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Emancipation reflections – Part 1

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From a hymn arranged by Mrs Cecile Harry, this line makes me think. “Your Right Hand good Lord is the reason for my calypso”. God and calypso are connected here as cause and effect, rationale and result. Strange thought or perhaps, emancipated thinking. The idea that comes across is that our Caribbean songs for justice and our psalms of thanks, praise and protest are inspired by the mighty acts of God/Yahweh on our behalf.{{more}} This unusual trend of thought is not so unusual for instance, when they reflected on their own emancipation and class struggles, the brother and sister team of Miriam and Moses declared; “I will sing to the Lord/Yahweh….. (Whose) Right Hand shattered the enemy”. (Exodus 15: 1.6) For them, God/Yahweh, was the one who turned around their downtrodden destiny, particularly at the Sea of Reeds (Yam Suph) Exod 14.

Prescod’s right hand

Between the military Power House and the Mother who provides and nurtures, the late brother, Patrick Prescod, proclaimed “The Right Hand of God” to be a community building force. In his hymn, tastily arranged by the Jamaican Noel Dexter, power as coercion, appear in only one verse (3). Even so, that violence does not strike out at persons, but targets the sins like hatred, greed, lust and injustice. In fact, when I read the lyrics, I see and hear the mind of God reaching out to Caribbean peoples to commit to a moral and spiritual integration movement. Prescod does not portray a “commandist” God who stones his demands at us; rather he testifies to a more interactionist God, in the midst of us, lifting, monitoring, cultivating, persuading, as well as blasting injustice away. In a sense, what Prescod’s verse does is to incline us to join hands with one another in a covenant with the Right Hand of God. He locates God’s Right Hand as a power and a grace that is at work inside us, among us and above/around us. Thus, without writing a theology tract, Patrick Prescod, during the period when there was a stirring of spiritual insurgency among some Christians, opened a Caribbean revelation of the heart of God in Jesus Christ. He was part of a cohort of Caribbean prophets, many of whom have died, including Idris Hamid, Roy Neehall, Robert Cuthbert, Nita Barrow, David Mitchell, Michael Ramcharon, and Alan Kirton. Their lives were guided by the Right Hand of God/Caribbean spirit.

Reigniting emancipation

Emancipation, like all revolutionary effort, including the Christian movement, is always and everywhere under threat of backing back and taking a side road. For one thing, every movement for progress is a combination of different forces and groups being part of the forward movement, but they do not remain united. Contradictions of one kind or another ditch the road and distort the progress of emancipation. What then are we to do about our distorted and unfinished emancipation? This is how I see it from here.

In our region, first of all, can we agree broadly on what are the unfinished tasks of our Caribbean emancipation mission? Secondly, should we not unite our effort under a credible national movement and an effective regional apparatus? Not just Caricom or its divisive national governments/committees, something broader and more intentional is needed, not true? If we were to start grappling with these two large minimum tasks, we would reignite our emancipation fires. Let us look at our unfinished emancipation programme among us, in our societies. A short list would include what I call “material inequity”. The British Emancipation Act was passed through their Parliament with royally enforced inequity. The planters (along with others) who extorted wealth from the system got a bonus payment, on top of the wealth they extorted. They did not return the lands to the Callinago and Garifuna people. They kept it and committed our freedom fighters to “Death Row” on Balliceaux. The former slaves and the defenders of the nation got…. what? Emancipation was the institution that made unequal wealth and opportunity and extreme exploitation seem natural and God given, and we have continued in that vein in our region. We have to emancipate ourselves and resolve that contradiction.

Two other matters in our emancipation programme which I will just mention are 1) Black inferiority leading to be cannibalism, and 2) accumulated dominion on the building and heaping up of power and wealth from us overseas continuing and increasing since Emancipation. This is more than “white supremacy or imperialism,” as some afrocentric thinkers calls it.

We need a social liberation movement and apparatus to make our emancipation from genocide, enslavement and pillage real. What do you think of CARICOM as the emancipation apparatus? Where would you stand when the call comes for us to engage in freeing our real future, our Caribbean spring-time, away from unfair material deprivation, block inferiority and continuing dominion? I want to stand with you.

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