The annual FIU Eric Williams Memorial Lecture Series, recently held at the South Campus of the Florida International University, was this year was in honor of the celebration of 50 years of Independence of both Jamaica and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
The two panelists at the two hour presentation were Ms. Rachel Manley author and poet, and Reginald Dumas, veteran diplomat of the Trinidad and Tobago’s Foreign Service and former UN Special Adviser on Haiti.
To a nearly-packed auditorium, both panelists addressed critical issues pertaining to development in both Caribbean nations since Independence examining the iconic leadership of two Caribbean leaders, former Prime Ministers, Michael Manley of Jamaica and Eric Williams of Trinidad. The theme of the two-hour presentation was “50 years after Independence: A Manley Perspective” and “50 years after Independence: Is Eric Williams Still Relevant.”
A Caribbean literary personality, Manley, the daughter, and granddaughter of two Jamaican leaders, recounted the period leading to Jamaica’s Independence and its ill-fated Federal experiment. Through a thought-provoking delivery she examined the period of Jamaica’s political advancement which included the vision and contribution of her father, former Prime Minister, Hon. Michael Manley, and notwithstanding the periods of setbacks, over the years, which she noted has given way to the celebration of the Nation’s golden jubilee anniversary of Independence.
In his perspective, Mr. Dumas drew on the vision and aspirations of former Trinidad Prime Minister, Eric Williams for his country and for the region, at times drawing on the similarities of both Caribbean leaders.
Jamaica’s Consul General Sandra Grant Griffiths, congratulated organizers of the Forum which this year she said “especially audits the progress along a course we began to chart as independent nations of Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago some 50 years ago.” The forum, she continued, also examined and typified the contributions of Caribbean nationals at home and abroad, this year, emphasizing the iconic leadership that still resonates in the names of Williams and Manley and the relevance of that leadership legacy to the future of the Caribbean region.
A lively question and answer period followed the presentation. The event was chaired by attorney Marlon Hill.
Rachel Manley, an author of several books and poetry, fiction and non-fiction, has earned several awards and fellowships. She is a frequent contributor to literary anthologies and writes book reviews for leading newspapers in North America and Britain. She currently lectures at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Meanwhile, Mr. Dumas has served his country in the Foreign Service in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and North America, and also served as Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States (OAS). He has also represented the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in several fora.
They will join the distinguished group of international scholars who have already presented lectures in the Eric Williams Memorial Lecture Series, since its inception in 1999 by Erica Williams- McConnell (daughter of the late Prime Minister) and the FIU’s Department of African and African Diaspora Studies. The annual Series, free to the public, continues to attract intellectuals from Latin America, the Caribbean and North America, covering a wide range of issues related to the economic, social, cultural and political development of the Caribbean and North American region.
Jamaica celebrated Independence on August 6th, while Trinidad and Tobago celebrated on August 31.