Black churches and University of West Indies unite for event on history and identity of Caribbean diaspora

A report from The Voice Online.

The free virtual symposium will take place on 12 November

THREE OF the leading Black churches in the UK, the Church of God of Prophecy (UK), the New Testament Church of God and the New Testament Assembly have joined forces with the University of the West Indies (UWI) to stage a symposium on the history, heritage and identity of people of Caribbean descent living in the UK.

The virtual symposium, which will be held on 12 November, comes at a time of simmering disquiet, protest and debate following the death of George Floyd and resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement in the US, and concerns from members of the local Black community regarding the relative silence of Black-led churches in the UK.

“This is an insightful conversation that the UWI is pleased to lead”

Dr Luz Longsworth, the UWI’s pro vice-chancellor on global affairs

Presiding bishop of the Church of God of Prophecy (UK Trust), Bishop Tedroy Powell has described this symposium as the first in the group of churches’ Education for Transformation series to connect the Caribbean diaspora in the UK to its historical roots and to construct the intellectual infrastructure for a high-quality conversation with key influencers in the power structure of British society, including the Church of England.

“We are mindful of the public announcements from the Archbishop of Canterbury on the state of race relations in the UK, and we think the voice of the Afro-Caribbean churches and Caribbean scholars through the University of the West Indies can greatly contribute to the Church of England’s Racism Action Commission set to commence deliberations in January 2021,” said Powell.

Back in July, the UK-based churches reached out to the UWI, ranked by Times Higher Education as among the Top 20 best universities in Latin America and the Caribbean, to partner in the staging of the symposium. The UWI, which has provided the main programme content, will facilitate the online event via its UWITVglobal broadcast platforms. 

Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, the vice-chancellor of the UWI, chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission and renowned historian, will deliver the keynote presentation that draws upon the university’s significant body of research and scholars. He will be joined by Professor Donna Hope, a noted UWI academic on Caribbean culture and identity and Dr Luz Longsworth, the UWI’s pro vice-chancellor on global affairs.

“At a time when the debate on race and social injustice is uppermost in the minds of people in the UK, this is an insightful conversation that the UWI is pleased to lead, and to build bridges through knowledge and understanding to embrace the correct history of slavery, colonialism, struggle and survival in the West Indies,” Longsworth said. “It is a compelling story that can inspire the world.”

Earlier this month, the UWI also partnered with the University of Glasgow to launch a free online course to investigate the history of British colonial slavery in the Caribbean, and its links to racial inequalities and present-day global protest. 

For Powell and his fellow leaders from the Black churches, the collaboration with the UWI is also a matter of firm Christian conviction that could mark a profound turning point for race relations and justice in the UK.

“History has taught us that protest and reformation require not only the force of human action, but also the sustaining grace of sound conviction buttressed by knowledge and enlightenment,” said Powell.

Event details

When: Thursday November 12, 2020 
Time: 3pm GMT, 10am EST, 11am AST
Where: Streamed online on UWI TV GLOBAL 
Book: Register for the event here

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