A recent letter (June 26, 2010) made me aware of the Virgin Islands Reparations Movement. The movement, led by Shelley Moorhead, Caribbean Institute for a New Humanity and the founder of the African-Caribbean Reparations and Resettlement Alliance, focuses on “activism with respect to the era of the Danish West Indies, the associated human tragedy, and the related and still lingering social ills.” Moorhead writes that a team will be traveling to Copenhagen this summer to make “the most important statement ever to be made in Denmark by Virgin Islanders on the matter of slavery and colonization in the Danish West Indies.” The letter stresses the lack of funds available for the group to travel to Denmark, although U.S. Virgin Islands Governor John deJongh had promised help. Here are excerpts with a link to the full letter/article below:
Today, I would like to be very clear and to set the record straight. There has been no real, tangible support by our government for Virgin Islands reparations initiatives. If it were not for the goodwill and vision of one or two elected officials in the territory, our Virgin Islands Reparations Movement would not be alive today. [. . .]The frustrations that have been experienced by those who labor in the Virgin Islands Reparations Movement are many. We said that our mission was to achieve reparations for Virgin Islanders for more than 175 years of unjust enslavement and dehumanization by Denmark on these shores. [. . .] The May 4, 2005 resolution “condemns the institution of slavery and seeks reparations from Denmark.”
History records that from 1666 to 1917, the Kingdom of Denmark owned and occupied the islands of St Thomas, St John, and St Croix — the now US Virgin Islands. For 175 years Denmark enslaved over 200,000 African men, women, and children, transporting them to the Danish West Indies through the horror of the middle passage and forcing them to endure the remainder of their lives as chattel… with no accompanying wages. However, half those displaced by Denmark and destined for the islands’ shores were not as fortunate. More than 100,000 Africans perished during the dreadful journey across the Atlantic Ocean.
Reparations by definition is acknowledgement between communities which share a common past with the aim to heal the wounds from past human rights violations. The aim of reparations is to heal consequences of inhumanity and to create bonds of equality between communities divided by the historic roles carried out as offender and offended. Reparations are the joint obligation to truth-telling, to ensure that the relevant historical facts are uncovered, discussed and properly memorialized. Reparations, through initiatives in education, restoration, and reconciliation, will succeed in making some form of amends in the present to give material substance to expressions of regret and responsibility.
ACRRA has been invited by the Danish Institute for Human Rights to revisit our historic April 2005 Memorandum of Understanding and we are confident that this agreement between organizations will be the precursor to a new relationship between Denmark and the people Virgin Islands whereby reparations will become a reality for our people in the near future.
For more information on the Virgin Islands Reparations Alliance, see http://www.acrra.org/
Painting of Danish ships in the West Indies by Hans Peter Holm (1847-1929) from http://www.milhist.dk/soldaten/holm/holm.htm