A two-day conference to discuss reparations and repatriation was convened virtually by the European Regional headquarters of the Nation of Islam in London, England. The online gathering brought together interested people and change agents active in reparations and repatriation initiatives in Africa and the Caribbean.
The overall theme was “Reparations—What Do European Nations Owe Us, and What Do We Owe Ourselves?” The wide array of participants Zoomed in from the United Kingdom, France, parts of Africa, the Caribbean and North America.
The gathering was organized to focus on actions and concrete movement in the work of reparations, repatriation and restoration of Black life historically violated by slavery and colonialism. There have been many conferences over the years to discuss the violations and reparations, however, organizers for this meeting said the goal was to go further with action steps toward self-determination, self-development and self-healing.
“We are here brothers and sisters because we are the generation that has been tasked to break the cycle of poverty and want and dependency upon our former enslaver and colonial masters,” said Abdul Hakeem Muhammad, the European Regional Representative of the Nation of Islam based in London.
“We are responsible to break these generational curses of dependency,” he said.
In opening remarks, Student Minister Hakeem Muhammad said the conference aim is to solve a “seismic problem” through exploring the benefits of self-determination and total liberation through repatriation, moving to more hospitable places for Blacks in Africa and the Caribbean.
The message from all the presenters was clear: It’s time for Black people to quit Europe. Comments from conference attendees in the Zoom chat agreed that the descendants of formerly enslaved Africans in Europe must embrace the responsibility to accept their own and be themselves on some of this earth they can call their own.
Min. Hakeem Muhammad said two possibilities include investing in a business and owning land in Africa and the Caribbean.
The sessions offered connections in Africa and the Caribbean to provide business opportunities, land purchases and community development.
Businessman Boris Baido, owner of Boris B. Chicken Farms and president of the Poultry Farmers Association of the Ashanti region in Ghana, gave a detailed report on investment possibilities in the poultry industry.
Justin Muhammad and Lionel Muhammad delivered a joint presentation on opportunities in the southern African country of Zambia and central African nation of Rwanda. Both have been in the nations respectively surveying the lay of the lands toward building a “Repatriation Retreat” area. Plans are in motion by the Repatriation Membership Club to purchase large land areas to construct 40 houses, agricultural areas, a botanical garden, and recreation facilities. The Repatriation Membership Club helps people interested in repatriation and economic opportunities the group advocates.
Lionel Muhammad has been living in Rwanda and Justin Muhammad has been living in Zambia for 18 months.
“What we’re looking at is an intentional community,” said Justin Muhammad. He described an “intentional community” as a self-identified community committed to living together in an economically, culturally, and spiritually sustainable way.
It’s more than a housing development, said Justin Muhammad. It’s an international statement and affirmation that the sons and daughters of the Caribbean and Africa are returning home to build a new future of peace and prosperity, he said.
Speakers said land ownership is the basis for and power behind freedom. A critical feature of the conference was a presentation from Ambassador Arikana Chihombori-Quao, the founder and president of the African Diaspora Development Institute. She is a former official with the African Union known for her outspokenness and devotion to advocating for and building a Pan African reality on the Motherland.
She and several members of her group introduced a major initiative called The Wakanda One City of Return, a futuristic city planned for Ghana. The visionary project would build a city where Africans in the Diaspora, including all people of African descent worldwide, can call home and have a place of rebirth.
Land was allocated for the project in the Cape Coast and Elmina areas of Ghana, which are locations for slave dungeons where millions of Africans were taken shackled through the “Door of No Return” to slave ships. The massive development is dubbed the “City of Return,” a reopening of the door through which Africa’s children were taken.
“The city is going to be built by the African Diaspora in collaboration with their brothers and sisters on the continent,” said Ambassador Chihombori-Quao. Ambassador Chihombori-Quao said of all the people of the earth, the descendants of the enslaved scattered in the Diaspora are the only people not anchored. The Wakanda initiative presents the opportunity to reconnect and return to Africa with their gifts and talents.
The overall sentiment and question over the weekend Zoom sessions was “what we owe ourselves” more than the question of “what European nations owe” for their 465 years of violation of Black people.
Explaining why it was urgent to move toward self-determination, Min. Hakeem Muhammad said the “Original People” in the Diaspora can no longer wait on governments who were complicit in “our enslavement … kidnapping … robbery for now over four centuries” to acknowledge their wrong and cut a check.
“No, we’re of the mind now that it’s imperative that as we pursue reparations, we also repair the damage that was done to ourselves,” said Min. Hakeem Muhammad.
The conference wasn’t the space to recite what has happened to Blacks, but to discuss what can be done around repatriation and restoration, the companions to reparations.
“Repatriation will lead to total liberation and free the entire Africa and the Caribbean,” argued Min. Hakeem Muhammad quoting a recent conversation with the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam.
He said Minister Farrakhan told him the skill sets that Blacks acquired in their sojourn in Europe can serve Africa and the Caribbean.
As the idea of repatriation grows, the common thought and desire is often to look to Africa, which has seen a growing influx of Blacks from the West.
In the midst of the continental move by Blacks is a modern day scramble and big power competition for control and influence over Africa’s resources. This is another reason why “we are in a race against time” to prepare and move toward repatriation, said Min. Hakeem Muhammad.
“Europeans are eying citizenship in Africa and in the Caribbean, and they are beating us to the door. So, let us now reverse the trend,” he added.
Along with Africa, a major emphasis was placed on repatriation to the Caribbean. Min. Hakeem Muhammad told The Final Call that prioritizing the Caribbean is important because there hasn’t been a lot of focus there compared to Africa. Black people are the true owners of the earth—all of it, he said.
