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HomeNewsArchivesDenmark Receptive to Further Reparations Talks, Activists Say

Denmark Receptive to Further Reparations Talks, Activists Say

June 20, 2007 — Denmark seems ready for further discussions about slavery reparations, local activists said at a press conference Tuesday announcing plans for a return trip by a second delegation.
"After having met with task force representatives in Denmark, I am thoroughly convinced that there is a readiness in Copenhagen for another official visit from the USVI Government, and that the time has now come for government-to-government discussion on the matter," said Shelley Moorhead, president of the African-Caribbean Reparations and Resettlement Alliance (ACRRA), speaking at Pier 69 in Frederiksted.
Moorhead unveiled details of a new memorandum of understanding reached this May in Copenhagen. The document defines reparations as the "acknowledgment between communities which share common history with the aim to heal the wounds from past human-rights violations." It seeks to "heal consequences of inhumanity; create bonds of equality; ensure that relevant historical facts are uncovered, discussed and properly memorialized; and promote initiatives in education, restoration and reconciliation."
The second delegation will visit Denmark in the fall, Moorhead said. Several meetings will take place beforehand to select delegates and set an agenda.
Moorhead has been at the forefront of V.I. reparations efforts for several years. He led a delegation of government officials and community representatives to Denmark in 2005 and subsequently hosted several dignitaries from that country to the islands to participate in lectures and forums.
In February, Morten Kjaerum, executive director of the Danish Institute for Human Rights, met with Gov. John deJongh Jr. to discuss reparations. The meeting, which also included other V.I. government officials, was intended to inform the new governor about previous talks between the two groups.
The reparations effort Moorhead spearheads "creates a new paradigm for repair," he said. An exchange of education, health services and technology, he said, is more valuable today than "quick cash," which in his opinion cannot compensate for the years of African enslavement by Denmark.
Denmark owned St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix — formerly the Danish West Indies — from 1691 to 1917 before selling the territory to the United States for $25 million in gold. For 175 years, Denmark enslaved more than 200,000 African men, women and children, Moorhead said, transporting them to the Danish West Indies from Africa. More than 100,000 Africans perished during the Middle Passage, the journey across the Atlantic Ocean, he noted.
Moorhead said his research shows that today Denmark ranks ninth in the best countries in the world to live, lagging behind Sweden, Iceland and Norway — all Scandinavian countries once closely connected — and gained most of its collective wealth from the slave trade. By contrast, the Virgin Islands suffer from poverty, inadequate education and health, along with social ills, he said.
"This is what our ancestors have established (for Denmark)", Moorhead said. As for the problems the V.I. faces, he said, "All (this) somehow relates to the handicap that has been placed on us."
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