Feature
Chairman of the National Council on Reparation, Laleta Davis Mattis addresses a JIS Think Tank.

Story Highlights

  • The National Council on Reparations (NCR) will be spearheading a number of activities this year to raise public awareness of the historical and current justification for reparation.
  • Supported by the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, the Council has a mandate to organise events and to conduct research and publish the findings in accessible forms that will educate the public on reparatory justice.
  • It is also mandated to recommend the form or forms which reparation may take and to receive testimony from the public and experts, with the aim of guiding a national approach to reparation.

The National Council on Reparations (NCR) will be spearheading a number of activities this year to raise public awareness of the historical and current justification for reparation.

Supported by the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, the Council has a mandate to organise events and to conduct research and publish the findings in accessible forms that will educate the public on reparatory justice.

It is also mandated to recommend the form or forms which reparation may take and to receive testimony from the public and experts, with the aim of guiding a national approach to reparation.

Speaking in an interview with JIS News, Chairperson of the NCR Laleta Davis Mattis said the Council will be commemorating major historical events that occurred prior to and after Emancipation.

“We will be seeking to commemorate more events as we also commemorate the Decade for People of African Descent (IDPAD) which was launched at the Grand Gala (in 2019),” she said.

Jamaica’s observance of IDPAD was launched by Prime Minister the Most Hon. Andrew Holness in the presence of the President of the Republic of Kenya, His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta, on August 6, 2019, at the National Stadium in Kingston, on the occasion of the 57th anniversary of Jamaica’s Independence.

In December 2019, the NCR held commemorative activities to remember the enslaved Africans who lost their lives in the Zong Massacre of 1781.

On December 27, there was also an activity to commemorate the start of the ‘Sam Sharpe War’ and to recognize the role of National Hero Right Excellent Samuel Sharpe and those who died with him in the 1831/32 Emancipation War.

The NCR also recognised the 216th anniversary of Haiti’s Independence on January 2, 2020 and the role played by Boukman Dutty, an enslaved West African from Jamaica who started the Haitian revolution in 1791.

Mrs Davis Mattis said the Council will be engaging people in communities on reparation and reparatory justice.

“We want to engage with Jamaicans wherever they are, even go to the bar and have a conversation. And we want Jamaicans to also come and ask us questions, because we are going to learn, too,” she said, noting that the cause of reparation needs the participation of all Jamaicans.

The Council’s work programme will also include the development of instructional aids for teachers.

“What we want to do is to create instructional aids for teachers so that they can have them to enhance their lessons and in the entire mix what we are seeking to do is to bring our history to life,” Mrs Davis Mattis said, adding that young Jamaicans need to understand their own value as black people and as mixed people.

She said that the teaching aids will be introduced at the kindergarten level in the school system.

“We just want to introduce simple concepts and it wouldn’t be called reparations. It would be concepts in terms of ‘who am I’ and that’s in the civic and social studies books,” she explained.

According to Mrs. Davis Mattis, a young child could be taught using colouring books.

“You colour that picture and that picture could be the focus of the lesson, or it could be a join the dots and the joined dots could end up with a shackle and then that could be a part of your lesson,” she said.

“We are not saying that we are going to bombard students with this, we are really saying that it is about time that we understand where we are coming from and who we are and we just want to infuse that,” added.

Mrs. Davis Mattis further stated that “we just want to infuse that in the whole school system in a very practical and fun way but a very serious way as well.”

Additionally, she said the Council’s newly formed Internal Reparatory Justice Committee will be reviewing some of the laws that have been on the books prior to Emancipation.

“We want to look at those things that continually perpetuate the way we see ourselves. We want to bring the dialogue to the fore and to have those conversations that we have never had,” she said.

She urged Jamaicans to get involved in the conversation.

Jamaicans can write to the Council with evidence, suggestions and ideas. They can also invite the Council to address their schools or organisations. Persons can contact the Council via email: ncr.secretariat@mcges.gov.jm or Tel: 978-7654/978-7881/978-5347 for more information.

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