Caribbean and Diaspora News Round-up

Hilary Beckles
  • Belize’s debt breakthrough
  • Caribbean diaspora urged to give something back
  • Reparations case outlined
  • TT and Barbados at London Fashion Week
  • Bolt, Trini news team do the Harlem Shake
CI logo Belize debt breakthrough
Major investors holding Belize’s debt bonds have agreed to swap their old bonds for new ones, providing a major step towards the country’s debt restructuring.
The deal follows a year of negotiations over how much those holding Belize’s major debt bonds would be willing to lose in a restructuring.
The US-based committee of investors who hold 66% of Belize’s superbond debt said in a statement this week that they agreed to the swap, which will shave 10% off the value of their original bonds.
The deal will also extend the country’s bond maturity date from 2019 to 2038.
It could have been worse for bondholders. Belize had been pushing for a deal which would have involved a 45% “haircut” for investors.
Despite the breakthrough, it’s not yet all clear for Belize.
It needs 75% of its debt holders to sign up to the new offer to trigger a restructuring.
Belize now needs to negotiate similar deals with remaining debt holders to reach a debt restructuring threshold.
CI logo Caribbean Diaspora urged - give something back
A new campaign in the US state of  Maryland is seeking to support people in the Caribbean Diaspora who want to return home and help out their home communities.
The Give Back Campaign, promoted by the Caribbean Returning Nationals Foundation, Inc. (CRNF), is based in the community of  Lanham and is the brainchild of Arlene Graham.
The Foundation, she says, is a non-profit business, community outreach and social networking organisation aimed at integrating Caribbean expats who “share an interest in giving back to the region”.
“This means that there is now an avenue for persons who want to give back virtually or physically to their country of birth or the county of their parent’s birth,” Ms Graham said.
“This is especially important since the Caribbean is seeking to not only reverse the brain drain of the 80s, but also keep economies safe from the global downturn.”
The Foundation’s programmes will include local investment opportunities, community outreach programs and other acts of philanthropy.
The CRNF also will act as a think tank, business network, talent and mentoring resource as well as initiating dialogue “to unite and mobilise its membership through social and professional networking events in the United States, Canada, Europe, Africa and the Caribbean”.
The Foundation also aims to provide support for its members in the transition period from living abroad for an extended period of time to returning home.
The CNRF’s motto is “Giving back, because we care”.
CI logo London: Sir Hilary Beckles on reparations
University of the West Indies pro-vice-chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles, one of the most outspoken advocates of reparations for slavery, made his most forceful  case yet to an audience in London on 20 February.
Giving the inaugural address at the International Huntley Symposium, held at London Metropolitan Archives, he shared research from his soon-to-be-published new book, Britain’s Black Debt, Reparations for Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide (University of the West Indies Press).
Sir Hilary scorned the notion that the reparations debate was divisive or that the trans-Atlantic slave trade was now a distant issue, more than 300 years after abolition.
He argued that, for Caribbean people, it was not at all “remote” .
He said that, to this day, he retained vivid memories of taking lunch to his grandfather on the former slave sugar plantations of Barbados.
“Slavery is still within our living memory. No matter how long they drag out the discussions and decisions about reparations, this horrific piece of Caribbean history will never be forgotten,” he told his audience.
In his address, Sir Hilary outlined Britain’s historical and financial ties to the slave trade, describing how slavery had been embedded in Britain’s socio-economic and legal policies.
He argued that the real extent and impact of Caribbean labour on Britain’s growth and development was not fully explored in modern Caribbean consciousness.
He emphasised that, after slavery was abolished in the English-speaking Caribbean, it continued for another 50 years in the Spanish Caribbean.
And he pointed out that when Caribbean people came to Britain, it was mainly because the islands were left decimated by slavery and people needed to feed their families as well as to provide post-war labour in England.
Sir Hilary reminded his London audience about the funding behind the enslavement of Africans – in other words, the chief investors in and beneficiaries of slavery.
This, he said, involved the British monarchy and establishment through the Royal African Company of 1672, the Church of England (which branded slaves with the letters COE), British governments of the time, most of Britain’s aristocratic wealthy families and all the country’s major public and private sector institutions.
He added that most of these British institutions would, by today’s principles and global standards, face charges from the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.
He called for meaningful dialogue with Caricom and its leaders to redress the generational effects of enslavement, through health, financial, educational, cultural, agricultural and other projects.
Sir Hilary ended: “An apology is a legal concept within international law. It is admitting to a crime. Reparation is the road to peace and atonement.”
CI logo TT and Barbados make their mark at London’s Fashion Week
Both Barbados and Trinidad had a chance to strut their stuff during London Fashion Week.
For Barbados, superstar singer Rihanna’s appearance to launch a brand of clothing she has designed for a British retailer stole the headlines before Fashion Week even started.
At the same time, Trinidad and Tobago held a three-day fashion showcase called Waves: Rethink at its High Commission in Belgravia.
The Chairman of the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT), Curtis Manchoon, told guests that the University’s Caribbean Academy of Fashion Design (CAFD) had been aiming at the development of Trinidad and Tobago as an international fashion brand.
“We have embarked on a significant attempt towards developing a Savile Row in Trinidad and Tobago with the mentoring of our young graduates,” he said referring to London’s traditional tailoring and fashion street in Piccadilly.
“We expect to become an international brand as we seek to partner them with some of the world’s top professionals in this field,” he told guests.
Designs showcased on the show’s catwalk included ball gowns from Darcel de Vlugt, tailored clothes from Mark Eastman and designs showing off the print work of Lisa See Tai.
The Trinidad High Commission said “these new designers successfully challenged long held clichés of Caribbean fashion”.
CI logo Doing the Harlem Shake
First it was the Windies side going Gangnam style after winning the ICC T20 crown.
Now the Harlem Shake is the latest dance to be taken to heart – or maybe the waists – of Caribbean people.
The Harlem Shake has been trending on YouTube and other social media.
If you haven’t seen it, it’s a cross between a flapper’s shimmy and a wine, in which one dancer starts alone and is then joined in a sharp video edit by others who paid no attention at the start of the video.
The concept went viral in mid-February, attracting copycat videos from Australia to Cambridge to the US.
And Caribbean people have not been left out.
The world’s fastest man, Jamaica’s Usain Bolt, makes it look easy as he does most things he tries his hand at.
But, look, now we have a Trinidadian news crew doing it live at the end of their bulletin during a week which featured a story about the Harlem Shake. (Comments to Trinidad’s TV6 and NOT to Caribbean Intelligence©. Thank you.)
Calypso veteran David Rudder had a suggestion on Twitter – he suggested that “for the good of the nation, Jack [Warner, Trinidad’s national security minister] should start the Harlem Shake”.
However, not everyone is so amused by the latest dance craze.
More than three dozen students at a Louisiana Baptist School have been suspended for doing their version of the Shake and posting the video on YouTube.
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