Posts Tagged ‘History’

IMG_1504

Respect to Africans throughout the Caribbean and the rest of the world who fought against the holocaust of slavery. The fight led to the end of the evil system. Unfortunately the affects are still seen today and have evolved in different ways.

 

JAMAICA FLAG

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JAMAICA LAND OF MY BIRTH
 
BY Jason Walker
 
Today JAMAICA is 53. It is a moment of blessing and happiness for those of us born in, descendant of and love Jamaica. It is also a time to share that happiness with those who love Jamaica although not born in the land of wood and water. There are many reasons to be proud of our young small nation and the peoples who have been brought forth from this nation that have put a stamp on human history. All this has been done while facing seemingly insurmountable odds from the first moment Europeans destroyed the aboriginal people in Jamaica, to the Africans fighting against slavery and having limited success against the most far-reaching holocaust in human history, to the influencing of PAn African thought through Marcus Garvey & Rastafarians and the infectuous Reggae music and powerful contirbutions in the areas of human rights, progressive thought, academia, Christian service, athletics and so much more.
 
We have done all this while dealing with challenges from both outside and inside of our communities and creating a Diaspora that by all estimates doubles our population on the island. I would like to see as a present on this 53rd year, all Jamaicans really coming together with a mindset of always supporting people and things Jamaican in positive realms and to use all these areas of GODly anointing that we show so successfully to truly make us advance in every area so that we not only benefit ourselves, but the whole human race.
 
Happy Birthday Jamaica to all Jamaicans, those of Jamaican descent and those who love Jamaica
 
National Pledge
 
Before God and all mankind, 
I pledge the love and loyalty of my heart, 
the wisdom and courage of my mind, 
the strength and vigour of my body in the service of my fellow citizens; 
I promise to stand up for Justice, Brotherhood and Peace, 
to work diligently and creatively, 
to think generously and honestly, 
so that Jamaica may, under God, 
increase in beauty, fellowship and prosperity, 
and play her part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race.

 

Emancipation Park statues representing Africans looking to the sky after Emancipation declared throughout the British Empire in 1834

Emancipation Park statues representing Africans looking to the sky after Emancipation declared throughout the British Empire in 1834

(I originally wrote this piece a few years ago, still seems to make sense to me)

By Jason Walker

Emancipation day is an important day for the descendants of Africa, especially those whose ancestors were impacted by the brutal Slave trade. In the 1800’s the holocaust of slavery was hit with a crippling blow around the world. The Emancipation Act was passed on July 31, 1834 throughout the British Empire and effectively ended the inhumane Slave Trade. Full freedom from slavery did not come until four years later on August 1, 1838.  The 4 year period was instituted as a transition period as this monumental change would irrevocably change societies worldwide. The abolition of Slavery in the British Empire would affect slavery everywhere mainly because Britain’s navy owned the seas and without the cooperation of the British Navy, it made slavery both difficult and expensive. And as destructive, dehumanizing and inhumane the European version of the system of slavery was; it was for all intents and purposes an economic manifestation.

Slavery was a cruel and destructive system that had Africans as free labourers in labour intensive industries such as Cotton, Sugar and Tobacco. Throughout the 1400’s through to the middle of the 1700’s products such as these fetched a very attractive price, along with the free labour, a tidy profit could be made. Although labour was free, the cost to keep Africans enslaved was high. Especially in areas where there were slaves freeing themselves and staging revolts. The most successful of these of course included the Maroons in Jamaica from the 1500’s through to the 1700’s and even more so the Africans (including Maroons) in Haiti who at the end of the 1700’s would successfully wage a revolution against French armies, supported by Spain and England.

Do not think though that the Emancipation act came about from any suddenly altruistic gestures by the British Monarchy. Due to the work of many abolitionists in Britain; the sentiment against the horrific system Slavery had grown tremendously among the English population. Also the prices of the aforementioned products began to drop on the world markets as new products that did not need this labour intensive situation were now rising to prominence. Along with that came the advent of the industrial age which was ushering a new era where such labour numbers were not the order of the day. All the aforementioned along with the cost of keeping control and responding to revolts made these endeavours non-attractive. Continuing the genocidal and devastating system Slavery no longer made economic sense.

As we come to the present, we find that it is only in the past two decades that countries have decided to mark this date as a holiday, and of the countries that were affected by this act (Countries in Africa, The Caribbean, Central America, South America, & North America) a small percentage actually commemorate this day*. Maybe that is appropriate; I say this because although things are different from the era of slavery, people of African descent in the aforementioned geographical areas are not in a position of true emancipation.

