Caribbean: Emancipate Yourselves

Redemption Song Statue, Emancipation Park, JamaicaToday is Emancipation Day in many West Indian territories – the day that effectively celebrates the end of slavery, when all slaves were legally declared free. One hundred and seventy odd years later, a few Caribbean bloggers pay tribute to their forefathers, whose sacrifice has earned them their freedom today…

Montego Bay Day By Day quotes an excerpt from The Road to Freedom by Tanesha Ramdanie, which describes the reaction to the historical pronouncement:

Tears of joy flowed incessantly, while shouts of freedom rang from the mountain tops and the plains, from the men, women and children, who had learnt that they were finally free of the oppressive social and economic system in which they were treated as less than human.

…while Gallimaufry quotes a popular Barbadian folk song which, when in 1838 the system of apprenticeship was abolished and true freedom finally took hold, inspired thousands of former slaves to take to the streets singing its refrain:

Lick and lock-up done wid,
Hurrah for Jin-Jin!
Lick and lock-up done wid,
Hurrah for Jin-Jin!

God bless de Queen fuh set we free
Hurrah for Jin-Jin!
Now lick and lock-up done wid,
Hurrah for Jin-Jin!

“Jin-Jin” refers to Queen Victoria and the words of that song are engraved on the side of the Emancipation Statue in honour of Bussa – a slave who led the longest revolt against plantation owners in Barbados and who died a hero in battle.

Another Barbadian blogger, Dennis Jones, describes the flurry of activity in Bridgetown in anticipation of the event:

The Esplanade was already set up and decked ready for celebrations later in the day. Amongst those already milling around for these, I saw many Rastas, or at least people with dreadlocks and tied heads; they were equally numbered with people who were dressed in west African style clothes. Each group was outnumbered by vendors at this early stage, as they set up and started cooking: the smell of the fish fritters was really hard to resist…

But he adds:

I'll be very surprised if I hear many words about emancipation during the day, except during the radio or TV broadcasts related to the day's celebrations, and that strikes me as sad. For most of us there is nothing august about this day–nothing majestic, dignified, or grand. It is very ordinary. Maybe freedom has made us all complacent about what bondage really represented. Many black people only focus on the slave heritage imposed on their ancestors by Europeans and so see it as a white-on-black “crime”, and know little or nothing about the long history of slavery…

So, while we can loll around complacently with the freedom that we now have, we ought to get sight of its absence in many, many places. Remember that slavery is an international injustice, that has racial and ethnic aspects far removed from black-white relations.

Meanwhile, Discover TnT Blog publishes a list of events that are being hosted in honour of Emancipation Day in Trinidad and Tobago and Abeni from St. Vincent and the Grenadines quotes Bob Marley and Maya Angelou to make her point about why the occasion is still an important one to celebrate.


  • the thinker

    Are we really emanciapated?? Come to think of it some of us still have the slave mentality…always someone to push them and tell them what to do…so i would like to think the chains and bonds are far more mental and emotional rather than physical


    Indeed,and undoubtedly,mental slavery is extremely egregious in many of the Caribbean islands,and this has severely impacted on the political,economic, and social development of the region as a whole.Hence,the time for the emancipation of the mind is now.

  • nanci

    you really think slavery is over look around Barbados and see slavery is up and running, when rich people could come in the country and buy up all the beach properties and put up big boulders and signs and guard dogs, when companies could pay 4 dollars an hour and prices keep going up, and your MP miss mia mottley said the country is doing good, you expect slavery is really abolish? bajans should not vote unless the members who are there to represent them do something for them first, it is high time things turn around, tell them action first and voting after, that way you will get what you cast your vote for, not vote first and no action.Ms Mottley should be fighting to get more schools and better conditions in all sectors of government, not just sit back and be complacent.

  • nanci

    emancipation my foot, that’s another way of sugar coating the outrageous things great Britain treated people from the Caribbean.The day should be renamed to anticipated emancipation.

  • Goldie Simpson

    Emancipation, I really do not know. A big strong black man, with the profile of a stud, does that represent emancipation. Such a man, on a plantation would use his potency to keep the slave population well supplied with strong youths.
    We have simply exchanged one set of slave masters for another. You think extortion started in the bus park in Spanish Town, no!!!, there are different forms of slavery in our little Paradise!!!

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