Wed | Oct 17, 2018

Let's stand by African-Americans

Published:Saturday | May 2, 2015 | 12:00 AM


As we mourn the loss of Ben E. King, the giant who wrote and sang Stand By Me and many other songs, and we remember Percy Sledge and celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Billie Holiday, we need to stand by the African-American community. For at the same time, there are weekly demonstrations over the death of black men in America at the hands of the police who are sworn to serve and protect.

We have had a history of ambivalence and misunderstanding between the migrant communities from Caribbean countries like Jamaica and our cousins in America. For hundreds of years, they have borne the brunt of injustice at the hands of those who claim that America is the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Some might point to the contribution of Caribbean people to the pan-African and civil-rights movements and remind us that our National Hero Marcus Garvey had been able to organise the largest pan-African movement in history through his Universal Negro Improvement Association.

As more Caribbean people make their home in America and create diasporas, we have to renew the call for understanding and collaboration in whatever ways are possible. Poverty, neglect and discrimination are problems in America as well as in Jamaica, where we have had our own struggles with injustice and the challenges of policing in an ethical and just manner. We have had deaths of Jamaicans in police custody and other such matters.

It is time for us to have a more respectful dialogue in America as we recognise that the Caribbean and other migrants have benefited from the sacrifice of African-Americans. We have to change the narratives that we have about African-Americans and that they might have about us.