WHO  ARE  WE ? – REPARATION  FOR  WHOM? – By Hubert Williams

WHO  ARE  WE ? – REPARATION  FOR  WHOM? – By Hubert Williams         

My poem “WHO  ARE  WE?” was penned  years before the Stabroek News editorial’s headline,  but its focus is overwhelmingly on reparation.

I have re-typed the original of this piece and also changed a line to refer to Obama’s presidency. There is now increasing talk about reparation, and I saw in the Barbados Sunday Sun newspaper that UWI’s Sir Hillary Beckles will be lecturing on the subject this Thursday 08 February 2018, in Barbados.    ( SEE info on The Caribbean Reparation Commission at end)

Congrats on the initiative for such a Symposium. I hope it helps to set the course towards greater maturity in these young nations. I wrote years ago, and still do believe, that these English-speaking separate independent states of our Region will make little measurable headway until they come to terms with the reality of their smallness…

However, that critical question is yet to be seriously addressed by the people of Guyana and their Caribbean counterparts: mostly small fish swirling in the same pool.

 

WHO  ARE  WE ? – By Hubert Williams

 

By de Gaulle’s ire, mere mounds of dust

Molded by coralstone and pyroclastic flows

But these lovely islands of the sun Indies

Should not be judged merely by what is seen

Though tiny objects rebuffing waves

Within and below they link great continents

x

From north to south this natural chain extends

Creating a people’s bridge from centuries past

All shades traversed from the globe’s four points

Converging and merging their unique traits

Into vibrant new nations on the world stage

x

Hibiscus, croton, oleander, bougainvillea

They gloriously reflect our people’s hues

With no shade superior, and none suborned

Colourful identity, that’s bolstered with pride

x

Black myopic historians present history anew

Demean whites, yet seize honour in what they do

Continually proclaiming from all vantage points

T’was Barbadians who colonized the Carolinas

And stood in victory against Cromwell’s might

Ignoring that the principal participants were white

x

Who then was it wrote the Charter of Barbados

And forged its path into America’s First Law

Who gave its architecture unique shape and form

And fashioned island speak in that quaint brogue

Should not each dog get its bite and have its day

x

Don’t dare challenge us, they say, for whites distort too

Thus, to claim our fair share, we like they must do

Why must all victories, achievements, all credits be theirs

Ignoring our labour, sacrifices, lives lost through the years

Building their brutal empires on our blood, sweat and tears

x

Who else must write our names on history’s page

If not us, who else can find a balm for history’s rage

If the leaping flame is not quenched in generations new

And ways not found to spare our youth what we went through?

x

Wherefrom can we find the hard truth to be their guide

The bravery to challenge oceans, conquor mountains high

Respect natives’ birthright, not stain their land with blood

Help build new empires, not wreak havoc through hate and lust

There’s so much to learn, yet be so different from the past.

x

They raped, robbed, plundered, pillaged through ancient societies

Brutal and heartless, but deemed themselves ‘explorers’

Then brought millions of innocent, unwilling African and Asian labour

Enslaving, exploiting, brutalising them for centuries

Finally giving them Amerindian lands, and called it “independence”

X

No Black historians challenged Britain’s imperial/colonial right

When in the mid-twentieth century and for decades thereafter

London decided these stolen lands are now all yours

We all rejoiced, sang new anthems: accepting this principle –

Other people’s lands can legitimately change ownership through conquest

A prerogative now being internationally denied the state of Israel

X

From continental south towards north across the glorious island chain

None doubt that grievous harm was done uncounted millions

But now, their nations abound, unfurling bright flags with designs new

Proclaiming, as Bajans do, these fields and hills are now our very own

And not even dollars in the hundreds of trillions can begin to compare their worth

X

Despite all that, voices are raised in demand of reparation

Those cruel nations that traded in and exploited slaves must pay

And the chorus goes up:  cash payments by Whites are now our right

But if such be our right, then right needs also be done to others

If a case for cash to us exists, we must return the Amerindians’ stolen lands

X

There is an alternative, disruptive way, though ’twill bring us much cash

We’ll take these estimated enormous $um$ in European reparation

Then quit these lands, reverting them back to the Amerindians

And we each group of varying hues and shades flushed with cash

Uproot ourselves and heave us back whence our forefathers came

X

Caribbean talk of reparation makes no sense:  will waste our time

Let’s lend our support to any such Black claims in North America

It is their case that is strong; Liberia for some, but nothing else.

