The Keynote Address Of The Hon. Prime Minister Of St. Vincent And The Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves
On October 17-18, the Institute of the Black World 21st Century (IBW) convened an important Symposium on The Future of Democracy and Development in Africa and the Caribbean at the historic Metropolitan AME Church in Washington, D.C. The objective of the Symposium was to engage in a substantive discussion of issues of democratic governance, human rights, people-based economic development and the status of Pan Africanism in the 21st Century.
The Symposium was envisioned as the beginning of an ongoing process to address these critical issues. IBW was honored to have The Honorable Pedro Pires, former Prime Minister and President of Cape Verde, West Africa and the recipient of the Mo Ibrahim Award for Good Governance and The Honorable Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Chairman of the Labor Party and Vice-Chairman of CARICOM, as Special Guests and Keynote Presenters for the Symposium. The Honorable John Conyers, Jr., Dean of the Congressional Black Caucus, and several current and former Ambassadors of the diplomatic corps were also in attendance.
At the Opening Session, October 17th, which was open to the public, hundreds of participants were privileged to hear Dr. Ralph Gonsalves deliver a major Keynote Address, brilliantly cataloguing and analyzing the challenges, accomplishments and obstacles that characterize democracy and development in the Caribbean region. Dr. Gonsalves also discussed the critical importance of enhancing cultural, economic and political linkages between Africa and the Caribbean to advance the mutual aspirations of people of African descent. As expected, the Prime Minister passionately articulated the rationale for CARICOM’s demand that Europe pay reparations for Native genocide and African slavery.
In this regard, it is significant to note that Prime Minister Gonsalves informed the audience of his meeting with the Honorable John Conyers, Jr. for an exchange of information about the Caribbean and U.S. Reparations Movements. Congressman Conyers attended the Opening Session and was warmly received as he delivered remarks on human rights issues in the U.S. and the importance of the CARICOM Initiative and of the continuing need to mobilize/organize around HR-40, the Reparations Study Bill which he has introduced in the House of Representatives of the U.S. Congress since 1989.
Another highlight of the Opening Session was the presentation of the IBW Legacy Award to President Pedro Pires and the Pan African Service Award to Prime Minister Gonsalves.
On October 18th, more than one hundred invited Distinguished Respondents and Participant Resource People engaged in a full day of deliberations related to the objectives of the Symposium.
The highlight of the day was the extraordinary Keynote Address by the esteemed Elder Statement President Pedro Pires, Commander in the field with the Amilcar Cabral during the anti-colonial liberation struggle and Founder/President of the Amilcar Cabral Foundation. In a thorough and substantive address, President Pires asserted the critical role of culture in the people’s struggle for dignity and self-determination and offered an optimistic view of the prospects for democracy and development in Africa.
However, he cautioned that the path forward will not be without imperfections. President Pires also spoke to the importance of strengthening ties with the African diaspora in the U.S. and the Caribbean to promote democracy and development among people of African descent.
In welcoming the symposium attendees, Dr. Ron Daniels, president of IBW, said that in a world where economic and political power matters, “the preeminent issue facing us is how the sons and daughters of Africa—those who are still striving with varying degrees of success to overcome the devastating inter-generational impact of the European slave trade and colonialism—build and sustain the kind of cultural, economic and political relationships that will promote our collective empowerment.”
He added that IBW viewed the symposium as an important step in a process designed to address the critical questions of democratic governance, human rights and socially responsible economies. Such questions, he noted, call for an engaged discussion on what is the nature of progressive Pan-Africanism and the vision/mission of principled Black solidarity and empowerment in the 21st Century.
Also welcoming the symposium attendees was Rev. Dr. Ronald Braxton, senior pastor of the Metropolitan AME Church. He noted the long history of involvement in freedom struggles by the Black church in the USA and cited the active presence today of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church in countries throughout Africa and the Caribbean, with congregations that are making positive contributions to democracy and development in those two regions.
