Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer
University of the West Indies lecturer, Jermaine McCalpin, is adding his voice to the growing chorus calling for reparations from former European colonisers.
According to McCalpin, reparations - for the long-standing injustice, forced labour and racial oppression - must be paid to the descendants of slaves whose labour enriched the economies of their colonisers.
McCalpin's lecture at the 15th annual Walter Rodney lecture at University of the West Indies Mona campus last week, came days after it was reported that the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is seeking a legal opinion on the matter.
That followed CARICOM's decision to establish a National Reparations Committee in each member state, with the chair of each committee sitting on a CARICOM Reparations Commission.
The report stated that 12 former British colonies, along with former Dutch-state Suriname, and Haiti, which was once owned by the French, have sued Britain, France, and Holland for what could be hundreds of billions of pounds.
For McCalpin, reparation is the only vaccine for the long-standing malady of injustice to slaves and their descendants.
McCalpin's lecture, titled, How Africa Developed Europe, was modelled on Rodney's book How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, published in 1972.
Citing the Jamaican Rastafarian community as a special group, McCalpin said that like native Americans they were "placed on reservations, quarantined by their people, within their own country, because they stoked the fire of justice, time and time again".
He said Rodney grounded with Rastafarians, in an area of Jamaica referred to as 'Dungle'.
Still calling for reparations
Four decades later, McCalpin noted that Rastafarians are still calling for reparations.
"The concept of reparations, in terms of long-standing injustice, for racial oppression, is in many ways treated like how a patient is treated on an isolated ward.
"That patient is quarantined, and that is how we look at reparations ... I would argue that reparations is the only vaccine for this malady called injustice, and we can't talk about slavery without talking about injustice," he said in opening comments to the packed Neville Hall lecture theatre at the university.
McCalpin pointed to the historical records which state that slave owners were given £20 million. That is estimated to be equivalent to £200 billion today.
"In many ways, I think Walter Rodney's role in this discussion is to make it clear that we can't talk about the development of Europe without talking about the resources of Africa.
"And Rodney's point is simply this that the dichotomy is such that when we talk about injustice, we have to be clear that those who have suffered injustice historically, many had their positions and possessions taken from them," he opined.
McCalpin said some of Africa's history was outside of the continent, as the thieves not only took slaves but their possessions too.
He described the infamous middle passage as a great tragedy, and argued that reparations and justice were one and the same.
"I say to all those ancestors and those who stand in the cloud of witnesses ... that we will not go away quietly... We want reparations and we want justice because they are one and the same," he stated defiantly.
The university lecturer said he shares Rodney's view that Africa's development was arrested and stalled while Europe prospered.
"Reparations for Africans and their descendants is legally and morally required," he stated.
According to McCalpin, reparations is long overdue justice and not "grudge or vex money".
He said no one was asking for charity, because it is a "debt, it is something that is owed".