STATEMENT BY CHAIRMAN OF THE CARICOM REPARATIONS COMMISSION, SIR HILARY BECKLES, ON THE OBSERVATION OF JUNETEENTH
As you, our African American compatriots, rise to recognise and celebrate the legal ending of the chattel bondage of our ancestors, we, your brothers and sisters from ‘your islands’ downstream Mississippi are standing with you in joyous remembrance of the journey. We have always recognised our unity as one people with a common history, legacy and cause. We fought against our enslavement together; we endured and resisted the dispossession of post-slavery plunder together; we formulated and advocated a common dream of liberty and freedom for our children together; and we were united and mobilised as one people by our heroes, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr and Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) But before these 20th century moments of magnificent mobilisation, we were shown the bright light of liberty by our Haitian comrades who destroyed and criminalised all forms of enslavement, and built the First Nation upon the basis of universal equality and freedom for all.
Today we remember our Haitian trailblazers who continue to be punished for the power of their example. From the leadership of Toussaint L’Ouverture to the BLM movement, the Caribbean has stood in solidarity with our mainland brothers and sisters. For us in the English speaking islands, August 1st is Emancipation Day, and is a public holiday.
We join with you in the quest that Juneteenth shall be made a public holiday. It should stand as a reminder that the enslaved African people were the first persistent campaigners for freedom and justice in America. Indeed, long before the American Revolution, and framers of the national constitution, the African people were theorising and fighting for freedom. Indeed, with the Native American people the Africans laid the intellectual and political foundation for the American concept of freedom and liberty. You have kept this legacy alive. Indeed, today, many of your leaders of respect and sincerity have hailed from the Caribbean and are making seminal and transformational contributions to this common heritage of democracy in action.
Today, we celebrate them as American emissaries of the new Enlightenment. On behalf of the Caribbean Reparations Commission, we send a message of love and solidarity. We have your back today and always will.