As the Executive of Caribbean Studies Association (CSA) in collaboration with the University of Guyana and Loyola University plans the 45th Conference of the Association May 31 - June 4 to be held virtually, GOFAD is aware of the prominent role of some of Past Presidents of the Association in current global issues. At the Conference, a presidential panel of five Past Presidents will be involved in an interactive session on the theme “Reflecting on the Future of CSA from the lenses of the Past” https://www.caribbeanstudiesassociation.org/annual-conference-2021
Following on last week’s blog featuring 1996–97 CSA President Locksley Edmondson’s Pan African Connections, we reproduce two YouTube features this week for those who may not have seen them. Both will be transferred to the the resources page in videos on the GOFAD website.
The first is a podcast on Black Talk with GOFAD advisor, Professor Ivelaw Griffith, CSA 2001-2002 President. It is a reminder of the persistence of institutional racism. This has been the refrain that catapulted the Black Lives Matter (BLM) after the murder of George Floyd, the first anniversary of which was commemorated on May 25th. It also coincides with the centenary of the Tulsa Race Massacre.
Please see link Black Talk podcast.
The second The race to vaccine: Chinese vaccines in Latin America and the Caribbean is a webinar in which contributor to GOFAD blogs, Professor Jorge Heine , CSA 1990-91 President is a participant. The interesting issue raised in this engagement is whether vaccine access is a new area of geopolitical competition between the US and China, or a rare opportunity for constructive collaboration and coordination? https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event/the-race-to-vaccinate/
GOFAD's focus on Professor Locksley Edmondson this week is as much to pay tribute to him as an internationally recognized scholar of Pan- Africanism as to highlight the launching of a volume of essays edited by Professors Carol Boyce Davis and N'Dri Therese Assie Lumumba of the Africana Studies and Research Center Cornel University in his honour.
Pan African Connections published by African World Press, 2021 is a fitting title for the book dedicated to Locksley Edmondson, a Jamaican, that emerged out of a symposium held four (4) years ago with contributions from a wide range of Pan African Scholars from the African Continent, the USA and the Caribbean. They assembled at Cornell University to pay homage to Professor Edmondson on the eve of his retirement. I was privileged to participate in the event to honor this distinguished scholar, gentleman and friend with whom I have been associated for over four (4) decades. We overlapped as colleagues at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona where he spent 7 years. His impact on the scholarly endeavors and the rearrangements of the programmatic and administrative directions include Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Coordinator of the exercise establishing the UWI Center of Tourism in The Bahamas and Co-chair of the symposium of regional and international scholars out of which emerged the renowned Consortium Graduate School of the Social Sciences in the Caribbean whose Directors included Professor Donald Harris, and the late Professors Raymond Smith and Norman Girvan. The voluminous tributes to Professor Edmondson's contributions are not confined to the institutions he served including University of West Indies (UWI), Jamaica, Makerere University, Uganda, Waterloo University, Canada and in the USA, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale and Cornell University. His academic tributaries spawned connections with thousands of students, hundreds of colleagues-professors and researchers, and multitudes of public servants, political leaders, practitioners and community activists across the global arenas. These have contributed to his massive legacy that will surely remain undiminished.See Professor Edmondson's biography https://africana.cornell.edu/locksley-edmondson
Sketches of the Book
The essays in the volume explore important aspects of Professor Edmondson's enormous intellectual contributions. However, from among the labyrinth of his extensive body of work, I thought that it would be useful to provide a flavour of the book by confining my review to sketches of its contents with special reference to:
Some Pathways associated with his Work
First, the links between Trans-Atlantic Slavery and Racism. These provide the internationalization of race and underscore the philosophical moorings of Professor Edmondson’s interpretations that Africans, African Americans and the Afro Caribbean are united in ancestry, history of oppression and suffering under their European conquerors. He believes that the modern systems of slavery evolving from the Trans-Atlantic slave trade had cumulative impact on racial, economic and religious factors and ultimately on white world/ black world relationships. This led secondly, to his thesis, that Racism is a Consequence of slavery. In this respect, he draws conclusions from critical reviews of the analysis and advocacy from among others, including Marcus Garvey, W.E B Dubois, Carl Degler, Winthrop Jordan, and CLR James. He is of the view that “when all is said and done, the common conclusion which may be adduced from these assessments is that in the absence of slavery, through which racial prejudice and discrimination were systematized, matters of race and color would not have been destined to play so important a role in modern political and socio economic thought and policy."
