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Is a Knighthood unfit to lead the region’s fight for reparations?

Sir Hilary Beckles - the Chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission

Questions have begun to surface locally concerning whether the holder of a Knighthood from the British monarch should be spearheading the Caribbean’s fight for reparations.

This surfaces as Chair of the CARICOM Reparations Commission, Barbadian Historian and Professor, Sir Hilary Beckles prepares to launch a 100,000-pound reparations fund in Grenada on February 27, a contribution made by Laura Trevelyan, a member of a wealthy British family, who will travel to the island to publicly apologise for their ancestors’ enslavement of 1004 Africans across five (5) estates on the island during the slave trade industry in the 19th century.

Considered a first step in the right direction, the monies will be housed at the University of West Indies (UWI) and will go towards the setting up of a ‘reparations research fund’ to look into the economic impact of enslavement with a focus on development in Grenada and other Eastern Caribbean countries.

There are concerns, however, that although proficient in Afro-Caribbean history, especially the economic and social impacts of colonialism, and the transatlantic slave trade, Sir Beckles who is also the Vice- Chancellor of UWI, may not be fit to lead the region’s reparations agenda while wearing the ‘Sir’ title, which was first used by the British colonial powers in England in 1297, as the title for a Knight.

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The issue was raised during Monday’s Beyond the Headlines programme broadcast on the Grenada Broadcasting Network (GBN) with host Colin Dowe.

Chairman of Grenada’s Reparations Commission Arley Gill, who appeared as a guest on the programme admitted that it is an uncomfortable state of affairs, but quickly added that Sir Beckles’ leadership in the fight for reparations so far, has been “second to none.”

“I won’t conceal that it is uncomfortable to be wearing that high British colonial title and at the same time spearheading…(but) I believe that the Professor (Sir Hilary Beckles has the knowledge and capacity, wherewithal, tactics, and so on, he has lived his life doing that work but yes persons do question the carrying of the title “Sir,” Gill remarked.

Knighthood is defined as an official title given to British men who have performed some kind of extraordinary service.

When someone receives a knighthood, they’re formally addressed as ‘Sir.’

In November 2007, Sir Hilary was made a Commander Knight of St. Andrew (KA), by the Government of Barbados, which is the island’s highest honour, in recognition of his distinguished service in the field of education in particular at the university level, and his dedication to the furtherance of the arts and sports in particular cricket.

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