Legacy of Caribbean slavery still stings despite British PM saying 'move on'

Thu Oct 1, 2015 6:13pm EDT
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By Rebekah Kebede

KINGSTON, Jamaica (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - After a long time wondering, Verene Shepherd took a DNA test last year and finally learned that her mother's family came from Cameroon in West Africa.

"How did Cameroonians reach over here? They never came over here voluntarily," said Shepherd, a Jamaican who heads the country's National Commission on Reparations.

Her ancestors were likely among the millions of Africans brought to the Caribbean to work on plantations, so she was disappointed when British Prime Minister David Cameron this week said he would like to "move on" instead of apologizing.

"I think he missed an opportunity ... we still need for someone to own up to the wrong," said Shepherd, a professor of social history at the University of West Indies.

Shepherd is one of many Caribbean residents who think Britain should not only apologize but make reparations for its role in the transatlantic slave trade. Jamaica declared independence from Britain in 1962.

Many of the social and economic ills plaguing the region trace back to slavery and could be addressed by reparations, advocates say.

Last year, the 15-member Caribbean Community and Common Market, or Caricom, unanimously called for reparations.

Caricom is seeking formal apologies from governments that engaged in slave trade, debt cancellation and a repatriation scheme as well as programs in such areas as health, education, and culture.    Continued...

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron greets Crotia's Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic (not pictured) outside of 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, October 1, 2015. REUTERS/Toby Melville