Remarks by Chair, Grenada National Reparations Commission Arley N Salimbi Gill
Grenada National Trade Centre Annex
Monday, 27 February, 2023
Honourable Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell, Professor Hilary Beckles Vice Chancellor and Chairman of the Caricom Reparations Committee, Dr Nicole Dowe, Vice Chair of the Grenada National Reparations Committee, other members of the Grenada National Reparations Committee, Laura Trevelyan and other members of the Trevelyan Family, members of the Press and other invited guests.
Comrades and Colleagues, all.
Good morning. I greet you standing on the land of the Kalinago People, the first Peoples of Camerhogne Island. This island and its Peoples existed long before Columbus had sight of it and ages before the Europeans invaded and plundered this island, in the name of European exploration and resource extraction! Plunder, extraction and genocide, which financed and fueled the industrial revolution in Europe and specifically the building of the British Empire‼!
So today, I honour the memory and legacy of the first inhabitants of these beautiful islands of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique. the Kalinago peoples were among first of many casualties of European dehumanisation, enslavement, and plunder in the Caribbean region.
And, as we gather here on the land of the Kalinago People, I stand proudly on the shoulders of our African ancestors, the children, women and men who were forcibly removed from their tribes, homes and villages on the African continent, crowded unto ships like cargo and forced to endure the treacherous, inhumane and deadly trip across the Atlantic Ocean — a death trap, if you will — a death trap of: disease, death and despair.
For 400 years human beings were insured as property! Trading human beings for profit was one of the most lucrative trades at the time! This lucrative trade, colleagues, was nothing less than human trafficking; a crime against humanity!
We are here today because millions of our African ancestors survived this perilous journey! However, we must never forget the many Africans, our ancestors that succumbed to the harshness and brutality of human chattel enslavement. Chattel enslavement of course being the worse form of human enslavement. And, I would be remiss, if i did not remember our ancestors, who, in an act of defiance, fought back or chose death over subjugation and enslavement by making the floors of the Atlantic Ocean their burial ground.
Today is a day of remembrance; a day to remember our ancestors and their descendants and, it is finally a day of recognition of the harms of slavery and a moment of global reckoning, a moment of reckoning that is long overdue! So, if you remember anything about today — I hope you would remember these 3 points:
- Firstly, this apology and financial commitment from Laura Trevelyan [and] family should serve as a clarion call to other families, institutions and governments in Europe to acknowledge their wrongs, apologise and commit to repairing the harms done by their ancestors
- Secondly, governments in the Caribbean region must do more for the struggle for reparatory justice and come together using the Caricom Reparations Commission as the vehicle through which the battle for reparatory justice is waged and won! Further, our governments must consistently and publicly with one voice — call on European nations to engage in a public conversation with their counterparts in the Caribbean region
- The result of these conversations must be the creation of a comprehensive social and economic development plan that creates a stronger, sustainable and thriving Grenada and Caribbean Region
- Thirdly, this fight for reparatory justice is our fight. The topic of slavery and reparations should be part of our schools’ curriculum from primary school through university. Because it is only through education rooted in truth about our past, present and future that we will truly liberate ourselves from the lies and falsehoods that we are being taught. This movement for reparatory justice must utilise our education system as a place to achieve true liberation! I call it “Education For Liberation.”
Colleagues, this is the beginning of a process; a process that is undergirded by: truth, transparency and repair.
The truth of the matter is that for 400 years, Europeans, including the Trevelyan family benefited from the inhumane and illegal trafficking of human beings for profit and generational wealth building. Furthermore, as we embark on this important journey together, we must commit to being transparent with each other about our shared vision for justice for our First Peoples and our African ancestors!
Descendants of Enslavers and profiteers of slavery must clearly and fully understand the social, economic and devastating public health impacts that hundreds of years of economic disinvestment and social neglect have had on individuals and families as well as on our nation, and they must address the current social and economic realities of the lingering legacy of concentrated disadvantage, manifested as poor quality education, illiteracy, high rates of unemployment, poor health outcomes and overall stalled national development and nation building.
