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Acting CARICOM SG pays tribute to People of African Descent

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Thursday 20 January 2011 The observance of the International Year for People of African Descent provides the international Community with an opportunity to redouble its efforts to eradicate discrimination against people of African descent, and build an awareness and respect for their diverse heritage and culture.


This was the view expressed on Wednesday by Ambassador Lolita Applewhaite, CARICOM Secretary-General (ag) at the launch of activities in Guyana to mark the United Nations- designated year.


At the Guyana International Convention Centre, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, where the launch took place, Ambassador Applewhaite acknowledged that the equality in treatment of all people, and respect for their right to life free from discrimination and poverty, was essential to international peace and security and to building stable communities and nations.


In her address at the launch, the Acting Secretary-General referred to discrimination, injustice, deprivation and psychological trauma visited upon people of African descent, and the poverty, underdevelopment, racism and social exclusion that they continued to experience.


“Too many persons of African descent in the world do not have access to basic services in health and education and thereby have difficulty in realising their full potential and contributing meaningfully to the advancement of their families, communities and nations. Too many persons of African descent in the world are caught in a cycle of persistent poverty from generation to generation, and too many in 2011 are no better off economically or in their quality of life than our18th century fore bearers who were enslaved. 


“These are the harsh realities which result in significant measure from pervasive and systemic injustice and discrimination, for which the international community needs a “wake up call” in order to accelerate regional and international cooperation, to ensure people of African descent have full enjoyment of their rights to participate in all the political, economic, social and cultural facets of society,” Ambassador Applewhaite said.


Turning to the achievements of Persons of African Descent and their significant contributions to national and regional development in CARICOM, the Acting Secretary-General pointed out that “our Region’s highly respected international reputation as being intolerant of inequality and discrimination was built partly on the foundation of the unrelenting resistance of enslaved Africans, embodied in martyrs and leaders of the slave revolts such as Toussaint L’Overture in Haiti; Nanny and Tacky in Jamaica; Codjo, Mentor and Present in Suriname; Bussa in Barbados and Cuffy and Damon in Guyana, among countless others.


“It was built on the shoulders of our many heroes of African descent – most notably the great Pan-Africanist, Marcus Mosiah Garvey, National Hero of Jamaica, ardent advocate of black racial pride, and who had a profound impact on the consciousness of a mass movement of Diasporic Africans in the United States, the Caribbean and Central America in the 1920s and ‘30s,” she told the large gathering.


Ambassador Applewhaite spoke also of the Rastafarian movement that “revolutionized the consciousness of the Caribbean people and many others outside of the Region”. She pointed to the strong influence of people of African descent in the creation of a “distinctive Caribbean brand”.


“Indeed the African presence is strong in the creation of a distinctive Caribbean brand, a unique identity and self liberating ideology, proclaimed to the world in the creative genius of Marley, Sparrow, Rudder, Arrow, Machel, Shaggy, Boukman Esperans, Kassav, Gabby, Walcott, Harris, Lovelace, Lamming, Rodney, Fanon, Nettleford -- and the list goes on; and in the creation of the steel pan, our diverse carnival arts, the iconography of Rastafari and a profusion of other forms of cultural expression,” the Acting Secretary-General said.



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