Remembering the long, hard struggle
July 29, 2005
Remembering the long, hard struggle

From Sunday, July 31, a month long celebration of activities marks Emancipation observances here.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines has its record of conquest, colonisation, slavery, emancipation, neo-colonialism, and Independence.

The nation’s history has its periods of mystery and intrigue. The final chapter has not been written, but some punctuation marks decorate that era.{{more}}

Residents in other Caribbean nations have different experiences of the practice of slavery and indeed emancipation. Fortunately St. Vincent and the Grenadines was not under rigid enslavement for any length of time.

Whatever the factors that contributed to that legacy, St. Vincent and the Grenadines resisted foreign invaders from as early as regional records have documented.

The fact that Joseph Chatoyer was declared this country’s first National Hero is perhaps significant of the nation’s anti-colonial struggle.

Stories abound of SVG’s love for freedom, and its citizens combined in whatever form to ensure that their indigenous culture was never replaced by any outside elements.

There is a feeling of independence that Vincentians seem to have been blessed with, and it is difficult to erase it from the Vincentian psyche.

Even though symbols of African heritage may not be entrenched in the Vincentian life style, there is every sign that Vincentians are a freedom loving people. Their history has defined that image.

Emancipation exposes aspects of African culture and heritage that the region will be challenged to take a serious look at.

Slavery in any form was bad. Emancipation was seen as a matter of course, but there was also the question of the Apprenticeship period. That in effect was slavery after slavery.

That four-year period from 1834 to 1838, was further belittlement of whatever remnants of pride and dignity that were supposed to have been the preserves of any people.

But slavery was intended to be such a demoralising influence that it hardly catered for the total freedom of the individual.

Legacies of that enslavement still control the minds of those descendants. It has often been touted that it was owing to humanitarian reasons that the scourge of slavery was brought to an end. Other evidence proves that it had become such an economic burden that eventually, the lid had to be lifted on the practice of slavery. In any case, it was costly for plantation owners to continue to be responsible for slaves, while coping with the rebellious activity by persons keen on maintaining or gaining their freedom.

SVG has its unique history. The fusion between the Callinago people and African freedom fighters that survived a boat wreck in the Bequia Channel provided another chapter for the resistance movement. Records have also shown that SVG’s period of slavery was not as extended as other Caribbean nations.

It has been known that SVG was the bastion of Callinago resistance and warriors from throughout the region used SVG as a haven after things had become hot in their particular territory.

So Emancipation may not have had the impact in SVG as it did in other Caribbean nations.

Just the same, SVG has been known as a nation with a strong attachment to the significance of Emancipation.

Emancipation Day celebrations have taken something of a controversial outlook in SVG. It took government’s intervention to restore observances to August 1, instead of the first Monday as hitherto obtained. That came in 2002 under the Unity Labour Party regime.

Since then, there seems to have been a rekindling of things African, and efforts to revive original culture and pride have taken a definite leap.

The signs are there that the resurgence of the African spirit is picking up, and this year’s Emancipation Month activities are another example.

But the strides must continue and the revival thrust must be maintained with vigour, or there is the possibility that all that we struggled for over the years could be swept away. And the gains that the African nation has achieved over the years may not be worth the blood, sweat and tears.