Panels responding to the Keynote Addresses of Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves and President Pires and a session on the role of the Diaspora in practicing Pan Africanism provided a broad range of relevant suggestions and recommendations for follow-up/implementation. These recommendations are contained in the Proceedings of the Symposium which will be available on the IBW website at www.ibw21,org along with the video of Prime Minister Gonsalves’ Keynote Address and the text of the Keynote Address by President Pires.
Consistent with its role as a facilitative resource center and within the limits of its capacity, IBW proposes to initiate and/or implement the following recommendations and initiatives:
- Issue a stern condemnation of the Constitutional Court in the Dominican Republic for it’s outrageous decision to deny citizenship to Dominicans of Haitian descent born in that country since 1929. The letter will be released to the press, posted on the IBW web site www.ibw21.org and widely circulated to various list serves nationally and internationally.
- Explore developing a working relationship between the Damu Smith Leadership Development and Organizer Training Institute (DSI) of IBW and the Amilcar Cabral Foundation to identify mutually beneficial ways to train “servant leaders” to enhance community and nation-building in the Pan African world.
- Intensify efforts to build structures, like the Pan African Forum in Boston and the Pan African Unity Dialogue in New York City, that promote information-sharing, collaboration and joint work among Continental Africans, Caribbean Americans, Afro-Latinos and African Americans in the US. IBW specifically proposes to work with leaders of Metropolitan AME Church in Washington, D.C. and Union of African Communities in Pittsburgh to assist with the development of structures in these locales.
- IBW will function as a resource center and vital link for the global Reparations Movement for people of African descent, particularly in light of the CARICOM Initiative and renewed energy to revitalize the Movement in U.S.
- IBW will establish an on-line platform for ongoing sharing of information, discussions/dialogue on the vital issues of democratic governance, human rights, people-based economic development and the status of Pan Africanism as addressed by the Symposium.
- IBW will identify the human and material resources to convene the Symposium on an annual basis as a means of continuing the process for defining and implementing a vision of human-centered, non-exploitative African communities and nations and a progressive Pan Africanism in the 21st Century.
As an ongoing project of The Institute of the Black World 21st Century, the Symposium on the Future of Democracy and Development in Africa and the Caribbean has the potential to yield positive results in terms the global empowerment of people of African descent.
Panelists: The Future of Democracy & Development in Africa:
Moderator–Dr. Jemadari Kamara, Director, Center for African, Caribbean and
Community Development, University of Massachusetts at Boston.
H.E. Amina Ali, African Union Ambassador to the U.S.
Dr. Pearl Robinson, President Emeritus, African Studies Association
Mel Foote, President Constituency for Africa
Emira Woods, Co-Director, Foreign Policy in Focus, Institute for Policy Studies
Wale Idris Ajibade, Executive Director, African Views Interaction with Participant Resource People
Panelists: The Future of Democracy & Development in the Caribbean
Moderator–Hulbert James, Executive Director, Diasporic Project
Don Rojas, CEO Progressive Communications Online, Founder of The Black World Today
Dr. Joseph Baptiste, President, National Organization for Advancement of Haitians
Dr. Claire Nelson, Executive Director, Institute for Caribbean Studies
Esmeralda V. Brown, President, Southern Diaspora Research and Development Center
Dr. Karl Rodney, Editor/Publisher, New York Carib News
Roundtable Discussion: Practicing Pan Africanism in the 21st Century:
The Role of the Diaspora
Joe Beasley, Founder/President, African Ascensions
Sidique Wai, President, United African Congress
Estela Vazquez, Executive Vice-President, SEIU 1199
Dr. Waldaba Stewart, Chairman, Caribbean Resource Center, Medgar Evers College
James Early, Smithsonian Institution
To watch the opening session of the symposium featuring the keynote address by Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves and the speech by Cong. John Conyers please click here to access IBW’s YouTube channel–