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New York Times Reveals How Haiti Became The Poorest Country In The Americas

By GERMAN LOPEZ/New York Times

France’s ransom
Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world, and a new Times investigative series explores why. One stunning detail: France demanded reparations from Haitians it once enslaved. That debt hamstrung Haiti’s economy for decades — and kept it from building even basic social services, like sewage and electricity.
The series is based on more than a year of reporting, troves of centuries-old documents and an analysis of financial records. I spoke to my colleague Catherine Porter, one of the four reporters who led the project, about what they found.
Why tell Haiti’s story now?
I’ve been covering Haiti since the earthquake in 2010, and returned dozens of times. Any journalist that spends time in Haiti continually confronts the same question: Why are things so bad here?
The poverty is beyond compare to anywhere else. Even countries that are impoverished compared to the United States or Canada, or many Western countries — they still have some level of social services. Haiti just doesn’t.
Even if you’re rich, you have to bring in your own water, and you need a generator for electricity. There’s no real transportation system; it’s basically privatized. There’s no real sewage system, so people use outhouses or the outdoors. There’s no real garbage pickup, so trash piles up. There’s little public education — it’s mostly privatized — so poor people don’t get much, if any, formal schooling. The health care is abysmal.
The usual explanation for Haiti’s problems is corruption. But the series suggests something else is also to blame.
Yeah. This other answer lodged into the side of my mouth as I read more history books on Haiti. One by Laurent DuBois mentioned this “independence debt,” but he didn’t go into much detail. That was the first time that I read about it and was like, “What is this?”
So what was it?
After Haiti’s independence in 1804, France came back and demanded reparations for lost property — which turned out to include the enslaved humans. French officials encouraged the Haitian government to take out a loan from the French banks to pay.
It became known as a double debt: Haiti was in debt to former property owners — the colonists — and also to the bankers. Right from the get-go, Haiti was in an economic hole.
It is wild: The colonists asked the former slaves for reparations.
You have to remember that, at the time, no one came to help Haiti.
It was the only Black free country in the Americas, and it was a pariah. The British didn’t want to recognize it because they had Jamaica and Barbados as colonies. The Americans most certainly did not want to recognize it; they still hadn’t ended slavery.
What might Haiti look like today without this double debt?
One example is Costa Rica. It also had a strong coffee export industry, like Haiti does. When Haiti was spending up to 40 percent of its revenue on paying back this debt, Costa Rica was building electricity systems. People were putting in sewage treatment and schools. That would be closer to what Haiti could have been.
We haven’t even gotten into the U.S. occupation from 1915 to 1934 and Haiti’s dictator family, both of which further looted the country. It was one crisis after another inflicted on Haitians.
That’s true. A dictator, François Duvalier, came into power in 1957. Before that, the Haitian government had finally cleared most of its international debts. The World Bank had said that Haiti should rebuild. Instead, Duvalier and then his son put the country into increased misery.
As if that wasn’t enough, after Haiti’s president asked for reparations in 2003, France removed him from office, with U.S. help. Have France and the U.S. owned up to the damage?
France has had a slow softening. In 2015, its president, François Hollande, said that France had imposed a “ransom” on Haiti, and that he would pay it back. But very quickly, his aides corrected him, saying that he meant he was going to pay the moral debt back; he wasn’t talking about money.
The Times is translating these stories to Haitian Creole. What’s the goal?
If I’m talking to anyone on the street in Haiti, they’ll speak only Haitian Creole. So I felt that if we’re going to do a story about Haitian history, surely it should be accessed by the people of that country.
The most popular form of media in Haiti is the radio, especially in rural areas where illiteracy is high. My hope is that we can get the Creole version in the hands of some people to read parts of it over the radio, so people in Haiti can hear it and debate it and form their opinions.
This is a Haitian history. It should be made as accessible as possible to Haitians.
More on Catherine Porter: She grew up in Toronto and got her first full-time journalism job at The Vancouver Sun. In 2010, she went to Port-au-Prince for The Toronto Star to report on the earthquake — an assignment that changed her life. She has returned more than 30 times and written a memoir about her experiences there. She joined The Times in 2017, leading our Toronto bureau.
The Haiti series
The Times this weekend published several articles on Haiti’s history, including:
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Annaberg Plantation In St. John Houses Some of The Rich Cultural History Of The USVI

CRUZ BAY — In honor of Virgin Islands History Month, Government House highlighted the Annaberg Planation on St. John. The Annaberg Plantation is one of the many St. John’s plantations.

