Noted regional historian and academic Professor Sir Hilary Beckles has received the Martin Luther King Jr 2021 Global Award for Peace and Freedom.
The Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI) recognized for his global advocacy for reparatory justice, equality and economic development for people of the African diaspora.
The US National Action Network (NAN) presented Sir Hilary with the award at a virtual breakfast on Monday, Martin Luther King Day, as the United States commemorated the life and work of the late civil rights icon.
President and founder of NAN Reverend Al Sharpton said Sir Hilary, who is also President of Universities Caribbean, Chairman of the Caribbean Examinations Council, Chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission and Advisor on Sustainable Development to former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, was deserving of the recognition.
“Every year . . . we look for someone who has personified in their own work, in their own life, the global fight for human rights, human dignity, particularly in the African diaspora. There is no doubt about it that Sir Hilary Beckles has been one in that tradition – I would say unequalled in the present African diaspora of those of us that are still among us,” the civil rights activist said.
“Anyone that is familiar with academia; anyone that is a serious student of activism in the academic world, in the global struggle; anyone that has a serious tendency to study the struggles and interconnecting of the struggles around the world, knows of Sir [Hilary] and his work; and anyone who knows anything about cricket, knows about him too.”
In his response, Sir Hilary told Reverend Sharpton that growing up, his generation followed and was inspired by the works and teachings of Dr King and that he remains a ‘template’ and guiding light in the global reparatory justice movement. He acknowledged that Dr King’s philosophies “framed his own views of the world.”
He expressed his gratitude for the accolade saying, “I am humbled and honoured to be considered in the context of the legacy of Dr King.”
Prior awardees of the Martin Luther King Award include the 42nd President of the United States, Bill Clinton; Berry Gordy, founder of Motown Music; and the 82nd Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder.
Sir Hilary was among seven distinguished persons honoured on Monday. The others were: American physician, immunologist and Director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Dr Anthony Fauci; seven-year-old non-profit founder Cavanaugh Bell; Chief Executive Officer for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Sindy Benavides; award-winning organizer, philanthropic consultant, political strategist and jazz singer, Latosha Brown; Stacey Abrams, American politician, lawyer, voting rights activist, and author; and Dr. Millicent Gorham, Executive Director of the National Black Nurses Association, Inc.