Home / View Point / Letters to the Editor / Dear Editor: Congratulations to Hilary Beckles on Peace and Freedom Award

Dear Editor: Congratulations to Hilary Beckles on Peace and Freedom Award

‘… [This award] has come at a good time to stimulate regional governments and non-governmental organisations to refocus our energies on the issue of reparations. Caricom’s historic decision in 2013 to put reparations for chattel slavery and native genocide on its agenda gave impetus to this struggle for justice globally.

‘Dr Beckles has to be especially credited for his role in keeping the issue alive among governments in the region, some of whom have come under considerable pressure from former colonial powers …’

Photo: UWI Vice-Chancellor Hilary Beckles.
(Copyright Caribbean News Service)

The Emancipation Support Committee of Trinidad and Tobago extends congratulations to Dr Hilary Beckles, the vice-chancellor of the University of the West Indies, for bringing another international distinction to the regional institution and gaining further international acclaim for other achievements.

On 18 January 2021, Martin Luther King Day in the US, he received the Peace and Freedom Award from the US National Action Network (NAN), led by the Reverend Al Sharpton. It is a prestigious award. Ceremonies have been addressed by major leaders in the past, including former US President Barack Obama in 2018.

Past recipients include prominent world figures, among them former US President Bill Clinton and former US attorney general Eric Holder.

In receiving his award this year, Dr Beckles was in suitably distinguished company. Other 2021 recipients included Dr Anthony Fauci, American physician and renowned director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), and US politician Stacey Abrams, who played a major role in the electoral victory of US President Joe Biden.

Photo: A sugar plantation owner oversees the work of his slaves.

Dr Beckles, who is also chairman of the Caribbean Reparations Commission was lauded for his championship of the fight for reparations for chattel slavery, as well as the remarkable rise in the international recognition of the University of the West Indies as an academic institution under his leadership.

A release from the university on 3 July 2020, pointed out that The UWI was listed among the top 100 universities in the world by the prestigious ranking body Times Higher Education (THE). The regional university’s rise in rankings, achieved under the leadership of Dr Beckles, is even more significant in a context where, as the vice-chancellor pointed out: ‘The UWI has had to function with a significant measure of deficit financing …’

Part of the university’s advancement comes from productive links forged between our regional body, other universities and technology institutions in countries outside of Caricom, including Cuba, in our region, the US and Britain, extending to a few African countries, and as far afield China.

A further significance of this award is that it has come at a good time to stimulate regional governments and non-governmental organisations to refocus our energies on the issue of reparations. Caricom’s historic decision in 2013 to put reparations for chattel slavery and native genocide on its agenda gave impetus to this struggle for justice globally.

Dr Beckles has to be especially credited for his role in keeping the issue alive among governments in the region, some of whom have come under considerable pressure from former colonial powers. His influence in this respect has even extended to the African continent where the historic decision by Caricom led a revival of interest among African states in pursuing their own reparations claims. A number of conferences have brought Africa and the African diaspora together on this issue.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (second from left) sits in on a Caricom press conference.

The official Caricom advocacy led by Dr Beckles, which encourages other governmental and non-governmental agencies to join in the call for reparations, has triggered wider recognition of the justice and inevitability of the movement. It has also led to the beginning of individual offers of settlement from some offending institutions, which have been identified by Dr Beckles and other reparations advocates.

In July 2019, the University of Glasgow, which benefitted from slavery, and The University of the West Indies signed a £20m agreement that will fund research and the development of a research centre to be undertaken jointly by both universities.

The Emancipation Support Committee of Trinidad and Tobago joins with the US National Action Network in celebrating Dr Beckles for his efforts and achievements in raising the international status of the University of the West Indies and for keeping the goal of reparations for African enslavement and native genocide firmly in our sight.

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