highlighted George Lamming’s rejection of the identity of ‘West Indian’.  In The Pleasures of Exile, published in 1960, Lamming declares:   “I refrain from saying that I am from the West Indies, for it implies a British colonial limitation. I say, rather, I am from the Caribbean, hoping the picture of French and Spanish West Indies will be taken for granted.”

George Lamming

Lamming’s identification with the multi-lingual Caribbean affirms an immediate regional affiliation beyond the ironically narrow ambit of the British Commonwealth.  Emancipating himself from the mental slavery of historically defined colonialist identities, Lamming claims a new language to name himself.

Indeed, language – both literal and symbolic – is a primary means through which regional integration is manifested; for example, the language of music.  Hybrid musical forms such as socareggae, dancehall soca, chutney soca, reggaezouk, reggaeton have emerged out of the wide circulation of popular culture in the entire Caribbean region.

While academics and politicians keep on talking in circles to each other about their ‘top down’ models of regional integration, the people of the Caribbean are happily ‘wining’ to a common beat.