“It is our duty to acknowledge the horrific trials and tribulations our African and Virgin Island ancestors endured on the plantations during these times, Government House said.

Annaberg Plantation, as of 1780, was one of the active sugar-producing factories on St. John. Other products produced at the plantation were molasses and rum.

Annaberg Plantation In St. John Houses Some of The Rich Cultural History Of The USVI

Enslaved African labor was used to clear densely forested hillsides and to terrace the slopes around Annaberg to make it run. This very same slave labor was also used to plant, harvest, and process sugarcane. When slavery was abolished, plantations were divided.

“Let us take this time to reflect on these monuments and cultural resources which are a testament that our people triumphed in the face of adversity,” Government House said. “Our enslaved African and Indigenous people built these structures that still stand today.”

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Barbados Bids Farewell To British Monarchy, Becomes Independent Republic

BRIDGETOWN — Barbados stopped pledging allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II today as it shed another vestige of its colonial past and became a republic for the first time in history.

Several leaders, dignitaries and artists, including Prince Charles and Rihanna, attended the ceremony that began late Monday in a popular square where the statue of a well-known British lord was removed last year amid a worldwide push to erase symbols of oppression.

Fireworks peppered the sky at midnight as Barbados officially became a republic, with screens set up across the island so people could watch the event that featured an orchestra with more than 100 steel pan players and numerous singers, poets and dancers. It was also broadcast online, prompting a flurry of excited messages from Bajans living in the U.S., Canada and beyond.

“Happy Independence Day and freedom to all,” wrote one viewer.

The drive to become a republic began more than two decades ago and culminated with the island’s Parliament electing its first ever president last month in a two-thirds majority vote. Barbados Governor General Sandra Mason was sworn in before dawn today as the island marked its 55th anniversary of independence from Britain.

“As cautioned by our first prime minister … we ought no longer to be found loitering on colonial premises,” she said. “We must seek to redefine our definition of self, of state, and the Barbados brand, in a more complex, fractured and turbulent world. … Our country and people must dream big dreams and fight to realize them.”

Mason, 72, is an attorney and judge who also has served as ambassador to Venezuela, Colombia, Chile and Brazil. She will help Prime Minister Mia Mottley lead the wealthy Caribbean island of more than 300,000 people that is dependent on tourism, manufacturing and finance.

Barbados didn’t need permission from the U.K. to become a republic, although the island will remain a member of the Commonwealth Realm. It’s an event that the Caribbean hasn’t experienced since the 1970s, when Guyana, Dominica and Trinidad and Tobago became republics.

Barbados became independent from the United Kingdom in November 1966, more than three centuries after English settlers arrived and turned the island into a wealthy sugar colony based on the work of hundreds of thousands of African slaves.

In recent decades, the island has begun distancing itself from its colonial past. In 2005, Barbados dropped the London-based Privy Council and chose the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice as its final court of appeal. Then in 2008, it proposed a referendum on the issue of becoming a republic, but it was pushed back indefinitely. Last year, Barbados announced plans to stop being a constitutional monarchy and removed a statue of British Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson from National Heroes Square, the location of the event to celebrate becoming a republic.

“From the darkest days of our past and the appalling atrocity of slavery, which forever stains our history, the people of this island forged their path with extraordinary fortitude,” said Prince Charles, who thanked Barbadian officials for inviting him and said he has greatly admired what they’ve achieved. “Freedom, justice, and self determination have been your guides.”

During the ceremony, the prime minister awarded pop star Rihanna the honor of National Hero of Barbados, telling her, “May you continue to shine like a diamond,” as they both laughed.

Barbados’ flag, coat of arms and national anthem will remain the same, but certain references will change, according to Suleiman Bulbulia, a columnist for the Barbados Today newspaper. He wrote that the terms “royal” and “crown” will no longer be used, so the Royal Barbados Police Force will become the Barbados Police Service and “crown lands” will become “state lands.”

