July 2, 2014
From: Concerned Vincentians at Home and Abroad: Dane Bowman, Doug Howard, Luke James, Luzette King, Margaret London, Marlon Mills
To: Hon. Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda and incoming Chairman of CARICOM and other Heads of CARICOM Member and Associate Member States
Re: Petition To Remove Dr the Hon. Ralph E. Gonsalves as CARICOM Spokesperson for Afrikan Reparations
Greetings Honorable Chairman Browne,
Cognizant of the Thirty-Fifth Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) which is being held in Antigua July 1-4, 2014, we, the Concerned Vincentians at Home and Abroad, bring this petition to your attention as incoming chair. The purpose of the petition is to respectfully urge you and your colleagues to reconsider, as a matter of urgency, the decision to assign Dr. the Hon. Ralph E. Gonsalves, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, as lead advocate for CARICOM’s claim for reparations for indigenous people and descendants of enslaved Afrikans in the Caribbean.
At this juncture, we wish to congratulate you, Prime Minister Browne, on a most resounding victory at the June 12th elections in Antigua and Barbuda. We are greatly heartened that the message you sent to the people of your country at the start of your administration is that your agenda does not include the practice of business as usual. In this regard we were particularly moved when, during your inaugural speech and in keeping with your campaign promise, you announced that work permit fees will no longer be required for Caribbean nationals who have been offered duly advertised and processed employment opportunities. We pray therefore that you will similarly dispose of business-as-usual approaches in relation to other important CARICOM matters as you assume the chair.
Our contention is twofold. First of all, we believe that Dr. Gonsalves personally is eminently unsuitable to represent us as Afrikans seeking reparations. Second, our view is that while we seek reparations from abroad, the leaders of the movement must also focus their efforts on dealing at home with the neo-colonial injustices currently being perpetrated on people of Afrikan descent. Charity, it is said, begins at home.
Our case for the first item is best made in a previous petition (copy attached for your reference
), which was delivered to the organizers of the April 19, 2014 International Forum “Revitalizing the Reparations Movement” held at Chicago State University.
This prestigious event was organized by the Institute of the Black World 21st Century (IBW) in conjunction with the Center for Inner City Studies and the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference. At the time of delivery of our petition, Dr Gonsalves was billed as the keynote speaker – and it is notable that the keynote address was ultimately not delivered by Dr. Gonsalves, but by the eminent historian Professor Sir Hilary Beckles. We believe that this outcome was just and appropriate and it suggests that our arguments were carefully and seriously considered by the organizers of the event. We are also aware that another petition that we made in collaboration with the London-based interim National Afrikan Peoples Parliament (iNAPP) may have led to a similar outcome, when the British Member of Parliament Diane Abbott was asked to reconsider hosting and promoting Dr. Gonsalves as chief advocate of the CARICOM Reparations Initiative.
Our second contention is related and critically important. The wilful economic disenfranchisement of people of Afrikan descent and the dramatic increases in rape and other sexual crimes against women (both being hallmarks of the dehumanization of Afrikans during the time of slavery) are two specific matters of grave concern to Vincentians at home and abroad. It is our contention, supported by a weight of public evidence, that Dr. Gonsalves presides over an administration that, in word and deed, has perpetrated and perpetuated such abuses at home, at the same time that he is seeking to promote himself on the international stage as the Caribbean’s leader for the noble cause of reparations for people of Afrikan descent.
The leader of the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines parliamentary opposition, Hon. Arnhim Eustace succinctly made this case in parliament during a recent discussion of a motion on reparations. In his presentation, Mr. Eustace, a proud black man who has often been on the receiving end of Dr. Gonsalves’ racially-tinged taunts and derogatory name-calling, stated that those who would get involved in such an emotive issue must come with “clean hands”.
Ironically, the very mover of the motion, government senator and chairperson of the Saint Vincent and Grenadines Reparations Commission Jomo Thomas, had previously echoed this argument when almost two years ago
“In SVG, the near white Mitchell and white Gonsalves have dominated our politics for most of the post-independence years. Why this is so? SVG remains the only country in the English speaking Caribbean where politics is still dominated by a white man as leader of the governing party and PM of the country… To what extent is the vitriol of Mitchell and Gonsalves contributing to the failure of strong black leaders to emerge, preserve and triumph?
“Mitchell gained notoriety with his famous put down of nationals: Vincentians have breadfruit mentality. Gonsalves' put down of sections of segments of the black population, particularly his political opponents, are now legendary: 'Bush will not see Eustace if he and Eustace were walking down the street at midnight', 'uncultured and untutored' 'chattering nabobs, etc.
“To what extent are these statements… calculated as mind-bending techniques intended to work on the psyche of the population? Are these insulting political darts intended to make us less confident in ourselves or intended to convince the black majority that they lack the intelligence to lead our country through good and bad times?
When we join Gonsalves and use words like dotish, silly and lazy to describe Eustace, are we not perpetuating the myth of black leaders as unintelligent?”
(The Vincentian, October 2, 2012)
We believe that the above and the attached documentation make the point that the bitter legacies of slavery and its accoutrements are alive, well and thriving in St Vincent and the Grenadines, under the leadership of Dr. Ralph Gonsalves.
In relation to CARICOM’s 10 point plan for reparations, we respectfully note with much concern the absence of any mention of the legacy of forced prostitution and other forms of sexual violence against women of Afrikan descent. Given the extensive public record of allegations made by multiple Afrikan sisters against Dr. Gonsalves and given the allegation that he may have used his position as prime minister and minister responsible for the police and the judiciary to shield himself from same (refer to http://www.wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/08BRIDGETOWN220_a.html
), Dr. Gonsalves is clearly in a compromised position and unable to assume the moral high ground that is necessary, indeed, vital for leadership on this issue.
In closing, we respectfully reiterate our request that you give careful consideration to this petition and urge that you should reconsider the decision to assign Dr. The Hon. Ralph Gonsalves as CARICOM spokesperson on Afrikan Reparations. Such an assignment makes a practical mockery of the noble cause of reparations – and, by extension, the backers of such assignment.
Given the serious and sacrosanct nature of the quest for Afrikan reparations, we finally wish to let you know that we have made this petition public.
Concerned Vincentians at Home and Abroad
Encl: Petition To Organisers, Revitalization of African Reparations Forum, Chicago
Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, General Secretary, Caribbean Community (CARICOM)
Hon. Arnhim Eustace, Leader of the Opposition, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Professor Hilary Beckles, CARICOM Reparations Commission
Diane Abbott, British Member of Parliament, House Of Commons
The Interim National Afrikan People’s Parliament (iNAPP)
Dr. Conrad Worrill, Director/Professor, Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies Chicago Ill.
Hon. Min. Louis Farrakhan, Nation of Islam
Professor Verene Shepherd, Vice-Chair, CARICOM Reparations Commission
Rt. Hon. Ed Miliband, Leader of the Labour Party
Emma Meehan, Labour Party National Women and Equalities Officer
Cikiah Thomas, Chair, Global Afrikan Congress
Danny Glover, TransAfrica
National Coalition Of Blacks for Reparations in America N’COBRA
Helena Kennedy, QC
Women Against Rape
Black Women’s Rape Action Project
Dr Marimba Ani
Dr. Angela Davis
Dr. Adrienne Davis, Professor of Law, Washington University of Law
Dr. Micere M. Githae Mugo, Professor of African American Studies, Syracuse University
Dr. Bell Hooks, Associate Professor of Women’s Studies and American Literature, Oberlin College
Assata Shakur Support Group
Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy
House of Rastafari - Bahamas