Strengthen emancipation by linkages
The Emancipation Day activities have not had, in terms of time available, such an opportune time for expression as in 2020. The cancellation of Carnival and the shifting of the two-day Carnival Monday/Tuesday holidays to next Monday and Tuesday have left an extended four-day holiday period available.
Unfortunately the very circumstances which forced the cancellation of Vincy Mas 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic, have themselves constrained the organising of activities for a host of logistical and financial reasons. Above all, even if grand plans had been made, the restrictions on public gatherings would have militated against any large-scale activities, had those been in the plans. It is nevertheless heartening to note that civil society organisations, associated with the cause are still pressing ahead with some activities with the support of the Ministry of Culture.
Emancipation Day activities locally have had their highs and lows but it is true to say that, for such a significant chapter in our history, not enough attention is paid to it as one of the most important milestones in our history. We can debate on the causes of this unfortunate deterioration, but it is even more important to address it and to attempt to rectify it. How can we make it more central to our thrust for national development?
One possible approach is to seek to establish linkages with occasions of a similar nature in our history. Our population is predominantly of African origin so clearly there is synergy with African Liberation Day and the Reparations initiative. In terms of our historical development, Emancipation is part of the process of national liberation and thus has correlation with the Garifuna fight for national liberation and thus National Heroes Day leading up of course to our achievement of national Independence in October 1979. Again our descendants of Indian origin have been developing activities around Indian Arrival day, is there not some opportunity here to make connections?
An approach like this does not have to wait on government for national parameters have already been established. What is called for is initiative on the part of civil society organisations and support from a beefed-up Ministry of Culture offering financial and organisational support. The goal of reparations, not just for people of African descent but for genocide against the Kalinago and Garifuna people, as well as the indignities and suffering endured by Indian “indentured servants” must always be borne in mind in such an ambitious undertaking.
It is a formidable but necessary challenge, but one that we who emerged from the horrors of slavery, genocide and colonial rule are perfectly capable of executing. Why not begin now?