“It is the beginning of a new era,” he wrote. “Any Barbadian can aspire now to be our Head of State.”

By DÁNICA COTO/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

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A New Republic Is Born: Barbados Celebrates Ditching Britain’s Queen

BRIDGETOWN — Barbados, a former British colony, will next week ditch Queen Elizabeth as head of state, breaking its last remaining imperial bonds with Britain nearly 400 years since the first English ship arrived at the Caribbean island.

Barbados casts the removal of Elizabeth II, who is queen of Barbados and 15 other realms including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and Jamaica, as a sign of confidence and a way to finally break with the demons of its colonial history.

“This is the end of the story of colonial exploitation of the mind and body,” said Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, a Barbadian historian. He said this was a historic moment for Barbados, the Caribbean and all post-colonial societies.

“The people of this island have struggled, not only for freedom and justice, but to remove themselves from the tyranny of imperial and colonial authority,” said Beckles, vice-chancellor of The University of the West Indies.

The birth of the republic, 55 years to the day since Barbados declared independence, finally unclasps almost all the colonial bonds that have kept the tiny island in the Lesser Antilles tied to England since an English ship claimed it for King James I in 1625.

A New Republic Is Born: Barbados Celebrates Ditching Britain's Queen
Britain’s Charles, Prince of Wales, greets Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley ahead of their bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain November 1, 2021. Jane Barlow/Pool via REUTERS

It may also be a harbinger of a broader attempt by other former colonies to cut ties to the British monarchy as it braces for the end of Elizabeth’s nearly 70-year-old reign and the future accession of Charles, who will attend the republican celebrations in Bridgetown.

Barbados’s move is the first time a realm has removed the queen as head of state in nearly 30 years: Mauritius, an island in the Indian Ocean, proclaimed itself a republic but remained in the Commonwealth, an association of mostly former British colonies which is home to 2.5 billion people.

Buckingham Palace says the issue is a matter for the people of Barbados.

SUGAR AND SLAVES

Originally populated by waves of Saladoid-Barrancoid and Kalinago migrants, Spanish slaver raids forced Amerindians to flee. Barbados was unpopulated when the English first arrived.

The English initially used white British indentured servants to toil on the plantations of tobacco, cotton, indigo and sugar, but Barbados in just a few decades would become England’s first truly profitable slave society.

Barbados received 600,000 enslaved Africans between 1627 and 1833, who were put to work in the sugar plantations, earning fortunes for the English owners.

A New Republic Is Born: Barbados Celebrates Ditching Britain's Queen

“Barbados under English colonial rules became the laboratory for plantation societies in the Caribbean,” said Richard Drayton, a professor of imperial and global history at Kings College, London who lived in Barbados as a child.

“It becomes the laboratory for slave society, which is then exported to Jamaica and the Carolinas and Georgia after that.”

More than 10 million Africans were shackled into the Atlantic slave trade by European nations between the 15th and 19th centuries. Those who survived the often brutal voyage, ended up toiling on plantations.

While full freedom was finally granted in 1838, the plantation owners preserved considerable economic and political power might into the 20th Century. The island gained full independence in 1966.

REPUBLICAN SEEDS

Prince Charles, the 73-year-old heir to the British throne, will travel to Barbados for the ceremonies marking the removal of his 95-year-old mother as head of state.

Barbados will remain a republic within the Commonwealth, a grouping of 54 countries across Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe and the Pacific that has always been a priority for Elizabeth, who heads it.

Though its name will remain simply Barbados, its removal of the queen may well sow the seeds of republicanism further across the Caribbean, according to Drayton.

“This will have consequences particularly within the English-speaking Caribbean,” said Drayton, who pointed to talk of a republic in both Jamaica and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

“The queen has had an enormous personal relationship to many of these countries and has shown her own commitment to the Commonwealth vision which she inherited from that imperial moment of the 1940s and 1950s, so I do think that in the wake of the queen’s passing that some of these questions would become more urgent in places like Canada and Australia.”

The queen has made many visits to Barbados and, according to Buckingham Palace, has had “a unique relationship with this, the most easterly of the Caribbean islands”.

The republic of Barbados will be declared at a ceremony which begins late in the evening on Monday, Nov. 29 at the National Heroes Square in Bridgetown.

