Remembering Dr. Robert Peter Carr:
February 23, 1963 - May 10, 2011
His Legacy Lives on
Today marks a year since our Founder, Dr. Robert Carr suddenly passed away. In observation of his passing, the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC) has gathered and here presents some of the many reflections that have come in to us from our partners and members.
Human Rights Lawyer, AIDS Action Foundation, St .Lucia
Robert continues to be my inspiration and a great source of strength. Though I know that there will not be a string of email from him proposing innovative strategies to promote the human rights of persons particularly in the Caribbean region, he left us with such a clear sense of direction and example of true commitment, that we continue and will persevere under his extraordinary guidance in the struggle for human rights. Robert will always be present for me, as my awe of what he was able to accomplish I do not believe will ever fade.
Thank you to the Carr family for giving us such an inspirational and charismatic pioneer. His legacy will be with us his CVC family always.
Dr. Michel de Groulard
UNAIDS, Trinidad & Tobago
In my work at UNAIDS, over the past year, the legacy of Robert has been guiding me every day in ensuring that the human rights and social justice agenda is central to the AIDS response, be it in preventing new infections or providing treatment care and support to those who need it.
Miss Miriam Edwards
Robert showed us very clearly that the high level academic thinking around protecting rights of the most vulnerable is useless if it is not translated, at the same time, into concrete and practical action at the grassroots level, including by providing effective support to community groups to deliver on the needed social transformation.
This is only a portion of the legacy, as bringing effectively the voice of the voiceless to the movement needs the work of many more of us to ensure the full legacy.
Co-Chair, Caribbean Sex Worker Coalition, Guyana
Robert helped to make me the sex worker activist that I am today. He helped me to start the Caribbean Sex Work Coalition and the Guyana Sex Work Coalition.
Mr Craig Rijkaard
I am doing everything that I can to make sure that as sex workers, we have a voice at every single table possible. We will not turn back but we will continue insisting on our rights anytime and every time possible. I continuously hear and repeat Robert’s “sex workers’ rights are human rights” mantra. l will not stop until the laws that prevent sex work in the region are revoked. Robert will continue to live in my heart.
Executive Director, Antiguan Resilience Collective (ARC), Antigua
I only met Robert Carr in person once and it was at the International AIDS Conference 2010 in Vienna. I was struck by his energy as he moved from one session to another. He was zealous in getting and sharing information and was very excited about us as Caribbean delegates. He encouraged us to ensure we participate fully in the presentations by sharing our experiences/best practices and network with colleagues from the various countries.
Mrs Dona DaCosta Martinez
Since then I have had reason to examine his work and contribution to the Caribbean region. Since his death this has propelled me to make my contribution to the work which he has started. Robert lobbied for the region big time. He championed the rights of populations that have been always overlooked and allowed them a space to express themselves.
He encouraged the development of indigenous groups such as the one I manage. Today I am proudly associated with the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC) which was his brain child and because of that I feel so deeply honoured to be benefitting from his legacy. We at the Antiguan Resilience Collective (ARC) mourn his loss but vow to continue his work with marginalized groups.
Executive Director, Family Planning Association of Trinidad and Tobago (FPATT), Trinidad and Tobago
We are grateful that Robert came into our lives at the time that he did. His understanding and mastery of the sexual rights concerns of our Caribbean sub-region has brought our work to the attention of many allies. It is important that we continue the important advocacy work that he begun, or we would have allowed his legacy to die with him.
Mr Steeve Laguerre
In our efforts to keep Robert’s legacy alive, last year the Family Planning Association of Trinidad
and Tobago (FPATT) collaborated with the Coalition Advocating for the Inclusion of Sexual
Orientation (CAISO) and submitted a written evaluation of the state’s human rights record to
the Human Rights Council, which became part of the 12th Session of the Universal Periodic
We recognise that Robert wished to achieve much more through his advocacy on sexual
rights, and his incessant and fearless championing of issues relating to the stigma experienced
by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and people living with HIV. His legacy is what inspired our action and commitment in these important areas as we continue to remember him as someone who stood up for the voiceless, the invisible, and those often overlooked by most and living on the margins of society.
Executive Director, SEROvie, Haiti
Robert Carr will remain a great champion within the Caribbean. He gave me his time and knowledge to help advance the HIV and AIDS cause in Haiti, often during our conversations he kept on repeating “Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings.” His discourses forced me and my organization to view differently the way we were providing the services to our beneficiaries.
Mrs Noelle Ingledew
He helped me develop a different approach with members of the government and civil society dealing with discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. His work for advancing human rights and issues facing vulnerable communities throughout the Caribbean is immense and we need to finish it.
Chair, Jamaica AIDS Support For life, Jamaica
The first thing that comes to mind as I think about Robert is human dignity and the way in which he constantly looked out not only for the rights of others, but also the ways in which he could make them realise their potential.
Mr Joel Simpson
My first encounter with Robert was at the interview in 200 6for the Communication for Social and Behaviour Change Masters programme. I was nervous, but he quickly put me at ease as I babbled about my interest in the history of HIV and the intersection with human rights. There was something about Robert that was instantly loveable and warm.
Robert the lecturer was an alchemist as I was to discover over the years as he continued to transform my interest into a passion, moving from mousy ‘armchair rights discussions’ to more active participation on the frontlines. Today, as I chair the Jamaica AIDS Support for Life, my very presence stands testimony to his unique ability to transform a spark of interest into outright passion. He was an outstanding individual who recognized the basic rights and dignity of others, and set an example we would do well to follow.
