The greater SUNY Empire State College community continues to buzz about the recent Boyer Family Lecture, “Reparatory Justice and Economic Development: Critical Support for the Social Growth Paradigm in the Caribbean,” delivered at this year’s All College Conference by University of the West Indies Professor and Vice Chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles.
At the beginning of his lecture, Sir Hilary praised SUNY Empire for its commitment the new SUNY-wide partnership with the University of the West Indies, which established the SUNY UWI (University of the West Indies) Center for Leadership and Sustainable Development.
The new center formalizes and builds on existing UWI relationships with individual SUNY campuses by leveraging the research, scholarship, teaching and capabilities of UWI and SUNY, as well as the millions of people in the Caribbean, the Caribbean diaspora in New York City and state and, as Sir Hilary said, “puts a roof on the house.”
Sir Hilary, who received his formal education in England, said that the discovery of the Caribbean Islands by Christopher Columbus brought about great change to “The New World.”
By 1660, Barbados, the island where he was born, became the first society in the western hemisphere where Africans comprised the majority of the population.
The subsequent introduction of slavery and slave labor to Barbados created a great deal of wealth for sugar cane plantation owners and the United Kingdom and, Sir Hilary argues, became an economic for model for South Carolina and other southern U.S. states.
“I know a little about this because that was the subject of my doctorate research,” said Sir Hilary. “I chose as my subject the migration of the British working class to the American colonies so, I was the black guy with the female name who was studying white history.”
Fast forward to today, Sir Hilary and many others seek economic reparations from the descendants and governments who benefited economically from the slave-based economic model as poverty resulting from this model.
In his lecture, Sir Hilary posits that the lingering effects of the slave-based economic model continues to keep much of the population of the Caribbean in its grip.
Sir Hilary is an internationally renowned historian, with expertise in Afro-Caribbean history, especially the economic and social impacts of colonialism and the African slave trade. In December 2014, Sir Hilary delivered the feature address to The United Nations General Assembly to launch the International Decade for People of African Descent.
The Sir Hilary's Boyer lecture marks the beginning of the Year of the Caribbean, the first theme in a new SUNY Empire initiative designed to explore a topic intensively through linked courses, cultural events and celebrations, art exhibits, webinars, seminars, service learning projects, student and alumni gatherings, speakers, articles in the college magazine and other experiences.
The leadership of Sir Hilary and SUNY Board of Trustees Chairman H. Carl McCall was an essential component of the establishment of the new center for leadership and sustainable development.
Through the center, based at 325 Hudson Street, in Manhattan, one of SUNY Empire’s three New York City locations, joint teams of UWI and SUNY experts will take a multi-disciplinary approach and draw on external expertise to advance the following goals:
- creation of a master’s program in leadership and sustainable development
- solutions-oriented research
- student advocacy and mobilization of the Caribbean diaspora
- establishment of an expert network
- facilitation of a think tank.
SUNY announced the new center on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2016.