Minister with responsibility for Culture, Senator Dr. Shantal Munro Knight. (FP)

A panel comprising youth and two government ministers discussed a number of ideas about rebuilding the family, and the role reparations can play to effect this.

Minister with responsibility for Culture, Senator Dr. Shantal Munro Knight believes that talks on reparations or reparatory justice must include emphasis on the psychological damage and the different levels of repair that must be done to correct the injustices.

Minister Munro-Knight, Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, Kirk Humphrey, and the youth were part of the virtual panel that explored Rebuilding Families in Post Emancipation Era on CBC Channel 8 yesterday.

The moderator, Firhaana Bulbulia, who is the Project Coordinator for U-Report Barbados, raised the point about how reparations can aid in the rebuilding of families. On this point, Minister Humphrey suggested that all Caribbean governments inherited tremendous challenges on account of slavery and maintained that the horrors the financial, economic and social debt left in its aftermath should not be diluted in any conversations.

Following on from Minister Humphrey’s discourse, Senator Munro-Knight articulated the view that reparations was a multi-faceted call that required acknowledgement of wrong-doing and tangible actions, be it economic or otherwise.

“So, as Minister Humphrey indicated that there was economic damage, that you repair that through economic means as well.  So, whether that is about cancellation of debt, whether that is actually about providing actual tangible resources, but as many of the panelists have indicated here, in the CARICOM 10-point plan, there was a clear recognition that it wasn’t only just about the economic disenfranchisement that occurred as well, but also the kind of social impact.”

She continued: “That whole discussion needs to be had about the psychological damage that was done and I think that is perhaps the most important part, when we talk about how reparations can aid in the rebuilding of families, is to have that dialogue and that discussion and hopefully, then we can come up with tangible ways to do that.”

Panelist and founder of the mental health advocacy group, Let’s Unpack It Co., David Johnson, agreed that a discussion on mental health must be at the centre of talks on reparations, and ultimately rebuilding the family.

“I’m very happy to see that CARICOM, certainly in its 10-Point Action Plan for Reparations, has seen it fit to include the point of psychological rehabilitation. The reality is … 12 to 20 million Africans were removed from a place where they were comfortable and brought through a very treacherous middle passage into the Caribbean to be subjected to physical and psychological brutality and this went on for about 300 years. So, to suggest that there is not going to be some level of impact from that would be naive on the matter,” he stated   

The mental health advocate suggested that dialogue on reparations must also consider the mixed messages being sent to young people in terms of what it means to be black and what does it mean when people say black is beautiful.

Meanwhile, poet and author T’afari Steede spoke to the legacy of violence in the home and families as a result of unresolved issues from the trauma of slavery.  She agreed that this legacy of violence had transcended from pre and post emancipation and had affected the Caribbean family unit, especially young women and girls.

“I think although we have legislation, such as CAP. 130A, a protective order for these women, often women are not able to receive the benefits of this protective order because authorities hesitate to act on it.  Women are afraid to speak up.  And I can’t blame them either, because oftentimes they are dismissed.

“So in rebuilding the family structure, which is supposed to be a unit which fosters love and care, we need to make sure that women and young girls are protected, both financially and emotionally,” she underlined. 

Head boy at the Lodge School, Thierry Gittens, and Students’ Welfare and Education Officer of the Barbados Community College Students’ Guild, Javier Knight, touched on greater inclusion of the youth in discussions on rebuilding the family.

Mr. Gittens sees a role for men empowerment and women’s support groups to assist in pushing the youth agenda in communities to building a stronger Barbados. Likewise, Mr. Knight, said young people played a vital role in rebuilding the family and a robust support system is “paramount when considering the reconstruction of the family”.

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