And, I acknowledge the concern of those of you, brothers and sisters in our midst, who are wondering whether there will ever be a level of financial compensation that can repair what was stolen and loss because of slavery.
My response to you is simple — NO. But financial compensation by families, governments and institutions that have benefited from slavery must commit to stopping the bleeding of the many wounds caused by indigenous genocide, the slave trade and slavery!
As one people, as one family, we must come together to have honest, and principled conversations in our homes, our churches, our schools, on the football fields, in shops, in the market, wherever we gather to talk with each other about what repairing the harms of slavery means for you, your families and for the broader Grenadian and Caribbean society.
This is a conversation that we must ALL be a part of. This is a struggle WE must collectively own! As a matter of fact, WE the Grenadian People must decide what repair should look like.
The Trevelyan Family is setting an example by saying they are sorry for the harms that their family caused to our families. This is a step in the right direction! An apology is an acknowledgment of wrongdoing and it is appropriate that those who engaged in one of the most inhumane crimes against humanity must apologise and atone for their wrongdoing.
But, WE the Grenadian people, will decide what is a fair and just recompense for the harms done to our ancestors. And for us to be in one accord regarding what repair looks like for us as a people, we need to be fully committed to the reparatory justice cause. To the government of Grenada, we say achieving reparatory justice must become a core and central development strategy for this nation; reparations cannot be seen a side project. We must invest in and commit to the plans and processes needed to get us on a solid path toward securing what is owed to our ancestors and their descendants.
To each and every Grenadian here in Grenada and in the diaspora, we say the legacy of slavery is alive and well. This is not a lost cause. This is not something that we should put behind us and move on. We must join hearts and hands and as a strong, proud and resilient people demand justice! Fight for Fairness! And hold those responsible for the plunder, extraction and exploitation of our nation and for the inhumane treatment of our ancestors, accountable!
Hold them accountable for the harms they’ve done and for the persistent problems that our people and nation have been subjected to 400 years of illegal and inhumane slavery, centuries of colonialism and 40 plus years of political independence, with limited social, economic and human development!
As we continue to embark on this journey for reparative justice. We must not forget that there is a glaring need to reset the soul of this nation. A soul that remains scarred by the history of colonialism. It is for this reason that the Grenada National Reparations Committee continues to lobby our government to transform the monumental landscape of our country by renaming our streets, our schools and other national institutions, renaming them after outstanding Grenadians or even outstanding Caribbean nationals that have contributed significantly to our civilisation.
No one needs to remind us that after almost 50 years the names of our enslavers adorn our streets, and institutions, whether it is the Royal Grenada Police Force or His Majesty’s prison. We must also engage in a national conversation on republicanism. A conversation on Grenada becoming a republic and moving away graciously from the English Monarchy as head of State must commence in earnest.
As Grenadians, we are very aware of our 2 failed attempts to have the Caribbean Court of Justice replace the British Privy Council as our final appellate court. This is a subject that is worthy of revisiting, for it is more than a legal issue. It is an issue that goes fundamentally to the ideals of an independent nation, growing, maturing and defining itself-it forms part of the definition of who we are as a people.
Fellow nationals, it is these issues and many more that will nourish the ethos of Grenadianism.
Colleagues, friends, family! As I have said before, today is the continuation of a long struggle for justice for our Indigenous and African ancestors, and, as we commit to working hand-in-hand, governments and individuals, fisher folks, farmers, students, teachers, public servants, all, let us never forget:
We may not all be good but all of us are sacred!
It is in remembering the sacredness of our ancestors and descendants as human beings created in the image and likeness of God, superior to no one, and certainly not inferior to anyone. worthy of dignity and respect that we will fight until justice is served.
Aluta Continua — the struggle continues—for justice for our ancestors.