Sir Hilary goes to Congress

US Congresswoman, Democratic Representative of Texas, Sheila Jackson Lee, has extended an invitation to Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor of The University of the West Indies (The UWI), and Chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission, to participate in the decades’ long anticipated, historic sitting of Congress on Reparations.

On Wednesday, June 19, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties will convene a hearing on H.R. 40, the path to Restorative Justice. Keenan Keller, Senior Counsel to the House Judiciary Subcommittee, informed Sir Hilary, “Given your long standing interest in H.R. 40 as a model for legislative action that has positively impacted the Reparations movement in the Caribbean, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, lead sponsor on the bill, would be honoured by your attendance at this momentous hearing.”

Sir Hilary has been a long standing ally of former Congressman John Conyers, who, for over forty years struggled to get a Reparations Bill through the Congress. On several occasions, Sir Hilary and Rep. Conyers addressed the Congressional Black Caucus in an effort to build support in the Congress. Their long history of lobbying has now matured with this hearing.

Sir Hilary noted that it is a special tribute to the leadership of Rep. Conyers, as well as CARICOM, and Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr Ralph Gonsalves in particular, who five years ago established the path-breaking Regional Commission on Reparations that has inspired the political movement in the USA. With Reparations taking centre stage in the current presidential debates, there is great anticipation that CARICOM and Congress will work more closely in advancing the cause that has eluded people of African descent for over a century.

Sir Hilary’s participation in the Congress follows his contribution at the British House of Commons in 2014, and his delivery of the keynote address at the sitting of the United Nations General Assembly to Launch the International Decade (2015 to 2025) for People of African Descent.

Following the hearing of the House Judiciary Subcommittee, Sir Hilary will join Rep. Lee and actor Danny Glover before delivering the closing address at a public forum where he will place the Congressional event within global perspective.