The definition of Emancipation from the English Oxford Dictionary states that it is “the fact or process of being set free from legal, social, or political restrictions; liberation:” With the majority of African persons in these areas lacking resources, political clout, and in some cases freedom, can we really call ourselves emancipated? It was probably this same observation that led former Prime Minister of Jamaica and former leader of the Non-Aligned Movement (a coalition of countries that were not listed as industrial nations) Michael Manley to say; “The enslavement of the body which endured till 1838 was nothing compared to the enslavement of the mind which persisted since”. The affects of slavery and the propaganda to support slavery has endured and left a lasting mark and has conspired to keep those of African descent in such a position.

Yet by our accomplishments singularly and in some rare cases collectively we see we are a very powerful people. So it is possible to change the current existence. However we will probably have to do what Reggae Superstar Bob Marley said in his song Redemption Song: “Emancipate Yourself From Mental Slavery” before we can truly be at a stage of Emancipation. So although we celebrate the Act that saw fruition on August 1 1838 annually, we should probably use these days to see where we are on the road of getting to the next stage of Emancipation and be creative in getting to that new stage.

*Countries that Celebrate Emancipation Day include: Jamaica, Barbados, Bermuda, Bahamas, St. Lucia, Canada, Guyana, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Grenada, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks & Caicos, Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, St. Kitts & Nevis

Marley-StephenSTEPHEN MARLEY

HERE IS AN EXCERPT OF AN INTERVIEW I DID FOR CARIBBEAN TODAY MAGAZINE. WHICH WAS ALSO AN EXCERPT OF A MUCH LONGER INTERVIEW, WHICH I PROMISE TO PUBLISH IN FULL IN THE FUTURE.

STEPHEN MARLEY TALKS TO JASON WALKER

Stephen Marley is one of the most successful and decorated artistes and producers around. He is the son of late reggae king Bob Marley and a member of the Melody Makers, the group his father started with his siblings.

“Ragga” Marley runs the Ghetto Youths International (GYI) label where he produces music for himself and other artistes, including his brothers Damian and Julian, along with Wayne Marshall. Stephen holds the record for the most reggae album Grammy award wins – three with Melody Makers.

 

Caribbean Today freelance writer Jason Walker recently caught up with Stephen Marley. The following is an edited version of that interview.

 

Jason Walker: Tell us about GYI.

 

Stephen Marley: Well GYI is a label whey we form that consists of Damian, Julian, Stephen (Marley) and then you have youth like Black Am I, Jo Mersa (Stephen’s son), and Wayne Marshall who just joined the force and we a build; we building.

 

J.W: Tell us how it got started?

 

S.M.: Ghetto Youth United (GYU) is something (eldest brother) Ziggy Marley had started with myself, where we were producing and releasing records for the youth dem in the ghetto of Jamaica. From that now I man had branched off with GYI. It was a platform where if artistes in Ghetto Youth United were doing well would be pushed up to the more upstream label, which was GYI, where we could spread out our wings a little more. That was the whole concept of the label.

 

J.W.: Tell us more about the artistes on GYI.

 

S.M.: GYU was more of a mass thing; maybe 10 or 15 youth would come to the studio and they would have their songs and

 

we would have our riddims. That was going on in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Now when we are concentrating on being a label, that is when we came up with GYI and that is where we really started to take on artistes. In the beginning it was myself, Damian and Juju (Julian).

 

J.W.: How are artistes evolving at the label?

 

S.M.: Damian a start from a little youth to now where he is taking on artistes and producing. We are a house of music; really that is what it is. When you come amongst us, you are definitely going to grow. I live at the studio; that is my home. We live this, we don’t just talk this and prepare like a job. We live this.

 

J.W.: Tell us about your evolution.

 

S.M.: Well, the whole evolution, we started in 1979 when we released our first official record as the Melody Makers (“Children Playing In the Streets”). We started from then on a professional journey and a profession career, that is what we did.

 

We were privileged to be around great musicians and great artistes helping to raise the bar. We have to exist! It couldn’t be just because we are Bob and Rita youth and we are singing. We went through all of that. We have to prove that this is what we were meant to do.