“The time has come to fully leave our colonial past behind,” Prime Minister Mia Mottley said in a 2020 speech prepared for Governor General Sandra Mason, who will replace Elizabeth as Barbados’ head of state after being elected president.

“This is the ultimate statement of confidence in who we are and what we are capable of achieving.”

—REUTERS

Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Alex Richardson

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Roach Pays Homage To Legacy of Rights Leader D. Hamilton Jackson On Liberty Day

FREDERIKSTED — Lt. Governor Tregenza Roach, prior to leaving the territory on a personal matter, called on Virgin Islanders to pay homage to native son D. Hamilton Jackson today.

“In celebration of Liberty Day, we recognize the legacy and impact of David Hamilton Jackson on the U.S. Virgin Islands. As a trailblazer, he spent his life advocating for the rights and civil liberties of the people of the territory,” Roach said in a prepared statement.

“We honor him and his vast achievements that are a profound part of our history,” Roach said, adding that “in a time of oppression, Jackson displayed both courage and valor in leading the fight against unfair labor conditions and inadequate wages.”

“He was successful in establishing the first labor union, through which he gave workers a voice, and a means to exert more economic influence,” Roach said.

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Courage Of Ancestors Reflected Today In Modern-Day Observance Of Contract Day

It was 143 years ago on October 1, 1878, when Crucian agricultural laborers set fire to Frederiksted town and western plantations on St. Croix. The objective was to burn all the way east to “Bassin jailhouse,” known today as Fort Christiansvaern.

In those days, Christiansted was called Bassin by Crucians. In 1733, the Danes founded Christiansted town on the site of a former French village known as Bassin.

The agricultural laborers were stopped at Estate Anna’s Hope by Danish soldiers, but not before at least 51 plantations were damaged or destroyed. In the end, one plantation owner, two Danish soldiers and 84 laborers were also killed.

The estimated losses due to property destruction totaled to $600,000, according to Danish historical records. Estates that were destroyed included Good Hope, Wheel of Fortune, Mount Victory, Diamond, Punch, Annaly, Nicolas, Mount Stewart, Two Friends, Canaan, River, Grove Place, Big Fountain, Mon Bijou, Morning Star, La Vallee, Rust-op-Twist, Concordia, Glynn, Jealousy, Hermitage, Upper Love, Lebanon Hill, Dolby Hill and Montpellier. The other estates were Lower Love, Golden Grove, Adventure, Castle Coakley, Work and Rest, Barron Spot, Strawberry Hill, Diamond and Ruby, Clifton Hill, Slob, Bethlehem, Blessing, Anguilla, Fredensborg, Kings Hill, Castle Burke, Paradise, Mannings Bay, St. George’s, Betty’s Hope, William’s Delight, Carlton, Whim, Enfield Green and Concordia (West).

After the July 3, 1848, emancipation of enslaved Africans, the Danish government enacted rules to keep people enslaved by contracts. Hence, the freedom of the agricultural laborers was short-lived as plantation owners began to quickly devise new regulations.

The Labor Law of 1849, which was created by planters and government officials and not by former slaves, bound them and their families to the plantation they worked for. As a result, by signing these contracts the agricultural laborers became enslaved again.

There is an old Crucian saying, “Once a man, twice a child,” and in this case it translated to a man must work his way through the labor class system from the third class, as a child, to first class, then as an adult, and end up as an old man in the third class again. This system of labor described the hardship agricultural laborers faced on St. Croix. Living conditions, health care, wages all were dictated and controlled by plantation owners and the Danish government.

Each October 1, or on what is known in V.I. history as Contract Day, agricultural workers were allowed to leave their plantation and enter contracts with another plantation owner.

On October 1, 1878, agricultural laborers protested their fixed wages and harsh living conditions. The protest started out peacefully, but eventually the atmosphere changed where fire became the weapon of a just cause for the enslaved population of the Danish West Indies.

The insurrection of the 1878 “Fireburn” was said to be organized and led by four heroines — or queens. Mary Leticial Thomas, better known as Queen Mary (1848-1905), arrived on St. Croix from Antigua in 1860 to work on a plantation. She lived at Estate Sprat Hall. The others were Susannah Abrahamsen/Abrahamson, known as “Bottom Belly,” who lived at Estate Prosperity; Axeline Elizabeth Solomon (Queen Agnes), who lived at Estate Bethlehem; and Mathilde Williams McBean (Queen Mathilda), who lived at Estate Cane.

