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Emancipation 1

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Emancipation is what this Round Table series of midweek commentaries is about.{{more}} Now, some discussion circles turn out to consist of persons saying “yes, yes” to one another, consolidating their fixed opinions. The writer Al T Tim Daisy has this to say about such round table talkers: “Blessed are those who speak in circles, they shall be called wheels” (Wheels simply spin while others make use of their spin to get their way ahead).

This Round Table will ask questions, make statements, invite reflection, confrontation and controversy, so that our circle/ table can hammer out a more potent and finished position to which we might or might not all say “Yes, true” and move from there to action. Round Table talk seeks to produce emancipation/ salvation. John’s gospel in the NT, is in part a series of such conversations.

Last week, we paid tribute to our emancipation from colonial slavery in 1834 -1838 and during August we will continue the festival of freedom. Let me say this upfront:

“Without memorialisation we cannot commemorate any condition”.

I would estimate that 80% of us live and move on a piece of land which had slaves tied to it, but that fact does not cross our mind or stir our imagination. The truth seems to be that we are too “emancipated” from slavery to find any meaning when we commemorate our freedom from it! We are literally at a loss.

A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

Earlier last month, and within the space of one week, two road users had reason to “buss me up”. This is what happened. I was driving along and they were just behind or in one case, nearly alongside me, when I turned off the road on their side without giving any indication that I was about to do so. They took evasive action or I could have hit and hurt them badly. Then they spoke. They stung my self-respect and burned my ears with their livid reproach. I am glad that you did so, Sailor and Alfie.

Now, if they had simply protected themselves, had shaken their heads and sucked their teeth, muttering at the old man who is a damned nuisance on the road, I would not have had a clue that I had been guilty of reckless driving – twice in a week. I would quite likely have done it again a couple days later… but their stinging rebukes, one so soon after the other, made me check myself. All now so, I still feel my shame, my guilt and my appreciation at their criticisms. I watch my driving more.

We all need to have significant events driven into our minds and memories so that we can construct our conduct usefully around them, or we are lost and dangerous.

And so it was that 15 or more years ago, when non-government organizations (NGOs) led the emancipation festivals, the conclusion we came to was this: “We need a simple reliable document of the experience of slavery so that, by contrast, we can discern and outline the value of emancipation”. As stated earlier, unless we memorialize our historical events, we cannot commemorate them with meaning.

Projects Promotions did lead the way and in 2004 it published a 62-page booklet:

“WE Want to Become WISE: A reading book on transatlantic slavery for classroom, home and community”.

It was I who helped to pull the material together with the support of many persons – individual and corporate. The next issues of Round Table may refer to extracts from “WISE,” as we reflect on our Emancipation from colonial slavery.

Colonial slavery was a “man-made” economic, political and cultural system. It was a government programme. Kings and Queens in Europe governed and organized it. Their military, mariners, merchants, members of Parliament and missionaries flourished with slavery, while our first citizens perished and Africans followed. A very useful presentation on the economics of the transatlantic triangle is still Eric Williams’ “Capitalism and Slavery”. Round Table will recommend other texts in forthcoming issues.

The closing words of the Projects Promotions’ booklet “WISE” are worth pondering.

Reading the story of our past commands us to open a new conversation with our future. (WISE p.61)

QUIZ

Earn a copy of “We want to Become WISE…” by being the first person whose correct answers to these questions are emailed to [email protected] this week.

Q: 1 Name one woman slave leader in SVG and say what nation or people she came from in West Africa.

Q: 2 Name one missionary during slavery who ended up in Kingstown jail for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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