 

The evolution came from there and then I started doing a little production with my grandmother and then I started slowly taking on my younger brothers. They nurtured me as much as I had to nurture them. All of my elders Ziggy, Cedella, Sharon etc. gave me the guidance necessary to be as strong as we can be.

 

They are always there when we need them. All of those things we take and move forward to today, where I have two solo albums and I am looking to come with a third, Damian gone three and looking to come with a fourth and Julian likewise.

 

J.W.: You have been an artiste, producer, performer, label owner and manager. Which role do you enjoy the most?

 

S.M.: I man is a skipper, in that sense. I was born in April. April is from the tribe of Reuben. In the Bible Reuben was the first son of Jacob, so I man is a general like that. Is a natural thing, I do not have any position. I cook, clean, wash, sing and do everything, anything that is to be done. I man is the man.

 

J.W.: Tell about the music coming from GYI.

S.M.: There was the Set Up Shop compilation, which summed up all the artistes on the label – myself, Julian and Damian. Then it had Wayne Warshall,,,,,,, (Read the rest of the article here http://caribbeantoday.com/entertainment/item/17901-musical-weapon-stephen-marley-armed-and-fighting-the-revolution.html)

Miss Lou Photo courtesy of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission

Miss Lou Photo courtesy of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission

Jason Walker

(SCROLL DOWN FOR CELEBRATION EVENTS DURING SEPTEMBER)

                As I write this it is actually the day after what would have been the 94th Birthday of ‘MISS LOU’ JAMAICA ‘S FIRST LADY OF COMEDY, THE HON. LOUISE BENNETT-COVERLEY O.M. O.J. M.B.E. DIP R.A.D.A., D. LITT (HON). That however does not stop me from reflecting on one of my heroines and a Jamaican and African legend. As a Jamaican who loves my culture and the platform of enjoying the expression of my culture, I am grateful to Miss Lou for helping to create that platform.

                As will be seen in some of the highlights of her life, Miss Lou began celebrating our culture, especially the major African part of our culture, publicly with international impact, at the age of 14 with a poem that was done in Jamaican patois. This poem opened doors for her that would lead her into acting and eventually to spread her talent and the Jamaican language to the shores of England.

                Miss Lou created her legendary platform that was all about Black and Jamaican pride. Throughout her career she fought racism, sexism, classism, bigotry, xenophobia and various forms of oppression. I was fortunate to be born in a time when she was still alive (Miss Lou passed away in Canada in July 2006). I was exposed to her very popular TV show (Ring Ding) on Jamaica Broadcast Television (JBC), the show was a children’s show that focused on Jamaican & African stories, poetry, folklore, art and other cultural manifestations. She always ended her show with her signature “Walk Good! …… Ai yah yah!” followed by a heartfelt laugh that I remember to this day.

The show helped to foster a certain pride in my Jamaica “Africanness”. The show helped (with other things) to give me a certain confident poise, a swagger if you will, about being a black Jamaican and everything that came with African-Jamaican culture. In school her poems were the most impactful and most fun for me. The poems not only used my native in the most beautifully rhythmic manner, they also provided a window to the development of Jamaican culture over the years, while entertaining the reader in the most engaging manner possible. Throughout her career she was the pinnacle of theatre, poetry, comedy, television and other cultural art forms, and wherever she was she fought for and presented through an African-Jamaican perspective.

                All persons who in some way enjoy, are exposed, involved with, impacted by or in some way connected to Black Jamaican culture can thank Miss Lou for her contribution to its development. I am now a father of four and my family resides in the United States, there is a little regret that my children will not be able to be exposed to Miss Lou while she is alive, or to see a show like Ring Ding, however we have her poems, we are blessed to be in an era to see some of her television work and yes at every birthday we do sing her version of the Happy Birthday song. Miss Lou always had a smile or a laugh for all, while being a constant tower of strength for her culture and her people. Thank you Miss Lou, thank you for all that you have given us. May we treasure and carry on. “Walk Good……. Ai yah yah!”

Miss LouMISS LOU

HIGHLIGHTS: Louise Bennett was born on September 7, 1919. She was a Jamaican poet and activist. From Kingston, Jamaica Louise Bennett remains a household name in Jamaica, a “Living Legend” and a cultural icon. She received her education from Ebenezer and Calabar Elementary Schools, St. Simon’s College, Excelsior College, Friends College (Highgate).

Although she lived in Toronto, Canada for the last decade of her life she still receives the homage of the expatriate West Indian community in the north as well as a large Canadian following.

