The announcement was made today, Tuesday June 21, 2016 during a Press Conference at the Norman Manley International Airport, where the Minister welcomed Keith Stokes, the great, great, great grandson of enslaved, Little October (“Robert Barclay”), who was born in Unity Valley Pen, St. Ann during the period of slavery.
“It is timely that just yesterday the Cabinet of Jamaica confirmed the appointment of Professor Verene Shepherd and Laleta Davis Mathis as co-chairs of the National Commission on Reparations,” Minister Grange said.
These two ladies have played a significant role in organizing Stokes’ visit to Jamaica. Professor Verene Shepherd brought to public attention the historic story of Keith Stokes and Laleta Davis Mattis along with the staff at the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT), was able to locate the birthplace of Little October and has made arrangements for Stokes to visit the physical birthplace of his ancestor.
In welcoming Stokes and his wife, Minister Grange said, “I am glad that you will make the journey to the birthplace of your ancestor though time and development have erased much of the physical evidence. I hope you will enjoy your stay in Jamaica, land of your ancestor. We regard you as a son of our soil; so do not make this your first or your last visit. Jamaica is your home.”
Minister Grange also indicated that Humphrey Barclay, descendant of David Barclay, the slave owner who freed all of his enslaved people and arranged for them to be relocate to Philadelphia is also in Jamaica and will meet Stokes tomorrow. The two will journey to St. Ann to visit the home of their ancestors.
Both Stokes and Barclay will be presenters at a lecture titled, “Legacies of Slavery and Freedom: A Family Journey through the Atlantic World” to be held at the University of the West Indies, Regional Headquarters. on Thursday, June 23, 2016 at 2pm.
The Minister also used the opportunity to highlight that Jamaica will this year celebrate its 178 anniversary of emancipation and invited Stokes and his wife to consider returning to Jamaica to join in the celebrations.
“I regret that your trip will end before we celebrate 178 years since emancipation from enslavement. Our signature event ‘Emancipation Jubilee’ will be celebrated under the theme ‘United and Free What a Jubilee’ on July 31st,” Minister Grange shared.