Mr Randall Robinson, towering anti-apartheid figure, would have died weeping for Haiti
<strong id="strong-e9e7d27ce77a59adf3ecc4e70f45d83a">Randall Robinson</strong>

One of the best known and most devoted campaigners against South African apartheid, Mr Randall Robinson, an American who was a good friend of Jamaica, took his last breath on Friday, March 24, 2023, aged 81.

Mr Robinson is perhaps best known for his work with TransAfrica, the organisation he founded in 1977 to spearhead the movement to improve the lives of people of African descent, and for prodding the American Government to move its foreign policy away from its alignment with apartheid South Africa.

Believing that "the freedom of African Americans was bound up with the emancipation of all African people", Mr Randall led a series of public protests in front of South African embassies in the 1980s, helping to internationalise the struggle against the racist regime there.

The daily demonstrations outside the embassy in Washington led to thousands of arrests, including those of tennis great Mr Arthur Ashe and singer Mr Stevie Wonder. Mr Robinson, an author and graduate of Harvard, was detained a total of seven times.

President Ronald Reagan had advocated a conciliatory policy of "constructive engagement" with South Africa. But in September 1986, amid growing outrage among Americans over the brutality of apartheid, Congress voted to override Mr Reagan's veto of legislation that placed economic sanctions on South Africa, according to The New York Times.

Mr Nelson Mandela was released in 1990 and, four years later, was elected South Africa's first black president. But Mr Robinson was equally known for his deep love of Haiti and would no doubt have gone to his grave wondering if his intense struggles to uplift the impoverished French-speaking Caribbean country were worth it in the end.

Mr Robinson campaigned hard for international support for Haiti, even going on hunger strike to bring attention to the plight of Haitian refugees.

From his base in Basseterre, St Kitts, he would have seen its current descent into mayhem and violence as criminal gangs rendered governance impossible.

While he waged his struggle for black empowerment, he kept close to the Caribbean. According to the short-lived journal, The National Leader, Mr Robinson hosted the last trip taken by late Grenadian Prime Minister Maurice Bishop to the US before he was assassinated in 1983.

That visit to the US was cited as the reason for the leftist coup d'etat that ended Mr Bishop's social democratic experiment in the eastern Caribbean island and triggered the US invasion, after claims by Bishop critics that he had sold out to the Americans.

Mr Robinson, also known as a crusader for reparation for slavery, was a good friend of late Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley — the two finding common cause in their support for the anti-apartheid movement and the philosophy of South-South co-operation.

His last known visit to Jamaica was in October 2007 when the social justice advocate was a guest of the Jamaica National Bicentenary Committee and the Jamaica National Heritage Trust, delivering a public lecture on 'Why Reparation Matters'.

He spent the last two decades of his life in St Kitts from which his wife, Ms Hazel Ross, hails, declaring: "I have tried to love America, but America would not love the ancient, full African whole of me."

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