More than Money: Reparations & Restorative Justice – Online Event
October 10 @ 1:00 pm - 2:15 pm
The global protests that followed the public murder of George Floyd in 2020 forced conversations about systemic racism and its impact on marginalised communities. Individuals and institutions lined up to pledge to confront their biases and work toward dismantling structures that perpetuate racial injustice. Reprehension at Mr Floyd’s murder re-ignited debates around the legacy of colonialism and the inter-generational trauma that many recognise as a legacy of the centuries-long trade in enslaved Africans.
Some have been more willing than others to face unpalatable truths about the extent to which they have benefited from racial exploitation and oppression. Under scrutiny, some academic institutions, museums and individuals finally agreed to return some precious artefacts and items of cultural importance that had come into their possession as a result of violent plunder by colonisers. Others have taken steps to account for how they were able to amass their fortunes (as with The Guardian newspaper’s ‘Cotton Capital’ series, for example.
Why Reparations? Why Now?
In 1833 after the trade in enslaved Africans was abolished, Britain’s government paid compensation to the tune of £20 million to those who ‘lost property’ (in the form of enslaved Africans). Estimates on the value today of the 1833 compensation range from £17 billion to £100 billion. The Black population of Haiti were trafficked there as slaves. When they finally gained independence, France demanded – and received – reparations. The first annual payment alone was six times Haiti’s annual revenue. The payment was later reduced to 90 million francs in 1838, equivalent to $32,535,940,803 in 2022, with Haiti paying about 112 million francs in total. No objections were raised when this compensation was paid. Exactly £0 was paid in compensation to those who were enslaved, their families, communities or descendants.
But are reparations simply a question of money? Can they help restore justice? How? We invite you to join us on 10 October to help us come to a common understanding of why we want to talk about reparations.
This raises several questions. Why was no compensation offered to those who suffered as result of the inhumane ‘slave’ trade? How has this impacted on current notions of ‘development’/’under-development? Should those who laboured under the yoke of bonded labour be included in discussions on reparations? What do we mean when we talk about reparations? What form should they take?
We recognise that in a webinar such as this it is clearly not possible to deal with the many and varied questions around the issue of reparations. Nevertheless, we feel that it is important to provide opportunities for such discussions to take place. We invite you to join us online for this lunchtime webinar on 10 October. We invite you to join us to hear from colleagues who have been working on this issue, and we will make time for questions from the audience. We hope this will include you.
About our speakers:
Priya Lukka is an economist who has worked over 25 years in the non-profit and International Development sector. She has worked with policymakers, philanthropists and activists to improve outcomes for groups of people most marginalised by the economic system. Her work has involved contributing to an understanding of the impact that policies on debt, trade and tax. She writes on a range of issues including global economic governance and climate colonialism. Priya was Chief Economist at Christian Aid, worked as a Financial Services Regulator, and she is a board advisor for a number of organisations working for social justice. Her work involves her moving between activist, NGO, and multilateral institutional spaces considering new ways of remedying injustices that are a legacy of colonial periods using approaches of reparations. She is currently a postdoctoral researcher looking at colonialism and repair at the University of Leeds.
Joseph Harker is Senior Editor, Diversity and Development at The Guardian. He is also co-lead of the Guardian’s Legacies of Enslavement project – which examined the links between the Guardian’s founder and transatlantic slavery, issued an apology, and drew up a £10m+ restorative justice action plan.
Joseph is a former Deputy Opinion Editor. And for 20 years he has run the Guardian’s Positive Action Scheme, which offers enhanced work experience to aspiring journalists who are ethnic-minority or have a disability: many have gone on to have successful media careers. Before joining the Guardian, Joseph was Editor and Publisher of the weekly newspaper Black Briton, and prior to that he was Assistant Editor at The Voice.
He tweets at @josephharker
Onyekachi Wambu is a Nigerian-British journalist and writer. His publications include Empire Windrush – 40 Years of Writing about Black Britain (ed) and Under the Tree of Talking – Leadership for Change in Africa (ed). He has directed television documentaries for the BBC, Channel 4 and PBS. He is currently Director, Special Projects, for the African Foundation for Development’s (AFFORD), an international organisation that aims to expand and enhance the contributions the African diaspora make to African development.
In 1988, 40 years after they first arrived in the UK, Onyekachi Wambu edited one of the first books on the Windrush Generation. In June 2023 his new anthology Empire Windrush: Reflections on 75 Years & More of the Black British Experience is a further literary consideration of Windrush, alongside the troubled preceding 500 years relationship of slavery, empire and colonisation. Find more about this important text here
About our Moderator:
Fareda Banda is a Professor of Law at SOAS. She holds two Law degrees from the University of Zimbabwe and earned her doctorate at Oxford University. She is the author of ‘African Migration, Human Rights and Literature,’ available here.
 (The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database confirms that at least 12.5 million Africans for whom records were kept were crammed, chained, and naked, in holds to be shipped -as cargo- to the New World. 10.7 million survived long enough to disembark in North America, the Caribbean and South America.)
 We also be mindful that discussions on reparations tend to centre on people of African descent and that imperialism was a global project. Indigenous people on land that was colonised in the Americas, in Asia, Polynesia also suffered the ravages of settler colonialism.
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