Editorial – August 3, 2012
Every year for some years now Montserrat observes Emancipation Day, August 1. It does so like many other countries in the Caribbean, but barely, on an annual basis in observance of the abolition of slavery.
Montserrat’s well published author and poet, Professor Sir Howard Fergus seemed to lament the lack of celebration in a direct and organised way.
In a ZJB news broadcast he said, “We need to celebrate this day as our folks did, ordinary folk sang first of August come again, Hoorah for Nincum Riley, they were celebrating the literate slaves who reportedly read the emancipation edict, and they were celebrating the measure of independence and freedom that emancipation brought. We must never rest on our laurels, indeed there are not many laurels, because although legally we were emancipated in 1834 or 1838, there continued to be signs of bondage from which some of our people worked hard to liberate us. There are signs that there are certain elements of authoritarianism creeping in and being exercised, which are contrary to the spirit of liberation and emancipation, which the 1st of August suggest.”
From Havana, on August 1, 2012 the Prensa Latina wrote, how, “In early morning of the eighth month of 1833, the rumor sprang from the Caribbean islands and then the drums and dance of the night were responsible for spreading the news: the slaves, after all, would be freed,” and it continued to give an account of what it recalls then.
“At dawn of that August 1 slavery was abolished by royal decree in the British territories of American overseas…”
“Unfortunately, that August of carnival, party and dance for the Caribbean, was only a simulation,” it continues, and then reminds, “Seen this way, today it seems there are little reasons to celebrate those dates, although all the Anglophone Caribbean joins each August to remember the emancipation that really did not occur.”
It speaks to the celebration, said during a symposium on the 179 anniversary of Emancipation Day, that took placed at Casa de las Americas.’It was worthy to realize that the liberation from slavery is not enough because it becomes a new starting point’.
For the ambassador of Trinidad and Tobago in Cuba, Jennifer Jones-Kernahan, the celebration should be seen as a tribute to those who died for the independence of the region.
‘This day, we also celebrate the life and work of those who fought for the liberation of our peoples’, she said.
To great extent, even by just a hint, there is concurrence with Dr. Fergus, as the Prensa Latina writes, “But 179 years after that date, the drama and history of the Caribbean are not very different. New forms of slavery, together with the oldest practices, remind that the drama of the whip and the plantation is not ancient fable.”
Meanwhile, UWI Open Campus head in Grenada Dr. Curtis Jacobs says, as we recall 178 years after our own recognized date, “…the only real thing that we possess is our individual collective integrity, we must never let anyone compromise this integrity and we must never expose it to fail, as we contemplate emancipation 2012…think about our ancestors who never compromised their desire to be free…”
The warnings are there and while some people may not be activist as it is not their nature, generally no one should lose sight of these warnings. Individually and severally, as we watch a certain kind of decay, with the selfishness and greed and the lack of integrity, even in the face of Integrity Bills, and Constitution and Commissions, we call once again for the education that is required, to check what may allow the situations, the continued signs of bondage that Dr. Fergus suggests are creeping back upon our people.
There are diverse people who continually comment, “Montserrat is falling backward, we have lost it”. Some say, “We are not hungry enough,” others say, “money is the buzz word, but no one really wants to work (honestly) for it.”
There is so very much surrounding all of this. It makes the idea of a cultural policy so important, but there is plenty work to be done, and it is not difficult if we can find integrity, recognizing how we got here.