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Emancipation beyond the month of August

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It is customary for us as Vincentians, and deservedly so, to get that extra hype about Emancipation during the month of August.

Some of us will choose to change our mode of dress or even our shades to reflect different colours which may appear to dye us into our ancestry, or we at times will even go the distance to ensure that even our beards are grown to lengths which reflect the struggle. {{more}}Personally, I simply remove my hand and neck chains which really do not feel right being worn coming close to July 31. But isn’t emancipation and freedom much more than this? Is it just a celebration in the month of August?

These questions could not have been more appropriately placed than to be asked only a few days after the close of “Emancipation Month”, and a week and some since the United Nations celebrated its International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition on August 23, 2005.

Sincere commendation must be given to the Ministry of Tourism and Culture for yet another year ensuring that the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines remember the struggles which our fore parents would have endured to secure our physical freedom. These efforts go squarely into connecting us with our past which we dare not forget.

However, there is another dimension to freedom. While on the one hand, we must never get tired of being reflective, we must at the same time use the word freedom in assisting us to embrace our present times.

Whilst it will take a thorough study of our society to determine the many aspects of our present day living which still lingers in a past of slavery, a more apparent, yet still a very hidden aspect of our freedom which we fail to protect involves the rights of workers. For far too long have workers in our country’s Private Sector and particularly those who have not attained a substantial degree of formal qualification have had to settle for less.

Can you imagine that in 2005 there is still evidence that there are workers who are being told that if they join a Trade Union they will be sent home? Yet we speak of emancipation and freedom. Emancipation is not a relative term.

Condoning such behavior by the high-handed shows that we have not taken the necessary time to sufficiently build on the achievements of 1834. Our fore parents have done for us, we need not only to remember them but to do for ourselves.

Even more apparent to the candid eye is the whole body of discrimination in employment issues which go unreported, but are neatly tucked away in the bushy backyards of our society.

Sexual harassment at the work place is one such issue, and one which is very much still kept under much “hush hush”. It seems that present trends tend to cast more of a stigma on the person being harassed and wanting to speak out, than on the one who intentionally set out to destroy an innocent individual’s self esteem through unwanted advances. There is however legal redress which can be sought for such, for when we fail to address these matters we in turn fail in all respects to nurture the freedom earned over a century and a half ago.

On reflection, as time passes, for certain we will go further and further away from the date of our formal Emancipation from physical slavery in 1834.

As a people we must not see emancipation as a date in the past, but as an achievement which if not properly guarded, carefully nurtured and deeply cherished would become a lost fortune.

As our civilization evolves we will be pressed to adopt new and creative ways of protecting our freedom.

Regardless of the effort needed, we must ensure at all cost that freedom strives among us as a people, for it is only then that we will be able to unleash our fullest God given potential.

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