Any independent international tribunal would likely support their claim

That cash, not just the presidency, would help to ease their pain

X

Now, let us in the Caribbean move onward with what we have

Learn from those who came with swords, guns, diseases, slaves

Why crowd Atlantic coast and riverbanks as most Guyanese do

Fearing moves towards huge forests, great mountains, enormous natural wealth

Why continually curse the painful past, blaming the palefaces from Europe

‘Tis their example of courage, hardiness, lust for adventure and resources

That must now inspire our nations still groping as separate states

X

When white men were having those days of adventure and derring do

The principal beneficiaries were never intended to be you

But there’s so much that we can learn from their imperious stands

If courageously we set out to conquer what’s now our own native lands

— Hubert Williams

                                                       *********

Caricom Reparations Commission

caricomreparations.org/

 Ten Point Action Plan. The Caribbean Reparation Commission outlines the path to reconciliation, truth, and justice for the victims of slavery and their descendants. Learn More. Journal of Pan-African Studies: With speeches by Sir Hilary Beckles’s, the CARICOM 10-Point Reparations Plan, and several other speeches, …

CARICOM Reparations Commission – Home | Facebook

CARICOM Reparations Commission, Georgetown, Guyana. 33K likes. The Official Facebook page of the CARICOM Reparations Commission….

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Comments

  • Gigi  On February 10, 2018 at 1:15 pm

    Insightful…

    This being black history month, there is a plethora of articles on the subject of slavery. However, it was mostly the comments that piqued my curiosity, sending me in search of truth/fact. This is one of the many pros of the internet – the quick and easy access to information along with open discourse from a broader and diverse audience. Thanks to internet, I now know more about black slavery that I ever intended and I’m all the more enlightened from this knowledge. Others would too, but I know that it doesn’t fit their agenda to know. Ignorance is indeed bliss.

    From my new readings, I learned the whites decision to abolished slavery was met with fierce protest from not whites but African govts whose countries economies benefited successfully from the slave trade. Contrary to popular myth, slavery in Africa/African countries was and still is normal, legal and profitable. Even though it has been abolished or supposed to be abolished, ii is very much still in practice. Slavery was/is separated into three categories:

    (1) Caste system – people of differing castes were traded into slavery to work or taken as wives.
    (2) Raids/captures by warring factions – warring tribes would often carry out raids and enslaved or sold their captures.
    (3) Men warriors/soldiers – men exhibiting prowess were sold as warriors/soldiers.

    Of the three categories, we know that Whites were only interested in category 1 slaves. From my other readings, Asians and Arabs were interested in category 1 and 3 slaves.

    And no, don’t ask me to provide links. If you’re interested, you can find out the same way I did. It’s the only way to learn freely and at your leisure.

  • L. A. Phillips  On February 13, 2018 at 2:01 am

    We live in the present, not the past. We learn from the past and try not to make the mistakes of earlier generations. If we are going to ask for reparations for past bad actions, how far back should we go? Should we ask the Spanish to compensate the muslims for expelling them from Spain? Should we ask the muslims to compensate the Jews for overrunning Israel? Should we ask the Italians (Romans) to compensate the Jews and all the other nations they controlled with their legions? What about the Egyptians, under their Pharoahs, enslaving the Jews? Perhaps, all non-Ameridians (i.e. all those whose ancestry can be traced back to someone coming to the “New World”, whether as a free person or as a slave) should be sent back to their countries of origin, leaving the Ameridians to their lands. But, wait a minute, from where did the Ameridians come? Current theory says that they came from Asia across a land bridge which connected Asia to what is now called Alaska. So, the Ameridians are also immigrants and do not “own the land! This reductio ad absurdum argument demonstrates the absolute futility in demanding reparations for the “sins of the fathers”.
    Enough already!

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