Sir Hilary: The Caribbean’s Dr Martin Luther King Jr

By Anthony Gafoor

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 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.

I have a dream—a dream in which my pores raise and my heart swells with pride that this coloured man is giving credence to the legendary statements of Dr King where 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 dehumanizing 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.

I have a dream—a dream that this intellectual icon will continue to carry the burden of those brilliant students at The 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. His lament rings loud and clear, just as it did when he pinpointed the cultural decadence associated with globalization 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!

Justice Anthony DJ Gafoor is chairman of the Tax Appeal Board of Trinidad and Tobago as well as a member of the Mediation Board.

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