Council to educate J'cans on justification for reparation

Council to educate J'cans on justification for reparation

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

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THE National Council on Reparations (NCR) will be spearheading a number of activities this year to raise public awareness of the historical and current justification for reparation.

Supported by the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, the council has a mandate to organise events and to conduct research and publish the findings in accessible forms that will educate the public on reparatory justice.

It is also mandated to recommend the form or forms which reparation may take and to receive testimony from the public and experts, with the aim of guiding a national approach to reparation.

Speaking in an interview with JIS News, chairperson of the NCR Laleta Davis Mattis said the council will be commemorating major historical events that occurred prior to and after Emancipation.

“We will be seeking to commemorate more events as we also commemorate the International Decade for People of African Descent (IDPAD) which was launched at the Grand Gala [in 2019],” she said.

Jamaica's observance of IDPAD was launched by Prime Minister Andrew Holness in the presence of the president of the Republic of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta on August 6, 2019 at the National Stadium in Kingston, on the occasion of the 57th anniversary of Jamaica's Independence.

In December 2019, the NCR held commemorative activities to remember the enslaved Africans who lost their lives in the Zong massacre of 1781. On December 27, there was also an activity to commemorate the start of the 'Sam Sharpe War' and to recognise the role of National Hero Samuel Sharpe and those who died with him in the 1831/32 Emancipation war.

The NCR also recognised the 216th anniversary of Haiti's independence on January 2, 2020 and the role played by Dutty Boukman, an enslaved West African from Jamaica who started the Haitian revolution in 1791.

Davis Mattis said the council will be engaging people in communities on reparation and reparatory justice.

“We want to engage with Jamaicans wherever they are, even go to the bar and have a conversation. And we want Jamaicans to also come and ask us questions, because we are going to learn, too,” she said, noting that the cause of reparation needs the participation of all Jamaicans.

The council's work programme will also include the development of instructional aids for teachers.

“What we want to do is to create instructional aids for teachers so that they can have them to enhance their lessons and in the entire mix what we are seeking to do is to bring our history to life,” Davis Mattis said, adding that young Jamaicans need to understand their own value as black people and as mixed people.

She said, too, that the teaching aids will be introduced at the kindergarten level in the school system.

“We just want to introduce simple concepts and it wouldn't be called reparations. It would be concepts in terms of 'who am I' and that's in the civic and social studies books,” she explained.

According to Davis Mattis, a young child could be taught using colouring books.

“You colour that picture and that picture could be the focus of the lesson, or it could be a join the dots and the joined dots could end up with a shackle and then that could be a part of your lesson,” she said.

“We are not saying that we are going to bombard students with this, we are really saying that it is about time that we understand where we are coming from and who we are, and we just want to infuse that,” she added.

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