Regional Headquarters, Kingston – Sheila Jackson Lee, American politician and Democratic Congresswoman for the US State of Texas, wasted no time at the beginning of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, in paying tribute to the Caribbean for its contribution.
As leader of the process which brought the Reparations Bill to the floor of the Judiciary Committee, she expressed gratitude particularly to Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, historian, Vice-Chancellor of The University of the West Indies (The UWI) and Chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission last Wednesday.
Jackson Lee was speaking at the Capitol in Washington on the commemoration of Juneteenth, which marks a day of remembering the end of slavery in Texas. Her language was emphatic while thanking Sir Hilary for his expert leadership in the Caribbean and global movement over the past decade.
By connecting the historic, Rastafarian-driven grassroots movement to State leadership, and securing the support of CARICOM leaders and international development and civil rights bodies, Sir Hilary was thanked for inspiring the revival of the African-American movement at the highest levels of Government.
It was fitting that he was urged to stand before the Subcommittee under the chairmanship of Congressman Nadler, as the significance of the moment was officially acknowledged. During the hearing, iconic actor, Danny Glover, also expressed in his testimony, gratitude to Sir Hilary, his friend, for facilitating his own global activist engagement in the reparations movement.
Congresswoman Jackson Lee later thanked Sir Hilary again at a town hall meeting which followed the Subcommittee hearing, where he was the keynote speaker. She acknowledged her gratitude to him for framing the conversation within CARICOM in a way that is developmental and not divisive.
She further recognised the role that Caribbean luminaries have always played in the progressive politics of America – from the pan-African role of Marcus Garvey, to the reparations discourse of Sir Hilary himself.
US Democrat, representing New Jersey, Senator Cory Booker also gave testimony at the hearing and was first to do so. Sir Hilary, standing in the Chamber, symbolically under the portrait of former Congressman John Conyers, his long serving mentor and father of the congressional movement, assured Booker that the CARICOM Reparations Commission will be fully available to assist sponsors of the Bill as it is piloted through the House to the Senate.