Monday, August 5, 2013 at 6:17 AM
I’ve always been dismayed by the fact that Caribbean natives can cite dates and facts about the emancipation of American slaves but are clueless about the emancipation of our own enslaved ancestors.
And my dismay is compounded by the fact that the predominantly White leaders of the United States have never even deemed this historic event in American history worthy of commemoration. Whereas the predominantly Black leaders of the Caribbean deemed it so significant in the annals of our history that they actually established a national holiday to commemorate Emancipation Day.
Granted, it was over 150 years after abolition before Trinidad and Tobago became the first independent nation to do so in 1985.
In fact, the British Parliament passed The Slavery Abolition Act, which abolished slavery throughout the British colonies, on 24 August 1833. However, the Act did not come into force until 1 August 1834, which is why we purportedly observe Emancipation Day on the first Monday in August.
But our leaders have never shown any greater reverence for the occasion this holiday commemorates than they have for any of the innocuous bank holidays we inherited from our colonial masters. Therefore, it’s no wonder our people are so ignorant in this respect.
Frankly, for years I have felt rather like John the Baptist entreating government officials in all CARICOM countries to mark Emancipation Day with at least an official moment of silence (before we all rush off to the beach).
This is why I am so heartened by the fact that several countries are planning commemorative ceremonies this year.
And in this regard, I would especially like to commend David Bowen, Director of Culture in my mother country of the Turks and Caicos Islands. Because a few years ago he revived our tradition of Emancipation Day celebrations (in this British Overseas Territory) by directing our Youth Development Group in an invigorating and enlightening performance of history, dance, and song.
Our enslaved ancestors must be proud!