A third pathway establishes the view that The African Diaspora, Pan Africanism and the location of the African Diaspora in North America constitute a dynamic demographic group from Anglophone, Francophone, Portuguese and Spanish Africa. This is intricately linked fourthly to the Rise of Capitalism integrally related to racial exploitation. He draws on Eric Williams' historical treatise, Capitalism and Slavery and Walter Rodney's How Europe underdeveloped Africa to support his views of the role of slavery in capitalist exploitation and economic growth reinforced by religious considerations. These accordingly gave impetus to ‘racial slavery’ and ‘the development of racism’. He aptly sums up the balance of opinion on this issue: “Thanks to the Atlantic slave trade the formalization of the economic exploitation, dependence and underdevelopment along racial lines assumed international proportions hither unknown. For once slavery linked to the ongoing predominating transitions in the international economic system, was sustained by major actors in the emerging political system --- the stage was set for the internationalization of the linkages of race, economics and politics"
Related Challenges and Triumphs resulting from these Connections
The contributions in this volume provide a range of insights of Edmondson's triumphs and universal impact as teacher, researcher and mentor. Among them are:
Other contributions portrayed the essence of challenges with which he grappled:
Spin-offs from Professor Edmundson Research Beckons:
This brings us to speculate on some of the spin offs from the connections to which the trail of Professor Edmundson's research beckons. At the time of the Symposium, I was preoccupied with making the connections with some of the major policies challenging the UN System and therefore in my contribution, suggested the following:
We have provided sketches of the lessons learned from Professor Edmondson’s careful crafting of African- Afro Americans - Caribbean connections. There are so many underlining factors with which to grapple and so many directions in which his body of work leads us. The challenges and triumphs of this connection that his work identifies have established benchmarks for scholars, practitioners and policy makers. It is clear that this commemoration of Locksley Edmondson’s magnificent career, ensures the legacy of yet another Caribbean scholar to the cause of Pan Africanism and to the role of the African Diaspora cultures in international relations.
The current environment and the experience during this COVID era more than ever usher in a need not only to recognize the stalwart role of nurses the world over, but to establish priority areas on which the profession should concentrate in order to prepare for future human development. This as I understand it, is the message of this year's International Nurses Day theme, ‘A Voice to Lead: A Vision for Future Health Care’. It resonates in the significance we place on May 12, the 201st birth anniversary of the legendary nurse, Florence Nightingale.
GOFAD was honoured last year when Sir George Alleyne presented the International Nurses Day blog Nursing Now and Forever in which he aptly made the point that Covid-19 brought into the sharpest relief one of the most critical roles of nurses that sometimes seems to be taken for granted. He referred to the discussions of “the technical advances in the profession and the loud and proper cries for them to take leadership roles in for example primary health care and universal health coverage”.
Over the past year, the role of nurses globally has been amplified as the number coronavirus cases (based on WHO tracker) ballooned from 5,934,936 to 160,074,267 and the number of deaths from 367,166 to 3,325,260. By having to cope with the burdens of this exponential increase in caseloads, nurses are often the health care providers with the most patient contact, those who are 'comforters in chief' and who are viewed by patients frequently as more approachable. They are at the heart of health communications. They are patient advocates. This means that nurses are more likely to encounter patients spreading misinformation, which gives them a special opportunity to intervene. But this pandemic has thrown so much more at them. It placed increasing demands on them, creating physical strain for frontline workers and psychological strain for those losing patients, co-workers and loved ones. It has led to the interpretation from the 19th annual Gallup Poll (April 2021) that in the USA, the pandemic has definitely taken a toll on medical frontline workers. “It isn’t necessarily what they signed up for”.
Yet for the 19th year in a row, according to this recent Gallup Poll, nurses were ranked as the most trusted and ethical of 15 professions. In fact, even as they came through the pandemic—their toughest year in the survey’s history—nurses’ approval rating rose another 4 percent.
Building a New Vision for the Health Workforce
McKinsey and Company: 2021 Future of work in Nursing— our newest survey of 400+ frontline medical frontline workers resulted in arriving at four broad strategies for building a new vision for the health work force:
The bottom line is that these strategies are applicable widely. In many countries, including those in the developing world, hospitals accelerated the uses of tech devices at the bedside that could integrate with patient records such as tablets for communication, and other forms of virtual monitoring. As a result, these developments could lead simultaneously to other opportunities for nurses to provide remote patient care in the future; have cost effective use of technologies rather than just having them as additional costs and burdens that nurses need to deal with every day; and delivering inputs to any aspect of a health system that affect their work: from hiring of team members, to ordering and use of supplies. (see attached)
The changing dynamics of COVID-19 on healthcare systems are relevant to institutions training the community of nurses in a variety of roles. Some undertaking original research to help clients understand and navigate a complex, ever-evolving regulatory landscape. Others working in professional development to help colleagues map out careers and build capabilities. Yet others serving in the social sector community practices and outreach in collaboration with physicians and other clinicians, like pharmacists. These are tasks that can be done in multiple ways to have impact on people’s lives, either one-on-one with patients and families or at a larger-scale at the systems level.
But there is another compounding factor which brings the softer skills of nurses into play. Bogus claims about the virus, masks and vaccines have exploded since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic a year ago. Journalists, public health officials and tech companies have tried to push back against the falsehoods, but much of the job of correcting misinformation has fallen to the world’s front-line medical workers.
Conclusions Voices with Visions
I end with three random quotes that summarize the essence of how voices of nurses may shape the vision for the future that we celebrate.
“As a nurse, we have the opportunity to heal the heart, mind, soul and body of our patients, their families and ourselves. They may not remember your name but they will never forget the way you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou.
Nursing is not for everyone. It takes a very strong, intelligent, and compassionate person to take on the ills of the world with passion and purpose and work to maintain the health and well-being of the planet.” – Donna Wilk Cardill, Nurse consultant, McKinsey
Nursing for the future will be a dynamic and exciting endeavor. I urge you: embrace new clinical technology, focus on professional development and seek out opportunities to increase knowledge and gain expertise. You are our champions for a better, healthier future and together we continue on our path to provide comprehensive quality health care. Again. I salute you! Sandra Barrow Chief Nursing Officer (GP)Barbados
A President’s first 100 days are an arbitrary benchmark. Journalists and other commentators in the traditional media, comments in social media and standard polling entities use them as a point of measurement to draw comparisons between the current officeholder and Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR), the last chief executive whose first three months were truly momentous. FDR passed 15 major pieces of legislation in his first 100 days and his New Deal Laws lasted for generations.
A Conventional Benchmark
The 100-day trope has also been taken seriously by Presidents including both Donald Trump and Joe Biden. The assessments of Biden’s 100 days are generally favourable, more so than four of the last Presidents. The most pervasive reasons for this relative success are that he ‘under promised and over delivered’ and his communications with stakeholders were for the most part substantiated by empirical information, ‘truthful’ and credible. His rollout numbers of the vaccine for example, originally promised at 100, 000 for the first 100 days and revised to 200,000 have been exceeded.
Stark contrast in Style and Substance
Several commentators have referred to Biden’s attempt at the restoration of the New Deal-style of FDR. But in essence, only one piece of legislation has been passed within his 100-days and his promises are circumscribed by four overlapping compounding crises —the pandemic, the economy, climate change and race relations. Biden’s relief bill at $2.9Trillion passed without a single Republican vote, is an enormous achievement. According to Elaine Kamarck, a Brookings Institution scholar of the presidency, “these have been emergency measures, justified by the pandemic.” Her view is that a better comparison with the FDR ‘s success can be made on the basis of the fate and durability of Biden’s proposed infrastructure bill, the family tax credit that promises to cut child poverty in half and a $15 minimum wage. The President's returning the US to the Paris Agreement in January 2021, enhances the hitherto waning standing of the country among major allies and will be the subject of a separate blog. Biden’s 54% approval rating after 100 days stands in stark contrast to Trump’s whose ratings never broke the 50% barrier throughout his Presidency.
During his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump promised that in his first 100 days he would repeal Obamacare, build a wall on the border with Mexico and persuade Congress to pass term limits. None of those things happened, but he did out do former holders of the office in one regard: “producing unshirted chaos". Among them, the imposed bans on immigrants and travelers from Muslim countries that were quickly reversed by federal courts; his stripping federal funding from sanctuary cities, also quickly challenged; and his national security advisor resigned amid a scandal over secret contacts with Russian officials. Even Trump himself disavowed his own self-proclaimed three-month deadlines while at the same time insisting, “I have done more than any other president in the first 100 days"
Polarization and Partisanship
Despite his high ratings on personal qualities and honesty the polls show that President Biden has made no new friends or new enemies. They reveal the greatest gap ever with his disapproval ratings at 6 % by Democrats and 80 percent by Republicans and approval ratings 86% democrats and 10 percent by Republicans.
The polls also show that Americans under the age of 36 years would not have experienced a landslide government majority. FDR's Democrats in 1932 received an average of 18% increase in each of the House of Representatives, Senate and Governorships. Linden Bain Johnson’s Democrats in 1968 achieved a 23% increase in the House and a 2:1 control of the Senate.
Ronald Regan campaigned on a platform of ‘Government as a problem’ and secured a biggest landslide victory in American history in 1984 winning 49 of the 50 states. His message has pervaded the electoral campaigns and the political mantra of Republican leadership ever since. Biden on the other hand, empowered by the exigencies of the pandemic has promoted the default setting, “government as the solution.” Lacking the majorities of FDR, LBJ and Ronald Regan, the question remains whether the multi legislative victories required by Biden to advance his agenda, can be achieved. However that he is the first President with so much governmental experience and given his current favorable ratings, the possibilities hang in the balance. They depend on how he is able to use the reconciliation process rather than the destabilization process that characterized the Trump era illustrated by the slow pace of staffing executive positions and the national disruption caused by a government shutdown within his 100 Days.
Shadows of Success Looming
President Biden chances of successful implementation are enhanced as he seems to operate from the playbook of William Galston, a former Clinton advisor, whose Anti-Pluralism: The Populist Threat to Liberal Democracy Anti-Pluralism shows the populist backlash that sustained Trumpism can be eroded by inclusive economic growth and frank discussion of pressing social and cultural issues. He also advocates for the survival of liberal democracy, despite its permanent tensions so long as citizens fight for it . That fight must be embedded in the aspirational goal of equity and the struggle to overturn systemic racism. The link, demonstrated by the pursuit of racial equity in the Kennedy era had a disastrous 100 days, upended by the ill-conceived Bay of Pigs (Cuba) debacle. But he managed to initiate a process that broke the Southern control of the rules committee on which LBJ with majority support both in the House and Senate could capitalize to pass radical civil rights legislation.
In these different political and social times, President Biden is fortunate that unemployment has dropped from 14% to 6 % between January and April 2021. This is largely associated with the improving health conditions. Over 50 % of Americans have received at least one vaccination. Still 4.2m remain unemployed including 12% of Black Community compared with 5.2% of the White population. Hence Biden’s emphasis on creating the possibilities for racial equity through whole of government policies, roll out of vaccinations for low income communities, tackling policing and police brutality in response to the Black Lives Matter Movement, and the introduction universal paid leave are all in line with the FDR syndrome of success. They are in addition, not only prerequisites for reducing systemic racism but also the stimulus to the strategy deployed by Biden to fight COVID 19 which mirrors FDR's philosophy.
Dark Clouds on the Horizon
Despite optimism for the Democratic Party stimulated by Biden's performance in the first 100 days, dark clouds hover. Among the immediate ones to be lifted are sustainable economic growth linked to arresting the coronavirus, improving democratic standing at the mid-terms, immigration and border controls, among others.
Mid-terms are in 2022 and must take into account that in the normal electoral apportionment, the President’s party tends to lose votes. At the same time, indications are that polarization that characterized the 2020 elections is likely carry over. With respect to improving democratic political standing, while Trump never tried to expand his base, Biden can do so by increasing for example, the approval ratings among Whites without college degrees and Latinos which now stand at 36% and 38% respectively. Accordingly, Biden must take into consideration the view that the essence of working class resistance is less about economics than it is cultural.
Immigration, a perennial issue is at breaking point aggravated by what has been inherited from the previous administration. To deal with the border issue within the wider ambit of immigration reform, President Biden has placed Vice President Kamala Harris in charge of what has become a most significant humanitarian issue. This can make or break her future political fortunes. The current unplanned immigration crisis with a massive number of children at the border has already sparked an expanded refugee proclamation by President Biden. This issue for which Biden has received a 37% approval rating, bucks the positive trends.
Conclusion: So What's the Deal!
Major dark clouds hover around the nexus between economic and health policies driven by sustainable economic development which depends on getting COVID-19 under control, reducing unemployment and moving forward with the ambitious infra structure programme. Others include stabilizing the democratic process which from President Biden's perspective means making the Democratic Party a viable administration with working majorities in Congress, and reforming immigration with border control as the immediate target. But meaningful sustainability also requires extinguishing those dark clouds of institutional racism by placing emphasis on the pursuit of equity and inclusion. Impediments to remedial action have been flagged. The filibuster and partisan cleavages in Congress are only part of the problem. Important too, is the need for the Democratic party to grow its numbers in Congress to deliver on a partisan agenda in view of Republicans' resolve on non-cooperation..
Yet bipartisan accomplishments are still possible. Despite the polarized environment, the 116th Congress passed the CARES Act (March 2020), the most effective antipoverty law passed in the USA in more than a generation. Congress also enacted almost $4 trillion in pandemic relief. During the President's Obama's tenure some major pieces of bipartisan legislation were achieved. Among them: the expansion of the Violence against women Act, the K-12 Education Policy and the 21st Century Cures Act which among other things according to Francis Lee and James Curry The Limits of Party: Congress and Lawmaking in a Polarized Era. Atlantic (April 23, 2021) may have helped speed up the release of the COVID-19 vaccines.
In the final analysis, the deal is to explore the available options to forestall economic and social fatalities from dark clouds. For Lee and Curry from their empirical examination of political history, the lessons from FDR to the present time are clear. " Congressional majority parties today are neither more nor less successful at enacting their partisan agendas. They are not more likely to ram though partisan laws or become mired in stalemate". In other words a sustainable political culture requires that "parties continue to build bipartisan coalitions for their legislative priorities and typically compromise on their original visions for legislation in order to achieve legislative success". This seems a reason path to removing authoritarian dark clouds that obscure the vision to liberal democracy.
Edward and Auriol Greene Directors, GOFAD.