Garifuna Heritage Foundation launches reparations working group

The Garifuna Heritage Foundation (TGHF) is pleased to announce the launching of the Garifuna Reparations Working Group comprised of persons with various expertise who are committed to the concept of Reparatory Justice. The formation of this Working Group is part of our effort to ensure that Garifuna/Indigenous people in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Central America (Belize, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua) and the United States are engaged in shaping a reparations agenda. In 2013 the CARICOM REPARATIONS COMMISSION (CRC) presented a Ten Point Plan which includes a proposal for an Indigenous Peoples Development Program. This is still a work in progress which will hopefully benefit from the efforts of our Working Group.

In 2012 at the International Garifuna Conference organized by TGHF in collaboration with the University of the West Indies Open Campus SVG, the Yurumei Declaration was passed which called for Reparations for Garifuna People. This Call was repeated on subsequent occasions during several editions of the International Garifuna Conference. Most recently in 2023, our 10th International Garifuna Conference was held under the theme “From Reaction to Action:  Challenges and Opportunities for Promoting Reparatory Justice for Indigenous Peoples in the Caribbean”. This Call was supported by delegates of the Garifuna Diaspora (Belize, Honduras and Guatemala) who participated in the Conference. Specific reference was made at this Conference to the need for Reparations for the events that occurred on the Island of Balliceaux in 1796-1797 and the need for the designation of the Island as a sacred site.

The Garifuna Heritage Foundation expects the Working Group to develop recommendations based on appropriate research. As part of this process, we intend to inform and educate Garifuna/Indigenous people in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Central America (Belize, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua) and the United States on the issues relevant to Reparations. This will ensure that they participate fully in shaping a Reparations Agenda in partnership with other Indigenous people locally, regionally and internationally.

TGHF in collaboration with UWI Global Campus of St. Vincent and the Grenadines launched the Call for Papers for the 11th International Garifuna Conference which will be held from March 11th-13th 2024 under the theme “Promoting Reparatory Justice: Towards the Development and Implementation of a 2030 Indigenous People’s Development Plan.” It is expected that input from the Working Group will inform the Conference proceedings.

The Garifuna Reparations Working Group will be chaired by Prof. Federico Lenzerini. It has already commenced its work and can be contacted via email at [email protected]. The members of the Working Group are as follows:

Chair of the Reparations Working Group

Prof. Federico Lenzerini. Dr.  Lenzerini is a Professor of Public International Law, European Union Law and International Human Rights Law at the Department of Law of the University of Siena (Italy). His fields of research include human rights law, asylum and refugee law, rights of indigenous peoples, international trade law and law of cultural heritage. He is the author of The Culturalization of Human Rights Law (Oxford University Press, 2014) and the editor of Reparations for Indigenous Peoples, International and Comparative Perspectives (Oxford University Press, 2008).

Prof. Jovan Scott Lewis is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Geography at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of Scammer’s Yard: The Crime of Black Repair in Jamaica (University of Minnesota Press, 2020) and Violent Utopia: Dispossession and Black Restoration in Tulsa (Duke University Press). From 2021 to 2023, he was appointed by California Governor Gavin Newsom to the State’s Reparations Task Force, the first state-level reparations commission in the country. He was responsible for framing the community of eligibility and overseeing the development of compensation recommendations.

Sheena Zuniga was elected as the President of the National Garifuna Council of Belize in 2022, a prestigious role that allows her to drive economic activities and educational sessions focused on indigenous rights in Belize. Her focus on empowering her people and promoting their rights has been a driving force in her leadership. Furthermore, she holds the position of Vice Chair of the Belize Indigenous Council, advocating for the preservation and advancement of indigenous culture and rights in the country.

 Prof. Ana Filipa Vrdoljak , Professor of Law, Faculty of Law and UNESCO Chair of International Law and Cultural Heritage at the University of Technology Sydney, Australia. She is the author of International Law, Museums and the Return of Cultural Objects (Cambridge University Press, 2006, 2nd edn forthcoming) and editor of Oxford Handbook on International Cultural Heritage Law with Francesco Francioni (Oxford University Press, 2020).

Mrs. Joan Hoyte hails from the Indigenous Community of Sandy Bay in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. For the past 32 years, Mrs. Hoyte has worked in Washington DC, as a Labor and Employment Attorney for the U.S. Federal Government.  In the 2022 general election, she was elected as an ANC Commissioner and charged with the responsibility of representing the 2000 residents of the Northwest Washington DC community. called Shepherd Park. She is currently employed as an Advisor to the U.S Congress.

 Dr. Garrey Michael Dennie is a Professor of History at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. He obtained his first degree at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados, and his Ph.D at The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland.  Dr. Dennie has also lectured at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica and Khanya College, Johannesburg, South Africa. He is presently part of a four-man team that is working on a two-volume history of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

 Dr. Adrian Fraser is the Former Head of the University of the West Indies Open Campus, Historian, Author and Social Commentator. His research lately has been on the struggles of the Kalinagos and Garinagu of St. Vincent. His latest book From Villain to National Hero: Chatoyer and the Early Struggle for the Independence of St.Vincent (Yuremin) was launched in August last year. He also has a research interest in the Garifuna and Kalinago people who remained in St. Vincent after 1797.He is presently part of a four-man team that is working on a two- volume history of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

 Mr. Stanton Gomes; Deputy Director of Civil Aviation of St.Vincent and the Grenadines. He is an Organizational Strategist, Community Leader, Multimedia Pioneer and Founder and Director of Radio Grenadines Inc. He is also the Chairman of the Union Island Board of Directors for Tourism. He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Management and a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of the West Indies.

Mr. David “Darkie” Williams in a career spanning forty years and counting, he has travelled the world as a threatre Expert. On the strength of intensive training at the University of the West Indies, the Edna Manley School for the Performing Arts, and the John F Kennedy institute of Arts in Washington, his dedication to the development of culture and the Performing Arts in SVG is unquestionable. Retrieval and Reclamation of the Heritage and Culture of the Garifuna People is the aim of “The Garifuna Heritage Foundation” of which David is President.

 Mrs.  Zoila Ellis Browne is a Belizean /Vincentian Attorney-at-Law. Mrs. Ellis-Browne also earned an MPhil Degree in Development Studies from the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, UK. She was one of the Founding Members of the Garifuna Heritage Foundation and currently acts as the Technical Director.

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