An Open Letter To Prince Edward And The Countess Of Wessex

The content originally appeared on: Antigua News Room

Antiguans and Barbudans are a respectful people and so we join with our Governor General, our Prime Minister and Government in welcoming you to our nation as representatives of our Head of State, Queen of England, Elizabeth ll.

We ask for a return of similar respect.

It has become common for members of the royal family and representatives of the Government of Britain to come to this region and lament that slavery was an ‘appalling atrocity’, that it was ‘abhorrent’, that ‘it should not have happened’. We have heard such from your former Prime Minister David Cameron and most recently from your father, the Prince of Wales and your nephew, Prince William. But such sentiments did not convey new knowledge to us. African people and their descendants – as most of us are – have known such since the middle of the sixteenth century. We have been on the receiving end of the barbarity. We hear the phony sanctimony of those who came before you that these crimes are a ‘stain on your history’. For us, they are the source of genocide and of continuing deep international injury, injustice and racism. We hope you will respect us by not repeating the mantra. We are not simpletons.

We share with you some other things that we know. We present these issues in a non-confrontational manner. Our reparations ideology seeks to foster and facilitate reconciliation between Europe and the nations of our region.

We know that the European slave trade, the enslavement of Africans, the genocide of Indigenous peoples of this region and the deceptive indentureship imposed on Asians were not acts of nature. They did not fall from heaven like manna, they did not occur like hurricanes or earthquakes. They resulted from willful acts of white Europeans aimed solely at Africans. We know that the British Crown – both as royal family and as institution, is historically documented as an active participant in the largest crimes against humanity of all time.

We know that as early as 1558, John Hawkins used one of Queen Elizabeth’s ships on one of his slave-trading voyages and shared the profits with her – and further that she ‘went on to exert Crown control over trade with West Africa, including trade in slaves, by issuing letters patent for such voyages in 1561, 1585, 1588, and 1592’.

We know that during the seventeenth century your family ancestors were owners and investors in the Royal African Company (and associated companies the Royal Gambia Company and the Royal Adventurers Company) set up under Charles ll and his cousin King James II. We know that these companies, all dubbed ‘Royal’, engaged in the kidnap and transportation of hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans across the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean.

We know that the Crown ‘owned’ enslaved Africans as late as 1831, three years before the passage of the Emancipation Act. Those enslaved included our ancestors. We ask that you respect that.

We also know that no one today in your family was alive when the crimes against humanity were committed. So please do not tell us that again either – as others before you have done. We know however that everyone in your family continues to live in the splendour, pomp and wealth attained through the proceeds of the crimes.

We alert you that throughout your visit to the region, you will hear the call of Caribbean people to the British crown and Government for reparations for slavery. We know that a former British prime minister has described these Caribbean nations as ‘the slums of the Empire’. We know that our leaders, respectful as they are, will find ingenious ways to hide the physical shame of slum from your eyes but we assure you that across our region, many still live in deep persistent poverty and social despair. The call for reparations is not an academic exercise. It is a demand to Britain and the other enslaving countries of Europe for partnership in a constructive strategy to meet the social and economic development gaps in the region, those imposed through slavery and colonialism and those that are perpetuated through the incredibly unjust existing neocolonial international order which Europe and the United States champions.

Respectfully, we ask a few questions and we hope that you will provide answers during one of the addresses you are scheduled to make here or in any other nation in your ‘goodwill-don’t-leave-us’ tour. Why is it so hard for you to sincerely apologise for your nation’s role in slavery, like decent human beings do when they offend? We know that ‘acknowledging and accounting for wrongs is deeply enshrined within both British law and society’. Then, why is it that you cannot apologise for your nation’s documented historical wrong? Do you think like members of your family before you seemed to think, that we are a sub-human species and therefore not worthy of an apology?

With utmost respect,

Antigua and Barbuda Reparations Support Commission

P.O. Box 571, St. John’s, Antigua and Barbuda

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