Stolen Lives, Stolen Wealth, Stolen LegaciesBY CHARLENE MUHAMMAD -STAFF WRITER-
Reparations for slavery are due from UK corporations, say advocates
(FinalCall.com) - British corporations that today produce everything from soap to soup and provide everything from insurance policies to banking services profited handsomely on the backs of enslaved Africans, but now they must pay long overdue reparations for centuries of atrocities that have contributed to extreme White wealth and Black poverty, reparations advocates say.
“If it wasn't for the free slave labor of Black people, the Western Hemisphere as we know it would not exist ... Blacks are disadvantaged, not because we're inferior, but because we have given centuries of labor to corporations, families, and companies for free,” said Student Minister Hilary Muhammad of the Nation of Islam's Muhammad Mosque No. 1 in London.
Blacks are the greatest unrecognized shareholders in companies that have never paid them in paper money but their pay is actually in stock.
“The companies that are blue chip companies today would not be that but they're that on the basis of not paying their so-called staff.If everybody was to work for 300 years for nothing for any company, how wealthy would that company be?” he asked.“The reason why it's important to raise the corporate aspect of what we've suffered is because these companies actually belong to us because it's our labor that built them,” Min. Muhammad said.
The first priority in how reparations plays out is for African nations to become strong, Omowale Ru Pert-em-Hru told The Final Call. The activist is a member of Reparations Now and chair of the Haiti First! Haiti Now! Campaign.“When African nations are strong, African people everywhere in the world will be strengthened, so we're not looking for handouts to individuals.This is not about individuals, but what we're looking for is development of African nations and African communities in the Diaspora,” he argued.
Look at the Marshal Plan instituted by the United States after Britain's war with Germany, he continued. At the end of the war and with Britain devastated, the U.S. financed Britain's rebuilding with a new education system, a national health service, and it moved to full employment as lots of industry proliferated in that period of great reform, said Mr. Ru Pert-em-Hru.
“They can do it for each other. White people can do it for other White people, help each other, build each other's infrastructure up, but after all the wickedness done to us, they can't do the basically humane thing possible which is just to help the infrastructure to be sufficiently developed for us to be able to just take over things for ourselves,” he said. So companies like Lloyd's of London, Barclay's Bank, De Beers, Baring's Bank, and Unilever, are partly responsible for that development, reparations advocates maintain.
Lloyd's of London, despite denying any legal responsibility for slavery, has been accused of writing life insurance policies on slaves, with slave owners as the beneficiaries.
Barclays Bank has admitted that companies it has taken over may have been involved in the slave trade, but despite its denial of ties to slavery, reports indicated that Quaker slave traders Alexander and David Barclay operated in the West Indies, and founded Barclay's Bank on slave trade profits. And, advocates, add, Sir Francis Baring, whose family eventually founded Barings Bank, had major financial interests in slavery.
Although Barings Bank went out of business about 10 years ago, Blacks are entitled to its resources through reparations, whenever they went out of business, Mr. Ru Pert-em-Hru asserts.Companies like De Beers, which he charged has stolen diamonds, gold, and other precious elements from Africa for hundreds of years, and the United Africa Company (which joined with Lever Brothers and became Unilever) controlled much of the continent for years changed individual hands. But that has no bearing on the fact that the firms must make good for the wickedness perpetrated against African people, Mr. Ru Pert-em-Hru said.
He also counts the British Army, Navy, House of Parliament, and Queen Elizabeth, II herself, among those who owe Blacks a debt. A primary element of reparations is that capitalist institutions, whether multi-nationals or trans-nationals, are linked in with the British state because they support each other, said the activist.
Since it took military assistance to dominate the Motherland, the British Army must be held accountable for its contribution to the destruction of Africa and African people, Mr. Ru Pert-em-Hru said.
“We say we are owed reparations by the British state as well as the companies that profited ... the British Army existed then, contributed then to the destruction of Africa and African people, and they still exist now, so they must pay.The British Navy provided the ships that brought our ancestors across the Atlantic ... They must pay ... the British Monarchy existed then and they exist now ... they must pay,” he added.
Although he does not think reparations is a major focus of the masses right now, Min. Hilary believes it can become popularized when Black people recognize they have a right to expect redress.
A cogent, non-denominational argument within the community, which informs people about how these companies were founded and gained their wealth, would accomplish the goal, he said.
“We've got to put our best foot forward and pursue this with vigor on many different levels. ... Education is the order of the day.We must educate the people because once the employees know the foundation of these companies, then they can consider their position from there. And we may find many who actually work for these companies sympathize and empathize with our cause but they may reject our cause out of ignorance,” he said.
Queen Mother Dorothy Lewis, founder of the Global Afrikan Congress and co-chair of National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America, or N'COBRA, International Affairs Commission, said corporate accounting is important to the reparations movement because nothing has changed and wherever White supremacy exists, a case has to be made for reparations.
“Today, we're right in the middle of slavery ... our lives are still shortened.Our opportunities are still shortened.They criminalize our behavior and give us special sentencing for that behavior, so whether we're here in U.K. or anywhere else ... we have to have an accounting because it's not just about slavery, but we're just in the 21st Century part of it,” she said.
According to Mr. Ru Pert-em-Hru, the institutional issue involves three main phases of African history, the enslavement era, colonization, when Blacks were under the impression that they were free, and neo-colonialism, when other Blacks were used to front racist acts against other Blacks.
“That expresses itself in many ways in the modern era, for instance, drugpushers look like us but they do not control the drug industry.I know that Barack Obama is there now but European imperialists still control the country,” he said.
To help progress the reparations agenda, Mr. Ru Pert-em-Hru added, a coalition of reparations activists in the U.K. have decided tactically to focus on Haiti first because winning the battle there would downplay any arguments for the legitimate claims for reparations from the African Holocaust, known also as the Maafa.
The first undeniable reason was the 1885 ransom that Haiti was forced to pay to France for winning its freedom.Under a naval blockade, Haiti had to pay reparations for losses France suffered when Blacks gained their freedom.The country paid some $90 million francs of the required over 100 million pounds and that crippled Haiti to this present day, he said.
The other was the invasion and occupation of Haiti from 1915-1934, when the U.S. and European capitalists extracted the wealth of Haiti, including even taking its timber that held the soil in place. During floods the loose top-soil turns to mud and kills people in mudslides, activists said.
“If I steal from you, it would only be right for you to get back what I took from you and that's the essence of reparations. Much has been stolen from us.Our lives have been stolen from us.Our women's bodies have been stolen from us.Our land has been stolen from us. Everything that we owned legitimately has been stolen from us and so it is only right that we must get it back,” Mr. Ru Pert-em-Hru said.