Tree Planting Ceremony Commemorating the 1968 Student March

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From Left to Right: Shani Roper, Prof Rupert Lewis, Prof Kathleen Monteith, Prof Webber, Dr Suzanne Francis Brown, Prof Claremont Kirton, Mrs Lois Kirton, Miss Danielle Mullings, Prof Mark Figueroa, Prof Warner Lewis, Mr Kirk Miller and Miss Samantha Campbell

Placed in a triangular formation, on the northwestern section of the chapel lawns, the top right of Queen’s Way, are three lignum vitae trees, which serve to commemorate the significant activism of the student population in what came to be known as the Rodney Riots of 1968, which began as a peaceful march protesting a government ban on UWI lecturer, Guyanese historian and activist, Walter Rodney.

Prof Webber and Dr Francis-Brown planting one of the trees

Last Thursday, March 17, 2022, at 11:30 am, the UWI Museum team and several members of the UWI community gathered to execute this landmark event and reflect on the events of the student protest. Present were a small number of alumni who participated in the 1968 March, including Prof. Emeritus Rupert Lewis, Mr Keith Miller, Prof. Claremont Kirton and Mrs. Lois Kirton and Prof. Mark Figueroa (also Honorary Research Fellow, UWI Museum). Also in attendance was Prof Dale Webber, Mona Campus Principal, outgoing Guild President Miss Danielle Mullings and Prof Kathleen Monteith, from the Department of History, and Prof. Maureen Warner Lewis (UWI alum. and wife of Prof. R. Lewis). In her opening remarks, Dr Suzanne Francis-Brown, Founding Curator of UWI Museum, Curator of Confrontations Exhibitions and Honorary Research Fellow (UWI Museum), reflected on the series of programs and activities, labelled UWI & the 1960s which culminated in the Confrontations Exhibition. A visitor to the exhibit, Mr George Lopez, suggested that UWI should plant a tree in honor of the protest. Subsequently, Dr Francis-Brown proposed that a group of trees be planted that at the top of Queen’s Way where the march began on the morning of October 16, 1968 as a permanent commemoration of this significant student engagement.

Dr Suzanne Francis-Brown opening remarks
Danielle Mullings, Shani Roper and Prof Mark Figueroa planting and watering one of the trees
From left to right Mr Keith Miller, Prof. Em. Rupert Lewis, Mrs Lois Kirton, Prof Claremont Kirton and Prof Mark Figueroa

Prof Lewis, Prof Kirton and Prof Figueroa provided reflections on their experiences, and that of non-Jamaican students as well as the impact of the Rodney Riots.

At a later date a sign will be mounted with a brief narration of the significance of the trees at the site.

The Museum expresses its sincere appreciation to the UWI alumni from the 1960s and the support received from Mr Morgan and his team from Estates Management.

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