The call went out, far and wide. It was answered by delegations from more than 21 countries, according to the conference organizers. That number included Martinique, Trinidad-Tobago, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados, Jamaica, Guyana, Antigua, the Virgin Islands, Canada, Sweden, France and Cuba among others.

This reparations conference, put into context by the presence of the chair of the CARICOM Reparations Commission, Hilary Beckles, Ph.D., (also the vice chancellor of the University of the West Indies), represented the new reparations movement. Gone were the references to symbolic slave ships and localized marches. Instead, this conference focused on the pursuit of high-level legal strategies against countries that profited from the slave trade (aka, the Maafa), slavery and the resulting status quo based on racial inequalities. The CARICOM countries (the Caribbean Economic Community) are suing France, Great Britain and the Netherlands in international court.

As a backdrop, there was a very respectful acknowledgement to scholar Josef Ben-Jochannan (aka, Dr. Ben), whose funeral was held in New York on the conference’s opening day, and a grand tribute to Rep. John Conyers, who has kept the reparations movement faith by continuing to reintroduce the H.R. 40 bill in Congress since 1989 for a national study of the consequences of slavery and Jim Crowism in the USA..

The participants included a broad swath of doctoral scholars, celebrities like Danny Glover and New York State Sen. James Sanders, well-to-do activists successful in academic, diplomatic and business careers, and a handful of community organizers and youth. By number, there were approximately 150 attendees.

Most of the sessions were held at York College in Queens, a part of the City University of New York.

What was accomplished? Number one, pulling the gathering off was a notable achievement in itself. Besides the first National Reparations Congress held in Compton, Calif., in 2004, and the annual National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (NCOBRA) conferences, this was one of the few successful 21st century attempts to bring together many of the national and international forces pursuing the reparations issue.

Number two, this gathering introduced the CARICOM Reparations Commission members (like Verene Sheppard, Ph.D., of Jamaica, Armand Zunder, Ph.D., of Suriname, attorney David Commissiong of Barbados etc.) to the newly formed U.S.A. National Reparations Commission (including, Conrad Worrill, Ph.D., Iva Carruthers, Ph.D., attorney Roger Wareham, Nation of Islam spokesperson Akbar Muhammad, economist Julianne Malveaux, Ph.D., etc.), and the European Reparations Commission members (including representatives from France, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Denmark).

Number three, the gathering tried to lay out a collaborative plan for the future of the reparations movement. That was not as successful, but decisions were made to meet again on that issue.

Number four, the gathering demonstrated the dexterity of the reparations movement in its ability to transform itself for the 21st century.

What was not accomplished? There was clearly not enough dialogue between the various reparations representatives, and too much time spent on talking at participants rather than with them—in other words, entirely too many speeches. There were not enough youth present to explain what it will take to bring young people firmly into the new reparations movement.

The main non-accomplishment—indeed, the essence of the conference—was how to concretely link the USA reparations movement to the international efforts now being spearheaded by CARICOM. That issue was addressed but not adequately resolved. And the conversation will continue.

The Institute of the Black World successfully laid claim to its usurpation of the leadership of the national reparations movement at this conference. At issue now is what the IBW will do with that leadership. A national reparations plan to actually win reparations is sorely needed. Can the institute get that done? Without a strategic plan, there will be no overall reparations victory.

The Reparations United Front, headquartered in Los Angeles, has submitted its own version of such a plan. Time will tell whether the IBW and the new National Reparations Commission will adopt it. Currently, it is the only such plan on the table. We’re keeping our eye on these new developments.

Reparations now, in memory of our ancestors and for the future of our children!

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and meets every fourth Friday.

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