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Gafoor: Sir Hilary Beckles truly is the Caribbean’s Martin Luther King Jr

“[…] I have a dream; a dream in which the University of the West Indies upholds Sir Hilary [Beckles] as the Martin Luther King Jr of the Caribbean.

“A dream where his phenomenal contribution to academia, sports and reparation justice for those who endured the dehumanising shackles of slavery and colonialism by the white masters are acclaimed in every corner of the region—from Marigot to Mona, Castries to Cave Hill, St Georges to St Augustine…”

The following letter to the editor on the accomplishments of University of the West Indies (UWI) vice-chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles was submitted to Wired868 by Anthony DJ Gafoor:

Photo: UWI vice-chancellor Hilary Beckles.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. 

These were the words of Dr Martin Luther King Jr in a speech in 1965. Because he has not been silent about things that matter, I stand in solidarity with the Caribbean—and especially the University of the West Indies (UWI)—in applauding the phenomenal achievement of Sir Hilary Beckles, vice-chancellor of the University of the West Indies and recent recipient of the Dr Martin Luther King Jr award. 

The accolade is bestowed upon Sir Hilary just as history is in the making, as the first woman of colour, Kamala Harris, enters the White House as vice-president of the United States of America.  

I have a dream; a dream in which due recognition is given to this quintessential Caribbean man, this Afro-Caribbean luminary and visionary. In my dream, Sir Hilary stands besides Dr Anthony Fauci, who ferociously battles a pandemic in a superpower dominated by white supremacists. 

In my dream, Sir Hilary leads the Black Lives Matter movement in his tireless struggles for freedom, justice and equality in a region yet to fully recognise and appreciate his phenomenal contribution to the war against colonialism, capitalism and imperialism. 

Photo: A young man confronts police officers during protests in Minnesota over the killing of George Floyd on 25 May 2020.

I have a dream; a dream in which my pores raise and my heart swells with pride that this ‘coloured man’ gives credence to the legendary statements of Dr King that our ‘children will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character’ and the desire to ‘transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood’.

I have a dream; a dream where Sir Hilary’s labour of love bears rich fruits and a regional one percent will no longer oppress and exploit those of my Caribbean brethren, now hungry, starving and suffering from the effects of a deadly virus. A dream where the hopes and aspirations of the destitute and downtrodden are ignited by Sir Hilary’s accomplishments and would not be snuffed out like a flickering candle in the wind. 

I have a dream; a dream in which the University of the West Indies upholds Sir Hilary as the Martin Luther King Jr of the Caribbean.

A dream where his phenomenal contribution to academia, sports and reparation justice for those who endured the dehumanising shackles of slavery and colonialism by the white masters are acclaimed in every corner of the region—from Marigot to Mona, Castries to Cave Hill, St Georges to St Augustine.    

Photo: Late US civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

I have a dream; a dream that this intellectual icon will continue to carry the burden of those brilliant students at UWI in his broad shoulders. 

A dream in which Sir Hilary towers above them like an obelisk, goading, coaxing, encouraging, and inspiring. A hero in the crowd of anxious, sweating dark faces—their pride, awe and adoration for him reflected in their eyes, glowing under the canopy of the lush, broad-brimmed samaan tree, its gnarled branches sprawled across the campus grounds.

I have a dream; a dream that this tall, statuesque and soft-spoken legendary cricketer, academic and advocate is capable of jolting scholars and researchers—sometimes hiding as they are behind the walls of a university—out of their ivory towers and leading them into the ebony of a reality rooted in advocacy, social justice and tangible reparations for the African diaspora. 

I awoke from my dream and pleaded with Sir Hilary to join him in the incessant struggle to protect the values and virtues of academia, civil society and the marginalised underdog from neo-colonial corporate monsters and profiteering predators, who perceive a certain race as reincarnations of slave labour—whipping them into ideological submission and economic and cultural displacement and belittling their outstanding achievements in every sphere. 

Photo: UWI vice-chancellor Hilary Beckles.
(Copyright Caribbean News Service)

His lament rings loud and clear, just as it did when he pinpointed the cultural decadence associated with globalisation and modernity which resulted in mass poverty, forcing destitute West Indian players to morph into ‘cash first cricketers’ in his epic publication, ‘Cricket without a Cause’.

Well done, Sir Hilary! You are indeed the Caribbean’s Dr Martin Luther King Jr!

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