Former Jamaican Prime Minister P. J. Patterson waxed warm on his topic with his relevant and thought-provoking delivery at the Twelfth Annual Eric E. Williams Memorial Lecture last Friday. The event was held at Florida International University’s South Campus, as part of its African & African Diaspora Studies Program Distinguished Africana Scholars Lecture Series.
Due to the catastrophic devastation wrought by the January 2010 Haiti earthquake, this year’s Lecture, “The Renaissance of Haiti: A Template for Caribbean Integration,” addressed critical issues pertaining to Haiti’s rebirth and the special responsibility of metropolitan countries to ensure it.
Patterson is an engaging and self-effacing lecturer, presently the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) Special Representative on Haiti’s Reconstruction and authorized by its government to represent it in appropriate fora. Most notable on Friday night, was his sound historical knowledge of Haiti’s - the then ‘Pearl of the Antilles’ - powerful 1791-1804 slave revolution. This was bolstered by a clear understanding of its potential and the current obstacles to achieving this. Mr. Patterson was firm in his assertion that history should not be repeated in the imposition of prescriptions for Haiti, whatever the context, but that the Haitian people, as one nation, should chart their own destiny. As he succinctly put it: “Every crisis presents an opportunity.”