While Africa is extending homecoming opportunities for Blacks in the Diaspora, the parents of many Blacks in Europe are from the Caribbean, observed Min. Hakeem Muhammad.
It’s now incumbent upon the Caribbean and the regional Caribbean political and economic group to extend the same opportunities to those still living in the Western Hemisphere, he said. We should be able to return with respect and dual citizenship, added the student minister, who is of Jamaican descent.
Speakers from the Caribbean talked about the benefits of repatriating there as well as making a regional demand on European powers for reparations.
David Comissiong, Barbados’ ambassador to CARICOM, the Caribbean Community and Common Market organization and grouping of 20 regional nations, participated in the Zoom conference.
He provided a detailed update on the CARICOM Reparations Commission established in 2013 to call European powers to account for the illicit trade of enslaved Africans, genocide of the Indigenous people of the Americas, and colonial domination of the Caribbean.
A highlight of the ambassador’s update was news about an alliance recently formed between CARICOM and the African Union (AU). CARICOM and the AU linked up in a substantive commitment to work on the cause of reparatory justice, he said. Mr. Comissiong announced a major AU/CARICOM reparations conference proposed for 2022 in Africa. He sees the relationship as advantageous because CARICOM represents 18 million people in its region while the AU brings the weight of 54 nations and 1.3 billion people.
“My feeling is that we have to make the reparations movement into a mass movement. We have to get our people fully on board,” said Ambassador Commisiong.
He argued the issue of reparations must grow to the stature of the anti-apartheid movement of the 1970s inside and outside of South Africa.
The CARICOM Reparations Commission put forward a 10-Point document making the case for reparations. It includes pointed positions on repatriation.
Point number 2 says the trade in “enchained bodies” was a highly successful commercial business for the nations of Europe. Millions of men, women and children were destroyed in search of profit. The descendants of these stolen people have a legal right to return to their homeland, it says.
Ambasador Commisiong said the cost of the damage done may be incalculable.
Considering multiple generations went through slavery, calculating compensation for forced labor, rapes, whippings, mutilations, executions, and other inhumane treatment has not truly been comprehended, he continued. And, Mr. Comissiong added, neither has the destruction done to the African continent and the extent to which Europe gained “unjust enrichment at the expense of our ancestors” been assessed.
“So, if you are really talking about a compensation for a damage done … you are really talking about a monumental figure,” he said.
Ambassador Commisiong said although the numbers are incalculable, Europeans must make an effort to repair the damage.
Also addressing the Oct. 23-24 conference from the Caribbean was Dr. David Muhammad, student minister and Eastern Caribbean Regional Representative for the Nation of Islam.
He offered information on several possible countries in the region that are suited for repatriation. David Muhammad was born and raised in the UK and chose to repatriate to Trinidad, when Blacks in the UK and other places are usually trying to get to the United States or Europe.
He argued the conference discussion on repatriation to the Caribbean was unprecedented. Nearly 100 percent of the conversations on repatriation are about returning to Africa, David Muhammad noted.
We must officially add repatriation to the Caribbean as a subproject to repatriation back to Africa and those who took Blacks out of Africa are directly and indirectly responsible for Blacks being in the Caribbean, David Muhammad said.
He compared the value of the descendants of enslaved Africans in the West with the value of stolen African artifacts in museum galleries in Europe. “You can set up an old dusty building in Europe that’s worth very little, take some art out of Africa, put it in there. It adds value,” said David Muhammad.
The GDP per capita in European countries increased because of the presence of Africans, he said.
“At the same time, the GDP per capita in Third World countries decreased because of a brain drain or extraction of the human resource,” David Muhammad explained.
In his groundbreaking book, “Message to the Blackman,” the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, the Eternal Leader of the Nation of Islam, asked: “Do We Have the Qualified Men and Women For Self-Government?” The answer is yes.
To the benefit of Europe, Black people are mathematicians, construction, civil, mechanical, and electrical engineers as well as physicists, chemists, educators, and agriculturists.
With repatriation those talents could be transferred to benefit self, Africa, and the Caribbean.
Minister Farrakhan has called for a federation of states of the Caribbean in place of existing as small, individual nations. He has said the “role of the Nation of Islam in the Caribbean is nation building” and those returning, as they establish themselves in the country of their choice, must think for the whole.
Minister Farrakhan shared these words in a special Believers’ meeting with members of the Nation of Islam from the Caribbean from Europe, North America, and Canada, during a Nation of Islam Saviours’ Day convention.
Minister Farrakhan has expressed a similar sentiment for a United States of Africa. He has also called for meaningful, substantive relationships between Africa and her sons and daughters scattered in the Diaspora.
The conference closed celebrating the life and work of Jamaican national hero Paul Bogle, whose struggle and execution along with others paved the way for the establishment of just practices in Jamaica’s courts and attitudes that made possible the social and economic betterment of people. The special day recognizes Mr. Bogle leading the 1865 Morant Bay protests and rebellion for justice where Jamaicans lost their lives. Mr. Bogle was arrested, tried, and convicted by the White colonial government and hanged October 24, 1865, in the Morant Bay Court House.
A virtual candle lighting was led by Ras L. Ho-Shing of the Rasta Federation of Jamaica. Participants in a moment of silence included Constantine Bogle, the great-great grandson of the Jamaican hero. There was technical difficulty during this part of the program and conference organizers believe the interference was deliberate, saying Paul Bogle’s history is still a sensitive subject for Britain.
Based on feedback from those who attended the virtual conference, many felt inspired to act and move forward.
As a veteran in the Nation of Islam global struggle to connect with Black people in Africa and the Caribbean, Abdul Akbar Muhammad, the International Representative of the Nation of Islam, saw the conference as a timely one. “What came out of the conference is a turning point,” said Min. Akbar Muhammad.