Wednesday 21 August, 2019

Mike Henry backs August 1 reparations march in London

Mike Henry

Mike Henry

Veteran Jamaican politician and reparations advocate, Mike Henry, has joined the international drive to generate increased public discourse about the cause of reparatory justice through support of the African Emancipation Day Reparations March scheduled for London, England on August 1 under the theme, ‘Nothing About Us Without Us: Actualising The Reparatory Justice Change We Envisage’.

Henry, who has long been at the forefront of the fight for reparations, said the march is “another welcomed juncture of this drive that will not cease without due recognition of, and redress for, the exploitation and grave injustices that were and have been meted out to people of African descent.”

The International Social Movement for African Reparations’ (ISMAR) initiative, now in its fifth year, has consistently attracted the participation of thousands of people from across the United Kingdom and overseas.

The march has become one of the flagship African Heritage Community activities, promoting the United Nations-declared 2015-2024 International Decade for People of African Descent.

The first of August was chosen as the date of the March in recognition of ‘Emancipation Day’ as a reparations-focused day. Emancipation Day is observed in many former European colonies in the Caribbean, and commemorates the passing of the Abolition of Slavery Act in the British Empire on August 1, 1833.

However, the passing of the act did very little to truly emancipate enslaved Africans. Instead, the act compensated their British enslavers, resulting in the impoverishment, dispossession and social displacement of the Africans and their descendants, who are still negatively impacted today by the injustices and other manifestations of what is considered the African holocaust.

The pending exit of Britain from the European Union under Brexit, is believed by reparations advocates to be signalling darker days for people of African descent in Britain, through increased hate crimes there, and have been cited as a basis for the August 1 march, which is intended to demonstrate that reparations activists have their own ideas and agendas in pursuit of reparations, which many at the state level in Britain are in denial of.

The march is to be conducted with the following aims and objectives:

1. To draw attention to the determination of Africans not to let Britain and other perpetrators get away with the crimes of chattel colonial enslavement;

2. To hand in a petition calling for an all-party parliamentary commission of inquiry for truth and reparatory justice, to raise consciousness about the position that the traditional individual and collective attacks and exploitation of people of African descent by the British amount to political and economic genocide, which necessitates reparations.

This year’s march will open and finish with a rally at Windrush Square in Brixton, featuring community organisers, campaigners and activists engaged in reparatory justice-related activism. The marchers will then proceed to Parliament Square, where three minutes of silence will be observed in commemoration of their ancestors, freedom fighters and martyrs who took action to stop the manifestations of the atrocities against them within their lifetimes, or who otherwise organised and campaigned for freedom, equity and justice for people of African heritage.

There will also be a ‘People’s Open Parliamentary Session on African Reparations’ at Parliament Square, where participants in the march will debate and engage in the ‘battle of ideas’ on the effectiveness of marching and the reparations march in particular as a tactic in the process of effecting and securing holistic reparatory justice.

Additionally there will be the annual handing-in of a petition to the Prime Minister’s Office at 10 Downing Street.

The African Emancipation Day Reparations March has generated support that has inspired other groups to stage their own marches and other solidarity actions internationally, such as the annual SANKOFAAPAE Pan-African Libation Ceremony in Accra, Ghana. Each march features representatives from a variety of African heritage community reparatory justice movements, struggles and campaigns.

In London, three international speakers will headline the march, in the form of Kambanda Veii, representing the Ovaherero Genocide Foundation in Namibia; Steven Golding from the National Council on Reparation in Jamaica; and Dr Barryl Biekman, based in the Netherlands, representing the Europe-wide NGO Consultative Council for African Reparations.

The UK-based front-rank participants will include, among others, Elder Professor Gus John, who will provide a special Windrush and reparations message; as well as Councillor Cleo Lake, Lord Mayor of Bristol, and Lewisham-based Youth Councillor, Joshua Brown-Smith.

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