April 16, 2014
Hon. John Conyers, Sr., Dean of the Congressional Black Caucus
National Coalition Of Blacks for Reparations in America (N'COBRA)
Dr. Wayne Watson, Ph.D. President, Chicago State University
Dr. Angela Henderson, Provost of the Chicago State University
Hon. Judge Lionel Jean-Baptiste
Dr. Conrad Worrill, Director of Chicago’s Inner City Studies
Dr. Iva E. Carruthers, General Secretary, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Inc.
Minister Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam
The Reverend Jesse Louis Jackson, Sr., Founder and President of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition
Donne E. Trotter, State Senator
Don Rojas, Communications Director, IBW
Ambassador Irwin Larocque, Secretary-General of the Caribbean community (CARICOM)
The Hon. Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves Prime Minister, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Esther Roniyah Stanford-Xosei (aka Sister Ekua), Pan-Afrikan Reparations Coalition in Europe (PARCOE)
RE: Gonsalves Eminently Unsuitable To Lead Reparations
Given the total disregard for the suffering and humiliation of people of African descent under the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) and led by Dr. The Hon. Ralph E. Gonsalves, we are disturbed that he is able to promote himself, not only in CARICOM but beyond, as the saviour of African-descended people living in CARICOM states.
It is our considered view, backed up by the evidence of our own personal experiences, that Dr. Gonsalves is eminently unsuitable to lead this noble charge for justice for atrocities and crimes committed against people of African descent by the former slave-masters and plantation-owners of the Caribbean. Indeed, we accept as true Dr. Gonsalves being culpable in the commission of similar atrocities against Vincentian citizens, particularly the womenfolk, at the present time.
We are particularly disturbed that the concerns raised at the October 2013 Symposium on The Future of Democracy and Development in Africa and the Caribbean, held in Washington, D.C. have been ignored. We also believe that much damage would be done to the cause of African reparations if Dr. Gonsalves were allowed to participate as keynote speaker at the April 19, 2014 International Forum “Revitalizing the Reparations Movement” to be held at Chicago State University without an attempt to address key aspects of his style and record of governance.
Far too many Vincentians, especially women, can attest to some of these atrocities, occurrences of which have only increased under the reign of Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, the Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines since 2001. These outrageous incidents mimic some of the very atrocities for which we are now seeking reparations from Europeans. We must bear in mind, too, that since his ascension to this powerful position, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves boasts and celebrates his Portuguese ancestry as never before.
To demonstrate Dr. Gonsalves’ unsuitability and lack of moral compass to address such an illustrious group of longstanding and noble Pan Africanists which include specially invited guests as Detroit’s Hon. John Conyers, Sr., dean of the Congressional Black Caucus, and sponsor of HR-40, the Reparations Study Bill and Minister Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, we endeavor to make more explicit just a few of our main concerns.
Firstly, we are worried about the message being sent to women of African descent, especially, in SVG and the surrounding islands. When Dr. Gonsalves is seen among those taking the lead on such a sensitive issue as African reparations, we are hearing that the legacy of prostitution among black women is not an important aspect of the reparations claim. However, the importance of making the legacy of prostitution a central plank of the African reparations claim is adequately illustrated when Antonius R. Hippolyte in his latest publication Unearthing The Legitimacy Of CARICOM’S Reparations Bid refers to Sir Beckles’ reminder that:
“… prostitution, which is rampant among Caribbean black women today, is also a legacy bequeathed upon them during slavery. Documented evidence exists of the practice of slave owners encouraging sexual relations of black slave women with white men for money. Due to the social status of Caribbean countries, this practice continues today. So while prostitution in countries such as the Netherlands is practiced out of want, due to the many opportunities that exist in these countries; lack of such opportunities in Caribbean countries has made Caribbean women engage in such practices out of need.”
In addition and under the Gonsalves’ led ruling ULP, SVG with a population of about 100,000 is ranked among the world’s top 10 countries in terms of incidents of rape. As recently as 2013, violence against women in SVG is cited as a major problem and there is evidence of it worsening. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, there were 168 cases of rape and sexual assault in 2010 (i.e. 154 cases per 100,000) and 426 cases in 2011 (i.e. 389 cases per 100,000) http://www.refworld.org/docid/52a842f94.htm
The most troubling aspect of the undisputed increase in violence against women in SVG is this: It is a matter of public record that Dr. Gonsalves as Prime Minister has been twice publicly accused of indecent assault and rape, once by a female member of his security detail, Police Constable Michele Andrews and again by a Toronto human rights lawyer, Ms. Margaret Parsons – both women of African descent. These accusations were both made publicly to the authorities in SVG in 2008. Shortly after the accusation by the – then unidentified – police officer and at a time when the police should have been carrying out their investigations, Dr. Gonsalves in his position as prime minister, minister of legal affairs and minister of national security took the offensive: he held a press conference during which he publicly identified the police officer by name. This was an astonishing act indeed; an attack by a man who is a trained lawyer with decades of experience in criminal law. The fact that he ‘outed’ his accuser and did so as a sitting prime minister of a politically polarized country and also as the minister with responsibility for police and national security matters, is an extraordinary indictment on his motives. http://womensphere.wordpress.com/2008/05/29/rape-accusations-against-st-vincent-and-the-grenadines-pm-dismissed/
