Over 1,000 scholars, policy makers and activists assembled virtually this week (May 31-June 4, 2021 ) to brain storm and share visions about the future of Caribbean Studies, the role of the Caribbean Diaspora and prospects of Caribbean Development. The theme of the Conference, Identity Politics, Industry, Ecology and the Intelligent Economy in Caribbean Societies illustrates the expansive scope of the discourse that yielded recommendations that were innovative, futuristic and realistic. The Conference originally scheduled to be held in Guyana this time last year was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Even after an intervening year, the persistence of COVID-19 meant that for the first time in 45 years, the gears had to be shifted to a totally online event. Both the CSA Conference Committee led by Professor Travis Jules, President and Dr. Kristina Hinds Conference Chair and the Local Organizing Committee led by Dr. Melissa Ifill, UG's Deputy Vice Chancellor, International Engagement deserve the highest commendations for pulling off a highly successful event.
CSA Presidents Present
The auspicious opening ceremony that was spiced with a panorama of Guyana's culture signaled the high quality of the Conference. So did the Special Plenaries spread over the five days of the Conference. In his provocative address entitled "The Caribbean in Turbulent Times" at the Opening Ceremony, Professor Travis Jules, a Guyanese- American from Loyola University, Chicago and President of CSA pointed to:
He charged the Conference to confront the future with a series of the questions, most of which were dealt with in numerous concurrent sessions that followed. They include:
A special plenary at the end of Day 1 with five past CSA Presidents* engaged the audience on "reflecting on the future of the CSA through the lenses of the past". The takeaways included:
In Tribute to Professor Simon Jones Hendrickson and the Late Professor Wendell Bell
This special Presidential Plenary was dedicated to Professor Simon Jones Hendrickson, founding member and CSA President 1983-84 who edited a volume Caribbean Vision (Eastern Caribbean Institute 1991) with 10 Presidential lectures in the 1980s and the late Professor Wendell Bell, Yale University who introduced the Presidential lectures during his tenure. "This book is one of the features of the CSA historiography and should be so recorded in its annals".
University of Guyana’s Vice Chancellor, Women and Leadership
In her keynote address to the Special Plenary on Day 2, Professor Paloma Mohamed Martin, UG’s Vice Chancellor offered a tour de force titled "Cougars Will Rise Re-collecting Resilience in the Caribbean". She connected the dots between a readily changing ecosystem, the demands on intellectual products and the importance of intellectual leadership in charting policies to achieve sustainable development. The important parallels that the audience is left to draw are rooted in the characteristics of the cougar: agility, mastery of communication and extensive geographic range. In addition, the reproductive characteristic of the cougar is relevant in the sense of the evolution of independent thought and the replenishment of intellectual leadership. In this regard, the UG Strategic Blueprint 2040, advances the ambitious outcome of one graduate per household and generating student and citizen successes as a critical contribution of academia to the community, the national, regional and international systems.
A Plenary on Women and Leadership on Day 3, while this blog was being written had on display two women who have broken the glass ceiling: Dr. Carla Barnett, a Belizean, recently appointed as the first female Secretary General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in its 48 year history and before her, Professor Paloma Mohamed Martin, the first female Vice Chancellor in University of Guyana’s 58 years and the first female VC in the English Speaking Caribbean. The Panel also included USA Ambassador to Guyana, Sarah Lynch, Lady Ananda Trotman Joseph, woman activist and Chairperson of the Grenada National Coalition on the Rights of the Child, and Ms. Sonia Noel, Guyanese International Fashion Designer who holds an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters from the Global Oved Dei Seminary and University (GODSU) in the USA. The main takeaways from this Panel included:
The focus on the Plenary sessions helped to set the tone of the CSA @45 Conference. They provided the context for following up on the questions raised, challenges to overcome, proposals for organizational restructuring and the meaningful contribution of the Association to Caribbean Visions. These elements were amplified in the 180 sessions organized to run concurrently. Among the stand outs for follow up are those clusters of panels on the Environment and Resilience, Gender Equity and Digitization.
*Notes on Participants in Presidential Panel
Compton Bourne President (1985-86), Former President CDB, (CSA Venezuela 1986)
Carole Boyce Davies, President (2015-16), Professor Africana Studies, Cornell University,
(CSA Haiti 2016)
Jacqui Braveboy-Wagner, President (1992-93), Professor, (CSA Jamaica 1993), Professor,
Political Science-International Relations, City University of New York
Edward Greene, President ( 1989-90), Chancellor, UG (CSA Barbados 1989)
Jorge Heine, President (1990-91), Professor, Pardee School Global Studies, Boston Univ. (Cuba,1991)
Edward and Auriol Greene Directors, GOFAD.