Photo Caption: Ms Sandrea Maynard, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Global Affairs at The UWI chairs the Africa-Caricom Day proceedings while Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor, The UWI and the Most Honourable P.J. Patterson, Statesman-in-Residence, The UWI look on from the head table.
Caricom has been designated as the sixth region of the African continent. The region commemorated the second annual Africa-CARICOM Day on September 7, signaling an ongoing commitment to strengthened relationships between the two populations.
The Regional Headquarters of The University of the West Indies (The UWI) was transformed into an Africa-CARICOM community conversation and cultural exposition as The Office of the Vice-Chancellor joined forces with the P.J. Patterson Institute for Africa-Caribbean Public Advocacy, Office of Global Affairs, the Centre for Reparation Research and CARICOM and brought together thought leaders for a public forum to mark the Africa-CARICOM Day observance.
Members of the public and invited guests, including members of the Diplomatic Corps, regionally and internationally, were invited to be part of the live forum in person at The UWI Regional Headquarters in Jamaica or online via UWItv. Persons were also encouraged to wear cultural dress as part of the celebration and some were displayed in an exhibition in the lobby of the Regional Headquarters.
The community conversation offered strong and diverse contributions, which included remarks from Dr. Carla Barnett, Secretary-General, CARICOM, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor, The UWI and Chair, CARICOM Reparations Commission, the Most Honourable P.J. Patterson, Former Prime Minister of Jamaica and Statesman-in-Residence, The UWI, Professor Clinton Hutton, Professor of Caribbean Political Philosophy, Culture & Aesthetics from The UWI Mona Campus, Professor Tawana Kupe from University of Pretoria and Ms Omolora Wilson, President of The UWI Mona Campus Guild of Students. Ms Sandrea Maynard, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Global Affairs at The UWI chaired by the proceedings and Ms Rasheen Roper Robinson, Administrative Officer in the Office of Student Services and Development at The UWI Mona Campus moderated the questions and answers segment.
Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles described it as “a tremendous honour” for the regional University to join with CARICOM in celebration. “The University of the West Indies has long been an activist in building collaboration and solidarity with the people of Africa,” he noted. He added that not only has The UWI defined itself as activist, but it has been playing its part “in the sense that we believe that we must put our teaching our learning, and our advocacy around the principles that we hold to be dear.” He identified significant contributions made by The UWI, including partnerships with African academies and backing the University’s research, teaching, and learning with an established Institute for Africa-Caribbean Public Advocacy led by Statesman-in-Residence, the Most Honourable P.J. Patterson.
In his remarks, the Most Honourable P.J. Patterson contextualised the relationship between Africa and the Caribbean Community asserting, “The ethnic origins and commonality of our colonial experience are beyond dispute,” and he stated, “It is in recognition of this irrefutable reality that the African Union declared the existence of six regions” and said that the P.J. Patterson Institute for Africa-Caribbean Public Advocacy regards September 7 as one of tremendous significance, “On this special occasion to unite in recognising our shared history and aspirations.”
In her remarks, Dr Barnett, expressed that it was “particularly encouraging to have youth involved as we explore avenues for greater engagement.” She explained that “they bring fresh ideas and perspectives that are important for charting the way forward.” Mr. Patterson echoed this sentiment during the questions and answers segment of the forum, saying, “The student movement has to be an integral part of all that we seek to do.”
Following the forum, celebrations and rich conversations continued as in-person attendees partook in culinary delights and a unity of cuisine across continents and oceans, featuring flavours of Africa and the Many relished, for the first time, an opportunity to enjoy authentic African egusi soup with fufu; traditional African stew, featuring an assortment of meats; varieties of jollof rice in addition to the familiar and famous Caribbean jerk chicken, while the African puff piqued particular interest among the students present who likened it to familiar Caribbean foods.
The UWI celebration afforded a new learning opportunity and bridge-building experience across continents and oceans.
Pro Vice-Chancellor of Global Affairs, The University of the West Indies, Ms. Sandrea Maynard, applauded the efforts of the planning committee and the participation of attendees and reiterated the commitment of her office to provide opportunities for students to become globally aware and well-grounded in our regional identity, which is a key attribute of the ideal UWI graduate. She said this aligns with the vision of The University of the West Indies, to be “an excellent global university rooted in the Caribbean.”