Barbados has been recognized internationally as the tip of the spear in the fight for slavery related reparations. In 2012, the nation saw the emergence of The National Task Force for Reparations which strives to guide and build the government’s stance on reparations and keep the narrative alive with the help of public momentum.
They are now separately and cumulatively aiming at taking the fight to the evil that is slavery and bringing a measure of relief to the descendants of those who suffered under its cosh.
In 2013, these nations took another step forward by setting up a regional commission which is meant to engage in dialogue with European nations and facilitate the payment of due reparations.
Such an organized approach has grabbed the attention of people all over the world and has brought the stance of European nations into question. With pressure mounting from around the world, many nations which have refrained from speaking on the matter or dismissed it completely, are now changing their approach.
For individuals like Esther Phillips, now 73, who spent her younger days near Drax Hall, oblivious to the fact that there were darker undertones to her ‘wholesome childhood’, this is quite an exciting development.
She remembers her grandfather being and overseer for a group of women in the plantation’s ‘Negro’ yard. Having been built in the 1650s, Drax Hall is said to be the oldest Jacobean building in the western hemisphere. This fascinating fact doesn’t manage to overshadow the reality that it was this very building, which was used to work enslaved black men, women and children for the enrichment of a select few. In fact, later, it was the same estate where black people lived some where between slavery and freedom and continued the dangerous task of working with sugar.
Many others in the region, much like Esther Phillips, are firm believers of the idea that apologies with fair recompense are definitely due. In all fairness it is hard to argue against their claims. For a long time now, enslaved people and their descendants have argued that they were held captive and robbed of their labor, something that demands reparations in the eyes of many.
Sir Hilary Beckles, a Barbados-born historian and author of Britain’s Black Debt, has made available case files from 17th century Barbados. In them, a lucky few who managed to achieve their freedom by hook or by crook, argued this very case.
In recent years though, those arguing in favor of reparations have moved beyond mere debate. Yet, it has to be noted that even in the pantheon of liberalism that is the United States, two federal reparations bills have been stalled.
Beyond all else, this does delineate a lack of will and interest with in the halls of power for taking this cause to its zenith. That trend though, is being phased out by concerted efforts by organizations like The National Task Force for Reparations, which are not only calling out these outdated approaches, but also bringing in significant public support and will for the benefit of the cause.
It is brilliant to see though, that European nations are now taking the matter seriously and those who are related to perpetrators of the past, are now being forced to come out and change the narrative around slavery related reparations.