April 25 – May 2, 2018
Dorbrene E. O’Marde
Chairperson, Antigua and Barbuda Reparations Support Commission
The KONVWA POU REPARASYON was staged by The International Movement for Reparations (M.I.R.) in Goree Island, Dakar, Senegal during the period April 25 – May 2, 2018. The MIR has organized convoys across Martinique for years and for the first time extended its reparations activities to the Motherland of Africa.
I represented both the Antigua and Barbuda Reparations Support Commission and the CARICOM Reparations Commission. Approximately 75 persons from the Caribbean (mainly Martinique & Guadeloupe), Senegal, Benin, Kenya, USA, UK & France participated. See Appendix 1 for a list of registered organizations.
The meeting recognized the thrust of both the international reparations movement in its attempt to secure reparations due to ‘Afro-descendants resulting from the deportation, the transatlantic trade of Africans enslaved then colonized during four centuries’ and activities related to the International Decade of People of African Descent.
The highlights of the meetings were:
SYMPOSIUM: Crime against Humanity – laws justice and reparations; Perspectives and challenges for a definitive and lasting peace.
The symposium featured addresses by host and organizers:
- Mr. le Maire Augustin Senghor – Mayor of Goree
- Mr. Garcin Malsa – President of MIR Martinque
- Mme Hul
- Guillabert – Pan Africanist, educator and coordinator of Konvwa Goree
Addresses charting the history of enslavement and emancipation, the call for reparations and importantly the imperative of unity and collaboration/cooperation between organizations on the continent and in the Diaspora were delivered by a group of Pan-Africanists, youth activists, artists, historians/lecturers, etc. Organizations represented included:
- The International Committee of Black People (Guadeloupe)
- The International Network of Scholars and Activists for Afrikan Reparations (INOSAAR)
- The Pan-African Reparations Coalition in Europe (PARCOE)
- Africans Rising
- International Committee of African Scholars and Experts (CISEA)
- University of Cheikh Anta Diop of Dakar
- The AfroAtlantic Theologies and Treaties Institute /USA
- The Antigua and Barbuda Reparations Support Commission/CARICOM Reparations Commission.
SENEGALESE NATIONAL DAY OF REMEMBRANCE OF THE VICTIMS OF SLAVERY & THE TRANSATLANTIC TRAFFICKING OF HUMAN BEINGS: Visit t
The morning session included a group visit the La Maison des Esclaves (House of Slaves) on Goree Island.
The ritual of remembrance was led by Pretresse Manb Dowoti Desir (pictured below) who ushered the group through the labyrinth of cells to the ‘door of
no return’ – the door of the fort which was the exit to waiting slave ships. Highly emotional…many cheeks glistened with tears as the conditions were recounted under which captured Africans were held for up to three months until the next ship came.
The afternoon session included lunch time lecturettes, a presentation of certificates of participation by the Mayor of Goree and a cultural programme featuring youth performers, drummers, dancers and singers. The enactment of the ‘slave trade – from capture to emancipation’ was one of the more authentic and emotionally haunting that I have seen.
A torch light procession – led by drummers and chanters – through the streets of Goree closed the second day of the conference.
CEREMONY OF HEALING AND RECONNECTION T
The ceremony of healing and reconnection was held with the Lebu healers and priestesses in the city of Fatick, home of the Serer people, a three hour journey from Dakar central. A welcome party awaited us on the beach as we were led into the Center of Experimental des Medecines Traditionnelles (CEMETRA) de Malango (Fatick). (See Appendix 3)
The ceremony – considered as part of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity by the UNESCO- included the conferring of ‘Chief’ on the leader
of the knowva, Chairperson of MIR, Garcin Malsa – an elaborate ceremony conducted by Chief Dr. Erick Gbodossou; messages (many in the Wolof language) delivered by costumed male and female ‘saltigues’ (Serer healers); drumming/chanting and dancing.
Chief Gbodossou delivered a lunch time lecture (one and a half hours) on Ifá – a West African system of divination and religion that can be found still in AfroCaribbean/American traditional religions of Santería, Candomblé and Vodou. Ifá is considered by UNESCO as one of the ‘Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’.
During the afternoon session, participants of the ‘konvwa’ were able to – for a fee – consult with the practitioners of African traditional medicine
May 1st: FEAST OF FRATERNITY AND REUNITING Building multidimensional bridges mostly economic between descendants of African deportees and their brothers/sisters from the Continent and relaxation.
A day of semi-formal interactions between delegates and activists working in various fields…economic productions, cooperatives, youth, arts and culture, social welfare, regionalism, pan-Africanism etc. Many of us used the opportunity t
exchange of programme details, call cards, email/facebook addresses etc.
Speakers discussed issues such as:
- The need for unity and collaboration on developmental issues – including reparations
- Barriers to communication – language and religion, the need for and the practical difficulty of obtaining visas to travel to other African countries
- Insufficiency of and access to capital
- The need for financial support to organizations involved in social work…for example, one organization is addressing the needs of approximately fifty thousand homeless youth on the streets of Dakar.
