CMBC 2020: Racial Reckoning with Sir Hilary Beckles

The Caribbean Multinational Business Conference (CMBC) was founded 25 years ago, in 1995, by Karl and Faye Rodney. It has been dubbed the – “Davos of The Caribbean” – a conference of African-American, 

Caribbean-American, US business persons, corporation leaders, thought leaders, and elected officials gather in the Caribbean to explore the possibilities.

Every year, since 1995, several Heads of State come together with the business community to discuss issues and blend ideas, network and plan forward to strengthen the ties within the Diasporic communities.

This year the theme was “The Dual Pandemic Global Impact on People of Color”.

On Sunday 14 November, Professor Basil Wilson (retired provost of John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City) moderated this special session with Sir Hilary Beckles, 8th Vice-Chancellor of The University of the West Indies (The UWI) is a distinguished academic, international thought leader, United Nations committee official, and global public activist in the field of social justice and minority empowerment.

Sir Hilary received his higher education in the United Kingdom. He has lectured extensively in Europe, the Americas, Africa, and Asia, and has published over 100 peer-reviewed essays in scholarly journals, and over 13 books on subjects ranging from Atlantic and Caribbean History, gender relations in the Caribbean, sport development, and popular culture.

He is a champion of reparations and his collaborations and speeches are directed to working with governments to deal with this global issue.

Basil Wilson referred to a lecture Sir Hilary gave on George Lamming’s 90th birthday. It goes through the historic development of the Caribbean from Emancipation to the present. He urges it is something we should all listen to.

Sir Hilary the session began by sharing ‘one fundamental truth’. The world has been awakening for almost two decades now. He recalls the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance. Back then world leaders met in Durban, South Africa, from 31 August to September 8, 2001.

He summarizes that experience by saying, “the greatest political movement of the 21st century is going be the reparatory justice movement.”

Younger generations have recognized that the rise of European empires has created a shifted paradigm globally and humanity will have to address it on a global scale. He surmises that formal conversation about reparatory justice has to be about the economic development and transformation of Black communities globally. 

He said, “We are the only people on the planet that have to deal with this extraction of labor” – from chattel slavery – even in the emancipation decades, a form of plunder of wealth, labor, and social dignity.”

“The George Floyd imagery that has shook the world…was a reminder of the ease with which black life can be extinguished, the power of governance, and state backing him (the kneeler) with a history that has been so terrible.

What Are We Now Faced With?

The discourse has converged around the issue of economic plunder, economic extraction, and the insistence that wealth must be returned to the communities it was extracted from.

The issue at hand is now HOW to execute since the world is now aware.

Sir Hilary shared that the CARICOM strategy has attached a concept of repatriation to the community’s economic and social empowerment. They have called on the European governments to meet CARICOM in a global summit to discuss how the resources can be ejected into the Caribbean to facilitate economic development and entrepreneurship. 

He also shared that all major financial institutions have issued statements of apology, but it is not enough.

Among them is Bank of England (regulated cash made via slavery), Lloyds of London (largest insurance company in the world that insured slavery ships), Westminster Bank, and even the Church of England.

The Caribbean is asking for two things:

1. Government to government conversation

2. Private sector conversation which will include the creation of an IDF  – Investment Development fund administered under a body like the United Nations, in the tune of US$50 billion dollars. 

In his own words, “It is no longer a question of IF, but HOW.”

Of course, there is a division in the movement of HOW, as many believe it should be a cash argument – giving money to other families. This is why the reparations team is currently working with Africa.

The European Union, the US, and the Caribbean already decided on their ‘HOW’.

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