Sir Hilary Beckles is a leader in the global movement for reparations. 

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Caribbean reparations leader Beckles to speak Sept. 16

Sir Hilary Beckles, vice chancellor of the University of the West Indies and chair of the Caribbean Reparations Committee (CARICOM), will visit the Ithaca campus on Friday, September 16, to discuss how universities can strengthen the global movement for reparations for centuries of slavery and colonialism.

His talk, “The Coming Enlightenment: The University Sector and Reparatory Justice for Slavery and Colonialism,” begins at 4:30 p.m. in the Rhodes-Rawlings Auditorium in Klarman Hall. In-person attendees can engage with Beckles during a Q&A session following the lecture. eCornell will livestream the event for national and international audiences.

Hosted by the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies’ Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program (LACS), the event is part of Einaudi’s work on inequalities, identities and justice. The lecture is supported by Cornell’s Andrew D. White Professors-At-Large Program and other sponsors.

Beckles says that universities must join the movement to “press for something more than apologies: the repayment for the stolen labor and resources that drove Europe’s rise at the colonized world’s expense,” according to a recent New York Times article.

An economic historian, Beckles estimates the European debt to the Caribbean region for free labor alone at roughly eight trillion U.S. dollars. Under Beckles’ leadership, CARICOM has called for payment of $50 billion to create a fund to benefit the descendants of colonized people by supporting Caribbean economic and social development.

“As the leading voice on reparations for Britain's former Caribbean colonies, Hilary Beckles is uniquely situated to help us think through the role of the university in the creation of strategies and policies for a just future,” said Judith Byfield, a LACS steering committee member and professor of history in the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S).

“His visit to Cornell is especially timely,” she said, “because reparations are on the agenda of many communities and institutions across the United States as we confront the inequalities predicated on dispossession and slavery.”

As CARICOM chair, Beckles is a global leader who has moved reparations for slavery and colonialism “from farfetched idea to active topic of discussion,” said LACS director Ernesto Bassi Arevalo, associate professor of history (A&S). “Beckles’s perspective will offer the Cornell community privileged access to the current state of one of the most important global discussions of our time.”

Sheri Englund is senior associate director of communication for Global Cornell.

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