“Run me my money.” The popular catchphrase denotes a pending request from Jamaica to Britain that will formally seek reparations for the atrocities the island nation experienced during the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
A former British colony, Jamaica’s lawmakers will submit a petition that seeks billions of pounds in compensation for the hundreds-of-thousands of Africans who were forced into slavery to cultivate crops like sugarcane.
The island was seized by the British from the Spaniards in 1655 and many British merchants became wealthy from slave labor. According to the National Library of Jamaica, there were up to 600,000 slaves present on the island in the 18th century.
“We are hoping for reparatory justice in all forms that one would expect if they are to really ensure that we get justice from injustices to repair the damages that our ancestors experienced,” said Olivia Grange, Jamaica’s minister of culture, gender, entertainment and sport in a Reuters interview. Grange also made a public statement expressing her support for reparations to Jamaica in February.
This is not the first time Jamaica has made a request for reparations. Sir Hilary Beckles, chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission, also asked the U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron for reparations in an open letter in 2015.
“We ask not for handouts or any such acts of indecent submission. We merely ask that you acknowledge responsibility for your share of this situation and move to contribute in a joint programme of rehabilitation and renewal,” Beckles wrote. “The continuing suffering of our people, Sir, is as much your nation’s duty to alleviate as it is ours to resolve in steadfast acts of self-responsibility.”
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At the time, Cameron said he didn’t think paying reparations or giving an apology were the right approaches. The current petition resulted from a private motion by Jamaican lawmaker Mike Henry, a member of the Jamaica Labor Party that has long proposed reparations for the Jamaican people.
Henry told Reuters he believes reparations should be paid to Jamaica in the sum of at least 7.6 billion pounds. The number is based on today’s value of the 20 million pound loan the monarchy took out in the 1800s to compensate slave owners after Britain formally abolished slavery in 1834. It was such a large sum, Britain just finished paying the loan back in 2015.
“I am asking for the same amount of money to be paid to the slaves that was paid to the slave owners,” Henry said. “I am doing this because I have fought against this all my life, against chattel slavery which has dehumanized human life.”
Though Jamaica gained its independence in 1962, it is still a part of the Commonwealth and Queen Elizabeth II is still its head of state. There has been a push by some to sever ties completely with the monarchy.
The petition has been approved by Jamaica’s National Council on Reparations and comes after several businesses and schools in the United Kingdom pledged reparations of their own for their role in chattel slavery.
Though Grange did not offer a number like Henry, she was clear that she believes paying reparations to Jamaica is the moral thing to do.
“Our African ancestors were forcibly removed from their home and suffered unparalleled atrocities in Africa to carry out forced labor to the benefit of the British Empire,” she added. “Redress is well overdue.”
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