- Lack of knowledge of markets for their products and the unscrupulous nature of ‘middlemen’ in France through whom they export.
I addressed the gathering (see below) emphasising our main organizational goal of reparations, citing some of the history and growth of the movement, the successes we perceive and the challenges we still face. I briefly discussed our reparatory justice programme (aspects of the 10 point Plan). I carried the CRC call for widened African involvement in the international struggle.
I ended by raising/repeating the need for direct air links between the continent and the Caribbean – failing to understand why this has not become a priority of our Governments and private sector. Air transportation links open up economic ventures in tourism and trade, the potential of intellectual, sports and cultural exchanges and further opportunities for re-unification and re-memory.
Positive results of ABRSC participation in this event can be defined in both the organizational and the personal paradigms.
Both ABRSC and CRC have continued relationships with PARCOE and MIR. The event provided an opportunity for further exchanges – including the disappointment that not a single Caribbean leader raised the issue of reparations during the just concluded Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference. The statements on the ‘Windrush Scandal’ certainly triggered action by the British Government. We think an impacting opportunity for statements on reparation were missed.
Renewed contact with MIR//Guadeloupe and the The International Committee of Black People (Guadeloupe). The chairperson of the latter group (CIPM) is planning an information-gathering visit to the English speaking Eastern Caribbean and I expressed our preparedness to host. They are prepared to help us organize our tour to the museum/ACTe in Guadeloupe…a tour we have planned for September/October.
Established contacts with AFRICANS RISING (https://www.africans-rising.org) – a Pan-African movement of people and organisations, working for peace, justice and dignity and determined to foster an Africa-wide solidarity and unity of purpose of the Peoples of Africa to build the Future we want – a right to peace, social inclusion and shared prosperity.
Africans Rising amplifies broad demands connecting struggles, building solidarity & cooperation within & amongst campaigns for social, economic, environmental and gender justice. We d
The organization has chapters in forty-four African countries and has already included ABRSC/CRC in its network. We are committed to sharing information etc. on all our activities starting with our participation in the African Liberations Day march organized by the RasFreeman Foundation for Unification of Rastafari (RFUR).
Contact established with the The AfroAtlantic Theologies and Treaties Institute whose mission is ‘Bringing the leaders, healers and artists of the AfroAtlantic world together’. The Institute describes itself as ‘a resource for both social and personal healing…a center for the creative and political expression of indigenous African-based spiritual traditions. Its founder and chief Manbo Dowoti Desir participated in the launch of the National African American Reparations Commission in 2015 and is known to leaders of the CRC. She is eager to share her knowledge and perspectives with us here in Antigua and Barbuda and will respond positively to an invitation to participate in one of our events/programmes.
Introduced to a theatre activist and listened to messages from youths of the Djarama Association, a collective involved in cultural and education programmes, staging theatre shows and arts festivals, and engaging communities in organic farming and green energy.
Met the coordinator of ‘MAAM SAMBA’ – billed as the 1st Fair Trade Store in Dakar trading in traditional weaving, ready-to-wear garments, furnishing, bamboo furniture, jewelry and interior decorations. We agreed that without direct sea/air links, trade would be uneconomical.
The opportunity to set foot on African soil after a decade and the emotional hammer of the visit to the slave fort/door of no return on Goree have seared the commitment to the reparations struggle and the development of Africans on the continent and in the Diaspora firmly in my consciousness. It is now clearly ‘life work’.
Two related observations – i) the absence of African manufactured/prepared consumer items on shelves and ii) the presence of brands we know here in the region (American, French) – foods, drinks, cosmetics, etc. Both speak to the pervasiveness of capitalist domination of the economies of the developing world.
The assault on African womanhood is real. Ninety five percent of women seen on the streets/shops/restaurants are either ‘wigged or extension-ed’. The signs of skin bleaching are ever present. Billboards like the one shown here litter highways – every five or s
The difficulty of organizing and leading ‘people-based’ organizations and movements in large countries with large populations is spoken. Separations in
societies/groups based on language, religion, and ethnicity present major hurdles to unity. I imagine that the struggle for reparations would seem irrelevant to large sections of the population that face day-to-day struggles for the provision of basic human needs.
One senses that the reparations recognition is mainly with the intelligentsia which has critical roles of i) communicating the messages of the struggles to the leaders – political, religious, diplomatic – convincing them of the historical, moral and legal weight of the claim and urging them to lend state power to the international movement and ii) educating a critical mass of youth, 6 students, worker organizations, artists, ngo leaders to recruit others and maintain/broaden interactions with political and other national leaders.
THANKS AND APPRECIATION
ABRSC and CRC offer thanks and appreciation to:
- The Prime Minister/Minister of Finance, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
for supporting attendance at the Konvwa Goree