Thank you, Prof Verene Shepherd – Teacher

Thank you, Prof Verene Shepherd – Teacher

Sunday, August 02, 2020

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At this time of year, Jamaicans routinely celebrate our Independence and remember the violent struggle for Emancipation in which our ancestors died or were put to death by execution or lashing.

We suspect that most Jamaicans have a rudimentary awareness of their history. They can recite the names of the national heroes and heroine, but they do not have a deep knowledge of the history that informs their world view.

They have a vague and limited amount of information to which they have been exposed in school, but they do not really comprehend their history in the wider history of Africa, Europe, Asia, and the evolution of global capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism.

This widespread ignorance of history is especially prevalent among the youth who are preoccupied with the future, with new technology and new means of survival. Many do not see the relevance of a knowledge of history to their daily lives.

For older Jamaicans, the issue is about unlearning the historical biases into which they were indoctrinated by colonialism and the racist propaganda of certain Western powers that still celebrate the perpetrators of oppression.

We in this space believe that knowledge of our history is very important for several reasons. If we do not know where we are coming from, we cannot truly understand who we are as a people. Our history explains why we are so resilient and also why we are so violent. Many of our social problems have their roots in our history. More important is that our history can be a source of pride, not merely a cruel experience that we try to forget because it is so painful.

National Hero Rt Excellent Marcus Garvey said: “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin, and culture is like a tree without roots.”

Today we gratefully and respectfully acknowledge and salute the contribution of Professor Verene Shepherd to educating the Jamaican people about their history through her writing and speaking, especially her Nationwide radio programme, Talking History. This is an invaluable contribution to nation-building.

Professor Shepherd is professor of history at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, director of the Centre of Reparations Research at The UWI and, in 2016, was appointed co-chair of Jamaica's National Council on Reparations.

She is an internationally recognised scholar and advocate, and has served on several international bodies including the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent.

Among her numerous books (sole and co-authored) are Livestock, Sugar & Slavery: Contested Terrain in Colonial Jamaica (2009); I Want to Disturb My Neighbour (2007); Maharani's Misery: Narratives of a Passage from India to the Caribbean (2002), and Engendering History: Caribbean Women in Historical Perspectives (1998).

She is a public intellectual who has put her knowledge to the service of the people by extending her teaching beyond the university classroom. Her persona personifies Jamaican culture and African heritage.

Our most respected educators are revered with the title Teacher. We say “nuff” respect, Teacher Shepherd. Future Jamaicans will salute you.

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