Caribbean: Emancipation Day

Today is Emancipation Day. On August 1, one hundred and seventy three years ago, freedom from slavery was won in the Caribbean – and Caribbean bloggers still have a lot to say about it…

Jamaican blogger Geoffrey Philp sets the tone by quoting one of the most beloved lines from reggae icon Bob Marley:

“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery/ None but ourselves can free our minds.” ~ Lyrics from Bob Marley's ‘Redemption Song’ taken from a speech by the Hon. Marcus Mosiah Garvey.”

Abeni, from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, thinks it noteworthy that “at least we no longer celebrate the holiday the first Monday in August to avoid breaking up the week. We have reverted to recognising the original day…at least we now say Emancipation Day holiday and not August Monday.” But she still has concerns:

“Sometimes, I feel that we can safely cancel this holiday because generally we don't have a collective consciousness about the significance of the day. For the most part it is just another holiday, another day to lime without any serious reflection or thanksgiving. It's a pity really, but when one is so far removed from the actual horrors of slavery and not nurtured in your history then it's not surprising at all.”

Blooging from Barbados, Cheese on Bread agrees:

“It's a time to reflect on how far we've come as a nation and how far we still have to go. I fear we still have a lot of emancipating to do.”

Thebookmann, writing from Trinidad and Tobago, encourages people to visit the abolishment of slavery exhibition at the country's National Museum, while fellow Trinbagonian blogger Elspeth Duncan at Now is Wow says:

“I didn't realise T & T was the first country in the world to declare a national holiday commemorating the abolition of slavery. Slavery still exists though. On Emancipation Day I tend to think of what I would ‘free’ or let go of in my own life.”

The Antilles blog puts a literary spin on the observance by remembering that August 1st is also “the anniversary of the launch of the original Caribbean Review of Books, first published sixteen years ago from the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies, while suggests a mouth-watering menu with which to mark the occasion.

But perhaps Abeni summarizes it best by saying:

“I think the challenge is to do something meaningful with the day. Rallies and exhibitions are fine but it must go beyond that and get to a point where the little children will have an understanding of why there is an Aug 1. Maybe even in the same way the Garifuna people of Belize do pilgrimages to St Vincent there can be linkages with West African countries. Many people hate to talk about slavery but it did happen and the race survived. Right there we have a lot to celebrate.”


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