According to Danish historical documents, more than 400 laborers were arrested, and some were executed by a firing squad. About 40 people were tried and sentenced to prison along with the four queens. The four queens were sent to prison in Copenhagen, Denmark. On July 20, 1882, a Danish newspaper, NYT Aftenblad, stated, “Four negresses, who are sentenced to hard labor for life for their participation in the rebellion on St. Croix arrived yesterday on the ship ‘Thea’ to the capital to serve their sentences to the Women’s Prison on Kristianshavn.”

The Danish newspaper also mentioned a list of 40 prisoners held at Fort Frederik for their involvement in the 1878 Fireburn and what estate they came from. The list included Rebecca Frederick, Estate Cane; John Samuel, Estate Anguilla; Joseph James, Estate Enfield Green; Joseph Briggs, Estate Friedensborg; William Barnes, Estate Rust-op- Twist; Francis Harrison, Estate Prosperity; Emanuel Jacobs, Estate Prosperity; George Simmonds, Estate Barren Spot; James Cox, Estate Diamond; Joseph William, Estate Windsor; Richard Gibbs (Sealey), Estate Barren Spot; and Johannes Samuel, also called “Banborg,” of Frederiksted.

Malvina was the ship that transported Queen Mary as well as Queen Agnes and Queen Mathilde back to St. Croix. The queens departed Denmark on December 18, 1887, and arrived on St. Croix on February 2, 1888, the same year my grandmother Catherine Smalls was born on St. John. Queen Susannah Abrahamsen, known as “Bottom Belly,” came back to St. Croix separately. In May 1886, “Bottom Belly” departed Denmark and arrived on St. Croix on July 21, 1886.

The queens and other agricultural laborers made the ultimate sacrifice for working-class people of the Danish West Indies. As a result, on October 24, 1879, the Labor Law of 1849 was repealed, allowing laborers to freely seek and secure their own employment and to leave the island to seek employment elsewhere.

Queen Mary died March 16, 1905, at age 57 and was buried in Estate William’s Delight Cemetery; Queen Susannah “Bottom Belly” died July 20, 1906, at age 75 and was buried near the Christiansted Cemetery; and Queen Mathilda died Oct. 10, 1935 at age 78 at Estate Hogensborg and was buried in the Catholic Church section of Frederiksted Cemetery.

As Virgin Islanders and Caribbean people, let us not forget the 1878 “Fireburn.”

— Olasee Davis, St. Croix, is an ecologist at the University of the Virgin Islands. He is active in the Virgin Islands’ historical, cultural and environmental preservation

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London’s Finance District, Steeped In Slavery, Confronts Its Past

LONDON — British ships ferried over three million enslaved African people across the Atlantic Ocean. Lloyd’s of London insured many of those vessels, the people chained below deck sometimes categorized as “perishable goods,” alongside cattle, by the market’s underwriters.

Lloyd’s involvement in the trans-Atlantic slave trade is not included in the market’s permanent exhibition at its modernistic City tower but that is set to change.

“The legacy of slavery is racism. You can’t do what you have to do to make slavery work unless you constitute the enslaved people as less than human,” said Nick Draper, a former JPMorgan banker who was founding director of the Center for the Study of the Legacies of British Slavery (LBS) at University College London

“We did it on the basis of ethnicity, race and skin color. It’s embedded in British and European culture – that’s what we are working through now.”

Along with other financial institutions in London, the insurance market has been forced to confront its racist past following last year’s Black Lives Matter protests.

Lloyd’s and the Bank of England have each hired a historian to delve into their roles in the slave trade and are planning on publicizing the results in the next year.

The exhibitions will shine a light on the fortunes coined off a barbarous system and the role played by some of the City’s most venerable grandees in keeping it afloat, including people such as John Julius Angerstein, known as ‘the father of Lloyd’s’.

The 18th-century industry titan was chairman of the market when a large chunk of its business was based on the slave trade and Lloyd’s says there is evidence to suggest he was a trustee of estates in the Caribbean that held enslaved people.