In due course (within approximately 6 months), both charges were withdrawn from the court by the public prosecutor (equivalent to U.S. District Attorney), a male of African descent. It must be no surprise, therefore, that few women would have the courage to come forward to report such crimes against them under a Gonsalves-led government. Above all, the typical victims of these longstanding, alleged indecent assaults and rape by Dr. Gonsalves are described in an I-Witness News article: “I have also noted that all the women who have accused him of rape or sexual assault were black. The police woman – black; the Canadian lawyer-black” http://www.iwnsvg.com/2014/03/24/the-blackest-pm-in-st-vincent/
Further in this two-part clip, Ms. Parsons describes her experience with Dr. Gonsalves in graphic detail – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fljzthm_BI4
Secondly, Dr. Gonsalves is known for ‘talking a good talk’ which invariably describes the very acts of political persecution of people of African descent in SVG and here is just one such example of his eloquence: “slavery … dehumanised productive, self-governing Africans, brutalized them on the plantations, robbed them of their dignity and the value of their labour, and denied them opportunities for socio-economic advancement and equality in the decades after Emancipation. All that and more, constitutes the root of underdevelopment” (THE END OF SLAVERY IN SAINT VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES AND OUR COMMEMORATION IN 2012 BY DR. THE HON. RALPH E. GONSALVES PRIME, July 30, 2012). The political persecution of Leon ‘Bigger Bigs’ Samuel fits exactly as Dr. Gonsalves describes in this instance. Mr. Samuel was an established business man well before 2001 and his sand mining and block-making business was worth over $10 million dollars when it was brought to a halt some three years ago, two months after the 2010 elections. Mr. Samuel campaigned for the opposition party, the New Democratic Party (NDP). After that election, key members of the ruling ULP’s hierarchy warned that Mr. Samuel had to decide whether he wanted to be a businessman or a politician but he could not be both. Noteworthy also is that Mr. Samuel’s grandfather, James Harold Samuel, was the son of an African slave and was among the first slaves to own estates after Emancipation in 1838. Here is the story of Mr. Samuel as narrated by Kenton Chance of I-Witness News and which illustrates Dr. Gonsalves’ depiction of slavery. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rs7bd8dmBQE
Thirdly, Dr. Gonsalves is notorious for playing to the self-loathing attitudes of so many of us of African descent so that he can look more “handsome” and “suitable” than his opponent (the Hon. Arnhim E. Eustace) to rule SVG. In this multi-island State 80% of its 100,000 population is of African Descent (black), 20% mixed African-European descent, 1.4% of East Indian and 1.4% Portuguese and other whites. Here is an instance which is referred to in a recent online newspaper article “Gonsalves said that if he and Eustace were walking in the middle of the night and chanced upon then U.S. President George Bush, Bush would greet him and ask who is that man (Eustace). In fact, Gonsalves has made a number of nasty insulting racist remarks about the Honourable Arnhim Eustace” (http://www.iwnsvg.com/2014/03/24/the-blackest-pm-in-st-vincent/
Please note, too, that the Hon. Arnhim Eustace is the leader of the parliamentary opposition party, the NDP in SVG. Mr. Eustace has often expressed his pride of his African ancestry and notes that his children and grandchildren all bear African names. Also, Mr. Eustace is a development economist of repute (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arnhim_Eustace).
Other means of ridicule by Dr. Gonsalves is in the form of baseless, homophobic utterances designed to raise questions about the suitability of a young, bright black woman to compete in the 2010 elections and to expose her to homophobic ridicule which she has been experiencing, ever since. Another young, bright and politically ambitious black woman was referred to as a “dry head gyal” which is synonymous with ‘nappy haired girl child’. Dr. Gonsalves’ name calling extends to ordinary Vincentians, as well, and these can be heard in these clips (Dutty Dawgs is the local term for dirty dogs). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5T4wz6z0RY&hd=1
and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjCPXXA9w78&hd=1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FdaIYsfCqx4&hd=1
Please note that the above are all matters of public record and well known to the people of SVG.
We, therefore, contend that Dr. Gonsalves has no moral compass to seek reparations for the many atrocities descendants of Africans have suffered as a result of Trans-Atlantic Slave trade some of which people of African descent still endure under a ULP administration of which he is leader. In many cases, he and his ruling party have contributed to strengthening the legacy of the world’s most inhumane acts of African slavery by playing to the self-loathing tendencies among people of African descent, persecuting economically independent Africans such as Mr. Samuel, referring to and treating Africans like ‘dutty dawgs’ and worst of all abusing his political authority to suppress accusations of his violent conduct against black women.
In closing, we sincerely urge that organizers of the April 19, 2014 International Forum “Revitalizing the Reparations Movement” to be held at Chicago State University withdraw the invitation for Dr. The Hon. Ralph E. Gonsalves to appear as a keynote speaker. This we honestly see as a matter that will speak to the credibility of your event and its activities going forward. Dr Gonsalves is not the man you want to be a standard bearer under your banner. We further intend to urge, separately, that CARICOM should reconsider its decision to have Dr. Gonsalves lead the claim for African Reparations. Dr Gonsalves is a man of many admirable talents: he is an impressive rhetorician, he is a man of great personal energy, intellect and charm and he is an astute politician who has made a mark in Vincentian politics. But none of these things bestow on him the natural right to lead this noble charge. The other side of his persona is deeply stained with qualities that run counter to the requirements for leadership of this cause and it is in the interest of the cause that we, as people of African descent, humbly, but determinedly, make our intervention.
Concerned Vincentians – At Home and Abroad