Co-Chair, Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD), Guyana
It feels surreal that it’s already the first anniversary of Robert’s death. It seems like just yesterday we got the awful news that our friend, champion and colleague, Dr. Robert Carr, had passed away. I guess it’s still ‘fresh’ to me because there’s a part of Robert that never left for me; a part of him that will always be with me.
Mrs. Yvonne Artis
Those of us who were so fortunate to work with Robert have learnt so much from this great man. He was a tireless and fearless advocate for the rights and dignity of all, but especially stigmatized groups who are often forgotten and sometimes deliberately neglected. As an activist, professional and academic, Robert brought everything to the table. Our mutual friend, Dr. Michel de Groulard, described him aptly in a recent conversation we had reminiscing about Robert. He could engage with the groups on the ground and then in a split second captivate the highest technocrats, professionals or politicians.
He had this amazing ability to reach people at any level. Michel and I both agreed at the end of our chat that there is no one else like Robert, and his passing is a huge, irreplaceable lost to social justice movements regionally and globally. I will never forget Robert and the great lessons he taught me. His legacy lives on through the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC) and the local, regional and international movements which he helped to shape and build. Robert will always be a part of me, and for that I am eternally grateful. Rest in peace, great teacher, champion, friend. Forever in our hearts.
Human Rights Activist, Zierikze, Holland
Robert has impacted my life in more ways than one and I will never forget him. One of the main and unforgettable times was when I was getting married. He supported me as a brother would. As he drove me to the ceremony, he consoled me when I was nervous. He made me feel confident and secure. Not many other men would have done this.
Ms. Rachel S. Charles
But more than anything else, he allowed me to stand up for what I believe in as a gay activist. Not to back down; to stand up and speak out against any inhumane actions against any LGBT issues. I am now fearless and have been able to do this in local and international spaces.
Network Administrator, Helping Our People Live Productive Lives, Grenada
I met Robert at a human rights meeting about 7 years ago. I think that it was held in Trinidad but right now I am not able to remember exactly. What I do remember from that time though is that Robert was kind, gentle and cared for humanity. He listened to me and made me feel that my story was important and my experiences relevant. From that time on he was always encouraging me and others to be strong and not give up.
Dr. John Waters
Robert and I worked very hard to bring what is now called the Caribbean Treatment Action Group (CTAG) to the region. This group is designed to (1) promote treatment preparedness and access to most –at-risk-populations and (b) advocate for the rights of people living with and affected by HIV throughout the Caribbean. That was a big success for us. He was a true Champion. Social Justice was his life.
There are some secrets that Robert taught me. These are: Take time to build partnerships; respect the rights of others and never fear; read your country’s constitution and find out what is or isn't in it with regards to legislation, polices and laws; always know your issues.
I am doing exactly that as I am working with the Regional Stigma and Discrimination Unit (RSDU) to ensure that we contribute to the reduce and eliminate stigma and discrimination levied against PLHIV and all vulnerable groups. Connected to that is the fact that I have now decided to pursue a degree in Human Rights Law.
Co-Chair, Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition, Dominican Republic
Robert Carr was very concerned about how social marginalization affects people’s opportunities and self worth; how negative attitudes and judgment leveled at those who express their sexuality differently, crushes their humanity and drives their behaviours underground.
Mrs Suzette Moses Burton
With a team of committed and visionary individuals, we have crafted a peer education training grounded in a sexual health approach which uses psycho-educational and experiential methodologies based on principles of positive sexuality, autonomy, justice, and pleasure.
When men who have sex with men (MSM), transgenders, sex workers, and other populations who experience intense stigma and discrimination undergo this sex positive training, they unlearn the hate, and learn love. I think Robert would have approved of this.
Manager, National HIV/AIDS Programme, St. Maarten
Hard as I try I cannot remember when or how I met Robert, but I am pretty sure Ian had something to do with it (chuckle). I do remember though how awe struck I was by his intelligence and even more so by his humility. That one with so much wisdom, could be so un-assuming in this field was not just a first for me, but over the years I have come to realise is a true rarity. I've never really become "friends" with the people with whom I've worked in HIV over the past 2 decades. I've generally found that the work keeps us so consumed to the point of obsession that we seldom find time to simply converse and ‘get to know people.’ Robert however changed that for me.
It was during one of my many meetings in Jamaica and I'm not even sure how it happened, but I ended up accepting his invitation to “come home” with him. During the drive we talked about so many things outside of HIV, including, what turned out to be our shared sentiment that it is a pity that we don't make or take the time to “get to know our colleagues" as individuals and people instead of just seeing them as colleagues. As we got to his home and he proudly introduced me to his parents. I understood in that moment how such a brilliant man could be so humble and I promised him that as often as I could, I would make time to "get to know him better."
I considered Robert, not just a colleague, but a friend. We didn't see each other as often as we could have, but when we did it was always special because we made time for each other. We often chastised each other for "working too hard" and needing to make time for ourselves and I guess he like me, felt that there was time enough for that when we got older, but for now, we just had to "Keep at it."
My heart broke, as it only ever had once before, when I heard of Robert's passing; in fact I still cry to think about him, his passion, his wisdom, the tremendous mark he left on the landscape of this region's battle with HIV and for the rights of ALL people. That I will never see him again, still hasn't truly sunk in, even after a year and so many opportunities where we would have met were he still with us.
I recently received an email from his parents that reminded me yet again why Robert was so special, for greatness begets greatness and as we say in the Caribbean "Goat doh make sheep." Robert I miss you and know that you still watch over us, nudging us to push ourselves just a little but harder, to keep on going when we would rather just give up, as we are now compelled to ensure that your legacy is not forgotten or left behind and that the people you loved and served so selflessly will always have a voice, even if yours was silenced so unexpectedly. We are still here to "Give them HELL and bring an end to the ‘Bull Shit’!”