Reverend Al Sharpton: “Sir Hilary personifies the global fight for human rights and dignity in the African diaspora”
For his global advocacy, academic scholarship and intellectual leadership in support of social justice, institutional equity, and economic development for marginalised and oppressed ethnicities and nations, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor of The University of the West Indies (The UWI), Chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission and President of Universities Caribbean, was honoured by Reverend Al Sharpton and the National Action Network (NAN) on Dr Martin Luther King (MLK) Day—January 18—with the Peace and Freedom Award.
Presenting the Award to Sir Hilary during a live virtual ceremony, Reverend Al Sharpton stated, “Every year we have the National Action Network Dr Martin Luther King Awards, we look for someone who has personified in their own work, in their own life, the global fight for human rights and human dignity, particularly in the African diaspora and there’s no doubt about the fact that Sir Hilary has been one in that tradition—I would say unequalled in the present African diaspora of those of us that are still among us.”
The US-based Network, founded and led by Reverend Sharpton, has celebrated MLK Day since 1991 with a breakfast in his honour in Washington, DC. The annual event both commemorates Dr King’s legacy and provides an opportunity to refocus on the work of carrying on his dream.
In his response, Sir Hilary told Reverend Sharpton that growing up, his generation followed and was inspired by the works and teachings of Dr King and that he remains a ‘template’ and guiding light in the global reparatory justice movement. He acknowledged that Dr King’s philosophies “framed his own views of the world.” He expressed his gratitude for the accolade saying, “I am humbled and honoured to be considered in the context of the legacy of Dr King.”
Sir Hilary was among seven distinguished persons honoured. Other honourees include American physician, immunologist and Director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Dr Anthony Fauci; seven-year old non-profit founder Cavanaugh Bell; Chief Executive Officer for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Sindy Benavides; award-winning organiser, philanthropic consultant, political strategist and jazz singer, Latosha Brown; Stacey Abrams, American politician, lawyer, voting rights activist, and author; and Dr. Millicent Gorham, Executive Director of the National Black Nurses Association, Inc.