Regional Reparations Symposium honours work of CARICOM Founding Father, Eric Williams

Presiding Officer Tobago House of Assembly Legislature, Denise Tsoiafatt-Angus , Dir. of the Centre for Reparations Research, Prof. Verene Shepherd, and daughter of Eric Williams, Erica Williams
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The work of one of the four founding fathers of CARICOMDr. Eric Williams, is currently being honoured during a symposium at the University of the West Indies (The UWI) in Trinidad and Tobago.

The two-day Symposium tilted “Capitalism and Slavery – 75 Years Later” is happening at the Faculty of Education Auditorium, the UWI, St. Augustine Campus. The CARICOM Reparations Commission is collaborating with the UWI Centre for Reparation and the Faculty of Humanities and Education UWI, St. Augustine  to host the Symposium. Its purpose is to commemorate the 75th year of the publication of Eric Williams’ Capitalism and Slavery on the 13th of November.

CARICOM Founding Father from Trinidad & Tobago Dr. Eric Williams

The symposium examines Williams’ Caribbean Vision, the profits from enslavement in the 16th to 19th century, the impact on Capitalism on the World today, Capitalism and Slavery and Reparations, Capitalism and Global Connections as well as Decolonising Caribbean History. The organisers sought to gather scholars, intellectuals, corporate interest groups, artists and activists to examine the impact of Williams and his work on the Contemporary Caribbean and the wider world.

Programme Manager, Culture and Community Development at the CARICOM Secretariat, Dr. Hilary Brown, speaking at the opening of the symposium

Speaking at the opening of the Symposium on Wednesday morning, Programme Manager, Culture and Community Development at the CARICOM Secretariat, Dr. Hilary Brown, said the Caribbean Community would always remember and celebrate Eric Williams as one of the founding fathers of the regional integration movement and the community of nations now known as CARICOM. She said that as one of four signatories to the Treaty of Chaguaramas, in Trinidad and Tobago on 4 July 1973, establishing CARICOM, Eric Williams helped to lay the foundation for a far-reaching  partnership, a relevant development agenda and critical path to sustainable development  for the Caribbean region.

“For this we owe him a debt of gratitude,” she said.

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Dr. Brown, who was also speaking on behalf of the CARICOM Reparations Commission, said that the Commission recognised and felt strongly that a commemorative event should be held during 2019 to highlight this historic moment and major milestone for the Region, of the 75th anniversary of the publication of the seminal work “Capitalism and Slavery” by Dr. Williams. According to her, the Symposium was the Caribbean’s contribution to the global recognition of the impact and importance of his life and work, including its relevance to the movement for reparatory justice.

“He advanced our understanding of the intersecting axes of discrimination against especially people of African descent, indigenous people and people of East Indian origin,  arising from a history of institutionalised exploitation, perpetuated into the present by racism, economic, social and environmental vulnerability, extreme poverty and inequality.  He wrote for us, from our perspective, so that we could better understand how our economic, political and social realities were shaped by and facilitated the economic advancement of Europe,” she said.

Williams’ daughter Erica Williams attended the Symposium and made a presentation entitled “Eric Eustace Williams: Too Big to be Small” on the first panel discussion for the day. A keynote address will be given by Director for the Centre for Reparations Research, Professor Verene Shepherd at the end of the first day of the symposium. Her presentation is titled ” Capitalism and Slavery. A Handbook for Reparation Advocates in the Post-Colonial Caribbean”.

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