MESSAGE BY THE HONOURABLE OLIVIA GRANGE, CD, MP MINISTER OF CULTURE, GENDER, ENTERTAINMENT AND SPORT FOR THE INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR PEOPLE OF AFRICAN DESCENT
31 August 2021
Today, we join with our brothers and sisters on the continent of Mother Africa, and the millions of her children throughout the Diaspora, in commemorating the inaugural International Day for People of African Descent. Importantly, this United Nations designated Day is commemorated on the 101st anniversary of the first International Convention of the Negro Peoples of the World, which was staged by the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and led by our National Hero, the Right Excellent Marcus Garvey - producing the Declaration of Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World. It is also timely that this commemoration occurs during the sixth year of the International Decade for People of African Descent, which commenced in 2015, and promotes the extraordinary contributions of the African diaspora around the world and, importantly, commits to eliminate all forms of discrimination against people of African Descent.
The Government of Jamaica has consistently engaged the peoples of the African continent, in recognition of the strong historical, racial and spiritual bonds with Jamaica, whose population is predominantly people of African Descent. In keeping with this tradition, in August 2019, Jamaica hosted a State Visit of the President of the Republic of Kenya, His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta, during the Emancipation and Independence celebrations. My Ministry entered into a framework Agreement and a Memorandum of Understanding in the areas of Culture, Gender, Entertainment & Sport with the Republic of Kenya at that time, and we are replicating this approach with other governments and peoples on the continent, as we deepen understanding and cooperation with the Motherland to reclaim our common destiny of peace and prosperity.
To mark Africa Day, celebrated on May 25, 2021, my Ministry staged a Webinar entitled “Conversations with Africa: A Destiny of Peace, Prosperity, Strength and Unity” which facilitated dialogue between the Prime Minister of Jamaica, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, and His Excellency Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa. Prime Minister Holness underscored the shared, centuries-old struggle for liberation in all forms, and reiterated the challenge of this current generation of Africans at home and abroad to pursue the cause of Reparation as under:
‘On both sides of the Atlantic, we have used the language, rhythm, melody and tactics of resistance to win for ourselves Independence. Today offers us the chance to interrogate how far we have come since emancipation and independence from former colonial powers, and to critically assess the true measure of our strides, and the outstanding journeys towards truth, justice, reconciliation and ultimately reparation.’
This cause for Reparation remains as urgent as it is sacred. The National Council on Reparation, (NCR), housed in my Ministry, has the responsibility to advise the Government of Jamaica on the legal and political route to reparatory justice, consistent with the role of the CARICOM Reparations Commission, which was established in 2013.
I have publicly stated that the Government of Jamaica will pursue reparatory justice for the victims and descendants of the transatlantic slave trade for the injustices, pain, suffering and loss of life during our centuries of enslavement, and the legacies of structural underdevelopment that have pursued our people since Emancipation.
This mission, while it is our most pressing, is not the only one being undertaken by the NCR in its continued dialogue with the African continent. Indeed, the NCR has facilitated a series of webinars. We began the year with a partnership with the UNESCO Cluster Office in the Caribbean in commemoration of the World Day for African and Afro-Descendant Culture, and just recently concluded a four-day Symposium in partnership with the Consulate of Jamaica in Namibia, commencing on August 17, 2021, which was held to commemorate the 134th Anniversary of the birth of Jamaica’s first National Hero the Rt. Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey. Additionally, the NCR staged a webinar on the topic “Dissecting Race: Defamation, Discrimination and Development” on July 15, 2021, and solicited the participation of experts such as noted Attorney-At-Law Mr. Bert Samuels and Mr. Benjamin Crump, prominent Civil Rights Attorney in the USA, who led George Floyd’s family’s legal team. The need to eliminate all forms of discrimination encountered by Peoples of African Descent was a major talking point during this particular webinar, and I commend the NCR and participants who shared generously with us their expertise and experiences, and urged constructive, accelerated, and sustained action.
Jamaica joins all Member States of the United Nations in reaffirming the sanctity of human rights, fundamental freedoms of all persons, and the attendant duty to uphold their dignity and rights. Equally, Jamaica repudiates and condemns xenophobia, racial discrimination, oppressive force and structural racism wherever it occurs in the world against Africans and people of African Descent. We also stand in solidarity with Member States, in recognising the important contribution of women and girls of African Descent to development, multiculturalism and the promotion of mutual understanding, and the related priority to ensure their protection, and to address multiple forms of discrimination.
This International Day for People of African Descent therefore, is an occasion to celebrate the many glorious achievements of Africans and African descendants across the world in every area of human endeavour, to reflect on the collective challenges, and to recommit ourselves towards ending injustices and suffering by our brothers and sisters, wherever in the world it is taking place. We cannot leave it to chance. Garvey, himself, taught us that “Chance has never yet satisfied the hope of a suffering people. Action, self-reliance, the vision of self and the future have been the only means by which the oppressed have seen and realised the light of their own freedom.”
On this inaugural celebration of the International Day for People of African Descent, then, we resolve to continue the work we have embarked upon to effect repair to a people interrupted, and whose subsequent journey in self-determination and advancement, has been impacted, though not defeated, by structural racism and economic underdevelopment.
The proclamation of today as the International Day for People of African Descent is a global milestone in giving due respect for, and overdue recognition of, our significant contribution to humanity, culture and heritage. The Day signals a universal commitment to securing justice for our people, and is consonant with the global commitment to transform our world, through sustainable economic, social, and environmental development.
We will do what is necessary to uplift this mighty race, which has accomplished so much under the harshest of conditions. Let us be proud of who we are and what we have given to humanity. Let us celebrate our heritage and play our part in advancing the welfare of people of African Descent, everywhere. Much has been done, and there is even more to do. We salute those who have been actively engaged in the struggle and vow ‘A luta continua, vitória é certa’ which means The struggle continues, victory is certain.
Olivia Grange, CD, MP
Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport