The second session of the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent (PFPAD) is set to take place at the United Nations’ New York headquarters from May 30 to June 2, 2023.
PFPAD brings together activists, non-governmental groups, governmental agencies, and human rights institutions to strategize about ways to promote human rights for Black people on a global scale.
PFPAD’s first session, held this past Dec. 5 through 8 in Geneva, Switzerland, was enthusiastically attended by several hundred delegates and livestreamed on UN Web TV. Dr. Carol Ann Dixon, a London, England-based postdoctoral researcher and heritage education consultant, attended that session and wrote a summary of the meeting on her Decolonial Dialogues website.
Dixon said that within the first month of publishing a 1st Summative Report of the meeting, she received 2,450 readers/website visitors from more than 70 countries. “More than five months after publication, visitors to the Decolonial Dialogues website are still continuing to engage positively with that summary and the posting has now been viewed by more than 4,600 readers, of which 1,234 unique site visitors were viewing from IP addresses in the USA; 1,233 from here in the UK; 226 readers from Guyana; 219 from Canada; and 149 from the Netherlands, etc.,” she said.
There’s a continuing desire for information about how Black communities function in different parts of the world. PFPAD is one event that gathers various groups in a single place to exchange information.
The theme for this second PFPAD session is “Realizing the dream: A United Nations Declaration on the promotion, protection and full respect of the human rights of people of African descent.” PFPAD panels will detail how data collection can be used to document systemic racism. There will be discussions about transnational migration and talks about how to pursue global reparatory justice, particularly when it comes to reparations for slavery.
Dr. Claudia Mosquera Rosero-Labbé, a professor at the National University of Colombia, told the AmNews she plans to give a presentation about the importance of reparations. Mosquera explained in a recent interview that historical reparations––or the phrase she prefers, “Afro-reparations”––are a way of looking at justice. There is social justice, environmental justice, and ethnic-racial justice.
Afro-reparations is a look at the reparations due to Black people. It’s not based solely on the past and the trans-Atlantic slave trade, said Rosero-Labbé: “When we place too much emphasis on history, that is, when we say ‘historical reparations,’ we run the risk of not inviting a dialogue, because generally, our debaters always say, ‘but that is the past.’ When we talk about historical reparations, people think we are staying in the past, but there is nothing more contemporary than this discussion, because what this discussion seeks is the future. It is anchored in contemporaneity and understands the complexity of contemporaneity.”
Shereen White, director of advocacy & policy with Children’s Rights, said being able to use the mechanisms of the United Nations to further the concerns of Black people in the United States is vital. Children’s Rights will be working with JMacforFamilies and the American Civil Liberties Union to host the virtual PFPAD side event, “Healing Historical Trauma: The Vital Role of Family Integrity In Restoring Health and Wellness for People of African Descent,” on Wednesday, May 31, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
“There is much work to be done in educating the world about the discriminatory and ongoing forced separation of Black children from their parents, and to stop it,” White explained. “This is a human rights issue that deserves attention and justice on the international stage. We hope that our side event will continue to help people in the U.S. understand the gravity of this issue and also create a space for people in other countries to reflect and share on the status of Black families in their countries.”
Last year, Children’s Rights worked with JMacforFamilies and the ACLU to bring the subject of anti-Black racism and discrimination by the U.S. child welfare system to the attention of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). “Following our testimony and advocacy in August 2022, for the first time ever, CERD included discrimination and disparate treatment of Black children and families by the family policing system in its concluding observations,” White said.
“There was power in building relationships across borders and learning what is happening in other countries.”
Conrad Bryan of Ireland’s Association of Mixed Race Irish also plans to present in New York. “For many years, we have been calling on our government to recognize the racial abuse experienced by children of African Irish descent in childcare institutions and orphanages in Ireland,” Bryan told the AmNews. “Unfortunately, at every step of the way, the state has denied or disbelieved what we were saying. Two judge-led statutory commissions of investigation have been carried out into child abuse in these institutions and orphanages, and no recommendations were made to redress the serious wrongs done by racial discrimination and racially motivated abuses, such as illegal non-consensual vaccine trials and long-term incarceration and institutionalization.
“The second investigation into mother-and-baby institutions went even further and concluded there was no racial discrimination, when in fact, elsewhere in its own report, the findings contradicted its overall conclusion. We were particularly concerned that this was a grossly misleading narrative and we needed to seek external and independent experts to review this situation and to help us to correct this false narrative. This also had judicial implications for our community [because] it obstructed our ability to seek remedies in domestic courts.” Bryan said that with the support of the U.N. Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, members of the mixed-race Irish community finally felt heard: “[I]t gave our community a strong sense of self-belief and validation,” he said. “The effect these words had was to lift our heads and give us our voice. It also provided the helpful human rights language with which we could articulate our plight and struggles, as well as call on the government to provide reparations. This is where we are now, but we have more work to do to achieve full atonement from the state.”
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