July 28, 2006
Emancipation Remembrance

On Emancipation Day, 2006, the people and the nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, find ourselves in a quandary. In relation to government policy, many things are happening – some make us feel giddy with pleasure, others make us worried, fearful and uneasy. In the community, we celebrate our festivals like Carnival, the 50 years of the melodious Kingstown Chorale, the 40 years of the National Youth Council and other youth accomplishments, while we wonder about how bananas are doing, our uncontrolled appetite for such things are cement and personal vehicles with high gas consumption, while we try to forget the rumbling volcano of emotional illiteracy and crude, violent reactions among our people.{{more}}


On Emancipation Day 2006, we face our uncertainty without looking into our history as persons and as a community. It will pay us to remember, or to be reminded of where we came from, and who we are. In 1838, on August 1, the first full Emancipation Day, we were not a community. Tyler, the then Governor, laid it out in his lecture to the slaves:

After the 1st of August, your masters cannot lawfully turn you away from the estate for one year if you are willing to work … Remember, the land you cultivate, and the houses you occupy are his, and not yours, … The 1st of August next will be a great and glorious day, a day upon which your masters have made you all as free as themselves.

On August 1, 1838 in SVG there was a small class of masters who received reparations for our bondage. There was a larger class of estate servants, and another group in between; and there was also the Carib and Garifuna core. The servants had no houses of their own! Remember that and give thanks. Can you see in your mind, the great pilgrimage that we have made as persons, and as a people? They, our parents were able to handle their quandary.


On Emancipation Day 2006, let us confirm that we have another pilgrimage to undertake, another reconstruction to complete, another bondage to overthrow. Governor Tyler spoke in 1838, as if emancipation was a great gift from above that the queen and the slave owners were handing out. The black slaves confirmed on the other hand that emancipation was indeed a gift from above, from above the queen, from God. We can take liberties with the words of the poet to say in faith with our foreparents:

By God, and my strong black hand

I’m going to build this freedom land.

Our foreparents have brought us here through a fierce and fiery pilgrimage that has not yet been fully unfolded to us. Emancipation Day is for us to remember. A day to demand our Reparation, for we now have to face our challenges and our dragons, and see our road ahead, whether dimly or clearly. Emancipation is not just about a Remembrance Day Parade with Governor Tyler, it is about forging ahead to build this freedom land.