His portrait hangs in the market’s HQ.

Chairman Bruce Carnegie-Brown wants Lloyd’s to be upfront about its past but he doesn’t want paintings removed.

“I’d rather tell the story than cancel them,” he told Reuters.

The African-Caribbean Insurance Network (ACIN), set up to boost Black and minority ethnic representation in the London insurance market, disagrees. It said firms should review “organizational artefacts, and remove any with racist connotations” according to recommendations submitted to the London market last year.

ACIN co-founder Junior Garba, a Lloyd’s underwriter, said it was better to place artefacts in museums.

“We can’t ignore the history. We can explain it, we can educate.”

London's Finance District, Steeped In Slavery, Confronts Its Past

DEEP ROOTS

The roots of the slave trade are deep and broad in London’s famed institutions.

Angerstein’s art collection, including works by Rubens, Raphael and Rembrandt, formed the nucleus of London’s National Gallery when it was founded.

The gallery makes no mention of Angerstein’s links to the slave trade on its website. It does say he belonged to the Committee for the Relief of the Black Poor, an organisation with abolitionist interests.

In an email to Reuters, The National Gallery said it was working with LBS to clarify the links between slave-ownership, art collection and philanthropy in Britain and will publish initial results later this year. Angerstein will be included in that study.

According to research by Draper, Angerstein was “a beneficiary of slavery in the marine insurance business on which he founded his career and fortune”. There is no evidence that he was a slave trader.

A decision on what to do with the portraits of Angerstein and other prominent Lloyd’s names will be made after Victoria Lane, previously archivist at Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, completes her review.

Lane, who began work at Lloyd’s last month, is trawling through art, swords, silverware and documents held by the market. Lloyd’s declined to make her available for interview.

The Bank of England removed 10 portraits and busts of former governors and directors with links to the slave trade earlier this year and plans to explain their role in an exhibition at its museum next year, a spokesperson said.

Statues of two politicians with links to the slave trade look set to stay at Guildhall, the ceremonial center of the City of London, after an earlier decision to remove them.

The financial district’s municipal authority will this week discuss a report that recommends retaining monuments of twice Lord Mayor William Beckford and merchant John Cass, both of whom made fortunes off slavery, with “explanatory plaques or notices” placed next to them.

The report says over 2,000 responses to two consultations showed “low demand” for removing the statues.

London's Finance District, Steeped In Slavery, Confronts Its Past

LEGACY

Europe’s sugar colonies in the West Indies were built on slave labour from Africa during the 17th and 18th centuries and the City of London was the financial centre of the trans-Atlantic trade in humans.

Historians estimate between one and two-thirds of the British marine insurance market was based on the slave trade in the 18th century, in particular, insuring the ships returning to Europe with produce from the plantations.

Lloyd’s was one of three major British 18th century marine insurers. The other two, Royal Exchange and London Assurance, were later folded into insurers AXA (AXAF.PA) and RSA.

AXA apologised for its association with the slave trade and said it was working to make its workplace more inclusive.

RSA said there were aspects of its history which “don’t reflect the values we hold today”, adding that the firm was committed to tackling injustice.

The legacy of the slavery industry persists, experts say.

Fewer than 1 in 10 management roles in financial services are held by Black, Asian or other ethnic minority people, according to a discussion paper published by UK regulators in July.

The Bank of England has set itself a target of 18-20% of senior managers to be Black, Asian and minority ethnic in February 2028, compared with 8.2% in November 2020.

The lack of progress in diversifying the City is putting pressure on the Financial Conduct Authority to act and it said in July that senior manager pay may need to be linked to improvements in hiring.

ACIN recommends insurance firms set targets for ethnic minority representation at senior levels.

Only 2% of the nearly 50,000 strong Lloyd’s of London insurance market is Black. It has an “ambition” for a third of all new hires to come from ethnic minorities.

“Legacy is part of the response,” said Oliver Kent-Braham, co-founder of digital insurer Marshmallow.

“What’s important is that companies make sure they have really unbiased interview processes that are not heavily weighted towards junior levels … making sure that companies are hiring from everywhere.”

