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“Sir Hilary personifies the global fight for human rights and dignity in the African diaspora”

For Release Upon Receipt - January 19, 2021


For his global advocacy, academic scholarship and intellectual leadership in support of social justice, institutional equity, and economic development for marginalised and oppressed ethnicities and nations, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor of The University of the West Indies (The UWI), Chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission and President of Universities Caribbean, was honoured by Reverend Al Sharpton and the National Action Network (NAN) on Dr Martin Luther King (MLK) Day—January 18—with the Peace and Freedom Award.

Presenting the Award to Sir Hilary during a live virtual ceremony, Reverend Al Sharpton stated, “Every year we have the National Action Network Dr Martin Luther King Awards, we look for someone who has personified in their own work, in their own life, the global fight for human rights and human dignity, particularly in the African diaspora and there’s no doubt about the fact that Sir Hilary 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 US-based Network, founded and led by Reverend Sharpton, has celebrated MLK Day since 1991 with a breakfast in his honour in Washington, DC. The annual event both commemorates Dr King's legacy and provides an opportunity to refocus on the work of carrying on his dream.

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.”

Sir Hilary was among seven distinguished persons honoured. Other honourees include 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 organiser, 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.




Related News

Martin Luther King Award for Sir Hilary and Dr Fauci

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Notes to the Editor

For more about Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, visit:

To learn more about the National Action Network (NAN), go to:


About The UWI

For over 70 years The University of the West Indies (The UWI) has provided service and leadership to the Caribbean region and wider world. The UWI has evolved from a university college of London in Jamaica with 33 medical students in 1948 to an internationally respected, regional university with near 50,000 students and five campuses: Mona in Jamaica, St. Augustine in Trinidad and Tobago, Cave Hill in Barbados, Five Islands in Antigua and Barbuda and an Open Campus. As part of its robust globalization agenda, The UWI has established partnering centres with universities in North America, Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe including the State University of New York (SUNY)-UWI Center for Leadership and Sustainable Development; the Canada-Caribbean Institute with Brock University; the Strategic Alliance for Hemispheric Development with Universidad de los Andes (UNIANDES); The UWI-China Institute of Information Technology, the University of Lagos (UNILAG)-UWI Institute of African and Diaspora Studies; the Institute for Global African Affairs with the University of Johannesburg (UJ); The UWI-University of Havana Centre for Sustainable Development; The UWI-Coventry Institute for Industry-Academic Partnership with the University of Coventry and the Glasgow-Caribbean Centre for Development Research with the University of Glasgow.

The UWI offers over 800 certificate, diploma, undergraduate and postgraduate degree options in Food & Agriculture, Engineering, Humanities & Education, Law, Medical Sciences, Science & Technology, Social Sciences and Sport. 

As the region’s premier research academy, The UWI’s foremost objective is driving the growth and development of the regional economy. The world’s most reputable ranking agency, Times Higher Education, has ranked The UWI among the top 600 universities in the world for 2019 and 2020, and the 40 best universities in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2018 and 2019, then top 20 in 2020. The UWI has been the only Caribbean-based university to make the prestigious lists.  For more, visit


(Please note that the proper name of the university is The University of the West Indies, inclusive of the “The”, hence The UWI.)