Obama, Deblasio to attend NAN Convention

Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller speaks during the 68th session of the General Assembly at United Nations headquarters, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013.
AP Photo/Seth Wenig

President Barack Obama will revisit the annual convention of National Action Network which is slated to be held from April 9-12. Making his second appearance to the confab organized by organization founder and MSNBC commentator Al Sharpton, the leader of the free world heads the long list of prominent speakers invited to the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel. New York City’s Mayor Bill DeBlasio and first-lady Chirlayne will address delegations attending the annual meeting on separate occasions. Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., along with celebrated names including TV personality Wendy Williams, Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s mother, filmmaker Shola Lynch, Editor-in-chief emeritus of Essence Magazine Susan Taylor, MSNBC’s Hardball host Chris Matthews and a long list of panelists are expected at the four-day event.

All plenary sessions are free and open to the public. To register to attend, log onto www.nationalactionnetwork.net


Jamaica’s reggae legend Jimmy Cliff amplified the call for restitution to Caribbean countries exploited by the slave trade.

Cliff insists Caribbean communities have the right to be reimbursed.

The often non-political international musician echoed the plea first made by the government of Jamaica and recently restated when leaders of 15 Caribbean nations issued a demand for official apologies and compensation from European countries for their part in the barbaric practice.

“You know, you have all these brethren, they were saying, ‘Look, the Queen is supposed to pay us back.’ There were lots of them who were very serious about it too and they have a logical point to prove,” Cliff told the London Evening Standard.

“But look, the Jews have always highlighted what has happened, their plight, what has happened to them, and also say, ‘Ok, you did that, you’re supposed to pay us something back.’ So why not other people, like my ancestors? I think it’s a fair deal.”

The targeted countries are Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Denmark – all participants in the slave trade that took place from the 16th through the 19th centuries.

The idea of the countries that benefited from slavery paying some form of reparations has been a decades-long quest but only recently has it gained serious momentum in the Caribbean.

With the establishment of a CARICOM Reparations Commission Along with supportive CARICOM nations, Jamaica continued to pursue the issue and endorsed the hiring of a British human-rights law firm to speed a10-point plan seeking a formal apology and debt cancellation from former colonizers. Reportedly, the firm not so long ago secured a 20-million pound compensation award for Kenyans who were tortured by colonial authorities during the Mau Mau rebellion in the 1950s. The financial settlement, though relatively small, confirms that remedies are possible.

The Leigh Day Law firm is advocating for CARICOM countries in demanding reparation payments to repair the persisting “psychological trauma” from the days of plantation slavery. In support of the fact the CARICOM nations deserve “assistance to boost the region’s technological know-how because the Caribbean was denied participation in Europe’s industrialization and confined to producing and exporting raw materials such as sugar,” a plan was implemented. During a recent meeting in St. Vincent & the Grenadines the political grouping of 15 CARICOM agreed to a greater push on the issue.

In addition to financial restitution, the plan demands European aid in strengthening the region’s public health, educational and cultural institutions such as museums and research centers.

They are also pushing for the creation of a “repatriation program,” to include legal and diplomatic assistance from European governments to potentially resettle members of the Rastafarian spiritual movement in Africa. Repatriation to Africa has long been a central belief of Rastafarians

Martyn Day of the law firm called the plan a “fair set of demands on the governments whose countries grew rich at the expense of those regions whose human wealth was stolen from them.”

In 2007, then British Prime Minister Tony Blair expressed regret for the “unbearable suffering” caused by his country’s role in slavery but made no formal apology. In 2010, then French President Nicolas Sarkozy acknowledged the “wounds of colonization” and pointed out that France had cancelled a $56 million debt in European currency owed by Haiti and approved an aid package to the former French colony.

Last year Jamaica’s Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller took the issue to the United Nations.

“Jamaica supports the call for an international discussion in a non-confrontational manner on the question of reparations,” Simpson Miller said at the 68th session of the General Assembly.

The CRC said recently that far more needed to be done for the descendants of slaves on struggling islands. The CRC said it acknowledges the “persistent racial victimization of the descendants of slavery and genocide as the root cause of their suffering today.”

Historian and retired head of the University of the West Indies, Dr. Adrian Fraser said the region must pursue reparations from Europe but he does not think much will come of the effort.

“I think it is something which we really should do; it is something that we are, more or less, forced to do.”

“I am not sure that there is going to be any success down the road, because it is a question of power. We don’t have the power, and they (Europe) will simply neglect us and they probably feel that once they do that (pay reparations), it is going to open a can of worms,” Fraser added.

At the same meeting, CARICOM heads of government reported “good progress” on reparations and immediately established a commission that will report back to them during their summit in July.

“I feel it is something which we need to do, because of the way our history is bastardized and the way our people suffered over that period of time,” Fraser added.

“So, we are compelled to do it. As part of trying to reclaim our history and recognizing what has happened in the past and also bringing before the international public the fact that Britain, and the Europeans generally benefitted tremendously from us.

“We provided the springboard for their entry into industrialization. That was not the only thing, but we played a very important role in it. So, we need to make that statement and we need to let the world understand what happened with us,” Fraser said.

“Not to do this is to admit that we are not serious,” he said.

He added that a large part of the reparations effort should focus on the indigenous people.

“We should have some understanding, particularly where indigenous people are concerned, what we want out of reparation, what we would do with whatever is offered us through reparation. … Unless we do that, it will show that we are not serious about it.”


Fans of rock and roll guitarist Jimi Hendrix claim that his legacy is forever in their minds. Now it seems their indelible memory is also forever with the U.S. Postal Service.

In honor of the rock legend who died in London in 1970, a Forever stamp went on sale March 13.

The USPS commissioned the Forever Stamp to feature an illustration of the musician playing a guitar.

“Combining influences from rock, modern jazz, soul and the blues with his own innovations, Jimi Hendrix helped found three new genres of music — heavy metal, jazz fusion and funk — and in doing so, left behind an indelible mark on pop music and popular culture generally,” Joseph Corbett, chief financial officer and executive vice president of U.S. Postal Service said.

The stamp was dedicated at the South by South West (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas before a Jimi Hendrix celebration concert.

Hendrix’s sister Janie Hendrix participated in the ceremony.

“I am deeply touched and so are other members of the Hendrix family by the issuance of this stamp, and I wish to thank the United States Postal Service for bestowing one of our nation’s highest honors on my brother Jimi,” she said.

“While my brother has been cited many times as being among the most influential musicians of all time, the recognition implicit in his being portrayed on a U.S. postage stamp ranks as an unparalleled honor.”

Customers can order the Jimi Hendrix stamps online at the USPS website.

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