—REUTERS

By Carolyn Cohn and Huw Jones

Additional reporting by Bart Meijer in Amsterdam and Koh Gui Qing in New York; Editing by Carmel Crimmins

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Today Is Contract Day In The U.S. Virgin Islands Recognizing 1878 Fire Burn Revolt

CHRISTIANSTED — Today is October 1st, the start of the new fiscal year and what has been known as Contract Day in the Virgin Islands.

“Today we salute those who came before us,” St. Croix Senator Kenneth “Kenny” Gittens said. “Those who set the example of standing up for fair treatment and better wages. Today I ask you to join me as I honor the spirits of our ancestors like Queen Mary and the Fire burn Queens. They may have been scared, but they were not afraid to risk it all as they took a stance against their oppressors to demand fair treatment. Happy Contract Day Virgin Islands.”

Today Is Contract Day In The U.S. Virgin Islands Recognizing 1878 Fire Burn Revolt
V.I. Department of Education graphic

Governor Albert Bryan released this statement recognizing the 1878 labor revolt on St. Croix known as Fireburn:

“More than 140 years ago, the slaves on St. Croix began the battle for their freedom when they rose up and demanded justice from the plantation owners. Their freedom was short-lived because of the contracts they were forced to sign, but those first demands began the journey to fair labor practices and brought the Territory to the active economy and worker’s rights that we enjoy today. As the Bryan-Roach Administration continues its march toward a more robust workforce and a better quality of life for all residents in our community, let us not forget where it started and how far as a people and as Virgin Islanders we have come.”

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St. Thomas TV Journalist Remembered For Promoting Territory’s Tourism Product

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Journalist Netfa “Tafa” Romain, who died Tuesday, is being remembered as a creative powerhouse who used his talents to promote and uplift the territory.

“It is with great sadness that I received this news,” Governor. Albert Bryan said Wednesday. “I know Netfa from the early days with TV2. I always thought him to be the epitome of a V.I. son, kind, smart and a totally professional with his craft. I was sad when he moved to the mainland, and now on his passing, I really mourn for his entire family and the community. A great one gone too soon.”

As News Director of News2, Romain’s work garnered national recognition, including a bronze Telly award for “Haiti the Road to Recovery: V.I. Heroes” and an RTDNA Edward R. Murrow Award in the Video Breaking News Coverage category for “Soldiers Undertaking Disabled Scuba.”

“We are proud and thrilled that our stories have earned this recognition,” Romain said in 2011. “These awards are a testament to the hard work and dedication that makes CBS TV2 such a great organization, to be recognized for our hard work is a tremendous honor.”

Romain owned and operated his own production company, JNR Media Solutions, and his TV program, “USVI Ambassadors with Netfa Romain,” highlighted the accomplishments of Virgin Islanders in conjunction with the Tourism Department.

“On behalf of my team at the Department of Tourism, I convey deepest condolences to the family and friends of our teammate, colleague and brother Netfa ‘Tafa’ Romain,” Tourism Commissioner Joseph Boschulte said in a statement Wednesday.

“Tafa was a consummate professional who embraced excellence in everything he did for the department and the wider U.S. Virgin Islands. I consider it a privilege and a blessing to have worked with him through the years, and will always remember his calm, cool and collected, solution-oriented approach to his assignments,” Boschulte said.

He added that Romain’s commitment to the territory and Virgin Islanders abroad through his “USVI Ambassadors” series was unparalleled.

“Tafa mentored many Virgin Islanders and shared the success stories of our people on a global scale through his award-winning work. We grieve his loss and offer prayers of blessing and comfort over his family during this difficult season,” Boschulte said. “Tafa, we are indebted to you for all you contributed to humanity, and your labor of love in spotlighting, lifting up, and enriching the Virgin Islands. Rest in peace.”

“My condolences. He was shining star in the VI,” Pearl Parrilla said on Facebook.

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Andy Warhol Portrait Of Michael Jackson Now Hangs At Smithsonian Art Museum

WASHINGTON — TIME Magazine commissioned American artist Andy Warhol to paint a portrait for its March, 1984 cover story on Michael Jackson.

That portrait of Michael now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, part of the Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, D.C.

Jackson visited St. Croix in May 1998 to scout property locations for a planned casino hotel-theme park on the Big Island.

The Smithsonian is one of the most respected art museums in the world.