Chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission, Sir Hilary Beckles on Friday expressed solidarity from the Caribbean with African Americans in the United States on Juneteenth. The sentiments were expressed in a statement issued by his office.
“We, your brothers and sisters from ‘your islands’ downstream Mississippi are standing with you in joyous remembrance of the journey. We have always recognized our unity as one people with a common history, legacy and cause” the statement read.
Juneteenth is observed annually on June 19. On this date in 1865 enslaved people in Galveston, Texas received the news that slavery had been abolished by President Abraham Lincoln two years earlier. The news took so long to reach the enslaved in Texas in part due to fighting that continued even after the surrender of the Confederacy that ended the Civil War, according to historians. The US National Archives said on Thursday that the original handwritten decree is believed to have been recently discovered, after a researcher was tasked with unearthing it due to heightened interest in the holiday (via bbc.com).
Sir Hilary, in his statement on Juneteenth, assured that the Region and the US have been and continue to be united and mobilized as one people by heroes like Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr and Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture). He highlighted that those historic moments were preceded by the valiant fight of Haitian comrades who destroyed and criminalized 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 Black Lives Matter movement, the Caribbean has stood in solidarity with our mainland brothers and sisters” the statement continues.
He also expressed support for Juneteenth to become a public holiday noting that August 1st is Emancipation Day, and is a public holiday in the English speaking Caribbean.
“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” he said.
Sir Hilary reminded that long before the American Revolution and framers of the national constitution, the African people were theorizing and fighting for freedom. He said that with the Native American people, the Africans laid the intellectual and political foundation for the American concept of freedom and liberty, a legacy which he said has been kept alive. He acknowledged that many of their respected leaders 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” Beckles concluded.