The celebrations for the 15 years of Global Voices continue, and we take a look at three stories of 2019 that demonstrated ways in which the region evolved and went against the traditional vein of Caribbean society.
‘Queer as meaningful joy’
On the occasion of the celebrations of the second annual pride parade in the country, Trinidadian poet Shivanee Ramlochan published an intense essay on Facebook that perfectly encapsulated the freedom to openly admit homosexuality and the hard road to get there.
Pride is beautiful. And it is political. And it is born of a bloody, mutinous theirstory, from the roots of a radical understanding that acceptance was not the only striveable goal, at least not acceptance from the come-to-Christer, from the corporation, from the oligarchy, from the evangelical , from the elite. And so whether your body was visible in the parade, or not, to exist queerly is its own breathtaking defiance of the statutes of raw hatred. You are alive. All the cells in you, incandescently gay. Irrepressibly lesbian. Outstandingly bisexual. Terrifically transgender. Indisputably intersex. Notwithstanding societal bullshit, non-binary. Queer as quantum joy.
Pride is beautiful. And it is political. And it emerges from a bloody, mutinous history, from the roots of a radical understanding that acceptance was not the only objective to strive for, at least not acceptance of the “come to Christ”, of the corporation, of the oligarchy, of Evangelical, from the elite. And if your body was visible in the parade or not, existing like this is your own impressive challenge from the statues of unprocessed hate. Are you alive. All the cells in you, incandescently you win. Irrepressibly lesbian. Notably bisexual. Terribly transgender, indisputably intersex. Despite the social, non-binary garbage. Queer As meaningful joy.
Being gay in a region where so many territories still have “sodomy” laws in their codes is difficult, but the fact that pride parades have been established – in Barbados, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago – opens up space for the Hope and diversity are not only tolerated but also appreciated.
‘Release the grass’
Already in 2014, the Caribbean was in full debate about the legalization of marijuana. Jamaica finally passed decriminalization legislation in February 2015; The measure was received as a kind of emancipation.
For the Caribbean, the idea of the sale, purchase and legal consumption of marijuana seemed finally an idea whose time had come; It was now a matter of which countries would follow the example of Jamaica – and when.
Trinidad and Tobago was taking steps to decriminalize, driven by well-known cannabis advocates such as Nazma Muller, who was arrested outside Parliament in October while continuing to press for the enactment of existing medical marijuana legislation. He saw this as a precursor to decriminalization, which has taken longer than promised. Meanwhile, they continued to arrest and sentence those who possessed marijuana.
When the marijuana project was scheduled for submission to the cabinet in early November 2019, the defenders focused on how to remove those accused of owning small amounts of marijuana from the criminal system.
Marijuana decriminalization legislation in Trinidad and Tobago was finally proclaimed on December 23. However, a controversy is brewing over an alleged conflict of interest with prosecutor Faris Al Rawi, who spearheaded the bill. Family members of the prosecutor would have registered a for-profit entity called West Indian Cannabis Company, while, according to Muller, “cannabis remains illegal in Trinidad and Tobago”:
The Attorney General must explain how his Ministry registered a company to engage in promoting – and possibly selling – an illegal substance, for which citizens have been jailed.
The prosecutor must explain how his ministry registered a company to undertake promotion – and perhaps sale – of an illegal substance so that there are imprisoned citizens.
When the matter was raised in Parliament, Al Rawi replied: “It is a fantasy that may have some pecuniary interest in debating this bill.” My wife has a very large family and I cannot say that I know what they do. ”
Even with the imminent approval of the legislation, it seems that the controversy about marijuana in Trinidad and Tobago is not over.
The concept of reparations for the injustices of slavery is a concept that has been very strong in the Caribbean. In October 2015, when the then British Prime Minister David Cameron visited Jamaica, the issue was raised and dismissed without further formality with Cameron's scolding to Jamaicans of simply “overcoming slavery.”
In response to the “idea that this mass-faced Tory comes to the colonies to tell the subjects what is what in our own damn house,” acclaimed Jamaican author Marlon James said:
Listen David bae, I feel you. I'm with you on this forgetting slavery business, screw all the haters. I too am all ready to move past slavery and forget the whole thing.
I just have one condition: YOU FIRST.
You heard me. I promise to stop bitching about the legacy of Slavery and Colonialism (don't get it twisted, the latter was even worse) and move on if you also move on, by destroying every building, every landmark, every statue, every port, every bridge, every road, every house, every palace, every mansion, every gallery (Hello, Tate!), every museum, and every ship built with slavery and colonialism blood money.
That would mean that London, Bristol and Liverpool would all have to go.
Then we'd all be just about full free, David.
Listen David Bae, I understand you. I am with you in this to forget slavery, to the horn all who hate. I am also ready to leave slavery behind and forget everything.
I only have one condition: YOU FIRST.
You have already heard me. I promise to stop complaining about the legacy of slavery and colonialism (don't misrepresent it, the latter was worse) and move on if you also keep going, and destroy every building, every landmark, every statue, every port, every bridge, every road , every house, every palace, every mansion, every gallery (Hello, Tate!), every museum and every ship built with money from slavery and colonialism.
That would mean that London, Bristol and Liverpool would have to leave.
Then we would all be almost totally free, David.
These repair orders are not new. Guyana was the first CARICOM territory to rule on this. In 2011, Antigua and Barbuda made a moving request for reparations at the United Nations and the following year, Jamaica and Barbados initiated reparation commissions, in charge of leading the talks to obtain formal apologies for the horrors and inhumanity of slavery as well as justice Economic for the descendants of slaves.
Finally, on July 31, 2019, his initiatives were successful when the Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, and the Director of Operations of the University of Glasgow, Dr. David Duncan, signed a historic agreement for the repair of slavery – the first contract of this kind since the people enslaved by the British were completely emancipated in 1838.
Never before has a British institution benefited from slavery apologized for its role – and has shown its regret with the money – in this case, 20 million pounds sterling (US $ 24,308,500). As a symbol of the sum that the British Government paid to the slave owners as compensation for abolishing slavery, the money will be used for research and other development initiatives between the two universities over the next 20 years, under the auspices of the Research Center for the Glasgow-Caribbean Development, which will be jointly owned and managed.
Three months later, the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, wrote to the president of Harvard University, Lawrence Bacow, to ask the prestigious university to fulfill its responsibilities and pay its country reparations for the historical ties of the institution with the transatlantic slave trade – and the profits it generated.
Browne said that repairs were due to Antigua and Barbuda because Isaac Royall Jr., a slave trader and American landowner who also operated in Antigua, bequeathed money to Harvard to establish his first law chair, which later led to the creation from Harvard Law School in 1817. He expects the repairs to go to education – specifically to the University of the West Indies in Five Islands.
To make matters worse, at the celebration of the tricentennial of the university in 1936, the Harvard Law School turned Royall's shield into the official seal of the school – enormously controversial decision. In 2016, Harvard students protested to request the removal of the shield, and called it “glorification and monument to one of the largest and most brutal slave owners in Massachusetts.”
The seal was finally removed, and Drew Faust, former president of Harvard, declared the university's permanent commitment to recognize its links to slavery, a fact that the current president mentioned in his response to Browne.
So far it has not been confirmed if Harvard intends to follow the example of the University of Glasgow, but regardless of whether it succeeds or not, it is not in dispute that the Caribbean has had an admirable performance in 2019 when addressing a topic by the which the north – despite its gains from slavery, colonialism and other injustices in the region – is still reluctant to amend.