She was described as Jamaica’s leading comedienne, as the “only poet who has really hit the truth about her society through its own language”, and as an important contributor to her country of “valid social documents reflecting the way Jamaicans think and feel and live” Through her poems in Jamaican patois, she raised the dialect of the Jamaican folk to an art level which is acceptable to and appreciated by all in Jamaica.

In her poems she was able to capture all the spontaneity of the expression of Jamaicans’ joys and sorrows, their ready, poignant and even wicked wit, their religion and their philosophy of life. Her first dialect poem was written when she was fourteen years old. A British Council Scholarship took her to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art where she studied in the late 1940’s.

Bennett not only had a scholarship to attend the academy but she auditioned and won a scholarship. After graduation she worked with repertory companies in Coventry, Huddersfield and Amersham as well as in intimate revues all over England.
On her return to Jamaica she taught drama to youth and adult groups both in social welfare agencies and for the University of the West Indies Extra Mural Department.

She lectured extensively in the United States and the United Kingdom on Jamaican folklore and music and represented Jamaica all over the world. She married Eric Winston Coverley in 1954 (who died in 2002) and has one stepson and several adopted children. She enjoys Theatre, Movies and Auction sales.

Her contribution to Jamaican cultural life was such that she was honored with the M.B.E., the Norman Manley Award for Excellence (in the field of Arts), the Order of Jamaica (1974) the Institute of Jamaica’s Musgrave Silver and Gold Medals for distinguished eminence in the field of Arts and Culture, and in 1983 the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of the West Indies. In September 1988 her composition “You’re going home now”, won a nomination from the Academy of Canadian Cinema ad Television, for the best original song in the movie “Milk and Honey.”

In 1998 she received the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters from York University, Toronto, Canada. The Jamaica Government also appointed her Cultural Ambassador at Large for Jamaica. On Jamaica’s independence day 2001, Bennett-Coverley was appointed as a Member of the Order of Merit for her distinguished contribution to the development of the Arts and Culture.

Born in 1919 in then-colonial Jamaica, Miss Lou began writing, then performing, verse in dialect from the age of 13 – at a time when standard English was considered the norm and the ideal to which most people aspired. She began acting in 1936, while in high school, and was spotted by impresario Eric Coverley (who would later be-come her husband). In 1945, she won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. While there and still a student, she hosted the live radio show, Caribbean Carnival on the BBC. During a second stay in London, she hosted another program for the BBC, West Indian Guest Night, which introduced emerging West Indian talent. In Jamaica, her verses, written in dialect, were published in The Daily Gleaner; she also performed them onstage and on-radio along with her prose monologues. She hosted radio shows, Laugh with Louise and Miss Lou’s Views, which were on the air for 15 years, as well as Lou and Ranny. Onstage she appeared in a number of productions including the annual Jamaican Pantomimes, from 1943 until 1971, without interruption; retiring from the stage in 1975. For 12 years, beginning in the 1970s, Miss Lou hosted a popular TV program, Ring Ding, which allowed children from all parts of the country to participate and showcase their talent in the performing arts. In 2003, she hosted another edition of Ring Ding, produced in Jamaica. Her film credits include Calypso and Club Paradise; while her song, “Going Home”, used in the film Milk and Honey, was nominated for a Genie Award. In 1989, Louise was appointed Ambassador-at-Large for Culture by the Jamaican Government. Over the years, she has performed and lectured throughout the world, promoting Jamaican history and culture, and creating awareness and pride among Jamaicans for their folk stories and songs. Her works are said to “have a sophisticated and subversive, political dimension and pillory both pretension and self-contempt. They ridicule class and colour prejudice, and criticize people ashamed of being Jamaican or ashamed of being Black.” (Gazette, York University, 1998)

Honours: Several including, Member of the Order of Merit for her distinguished contribution to the development of the Arts & Culture, Jamaica, 2001; inclusion in Who’s Who in Black Canada (1st & 2nd editions, 2000 & 2006); recognized by the International Theatre Institute, Jamaica Chapter, as the “Most Important Theatre Personality of the 20th Century” (2000); Member of the Order of the British Empire for her work in Jamaican literature and theatre; Norman Manley Award for Excellence; Order of Jamaica for work in the field of Native Culture; Honorary Degree of Literature, York University (1988) and University of the West Indies (1982); Gold Musgrave Medal for contribution to the development of the arts in Jamaica & the Caribbean (1978).

Works: Recordings: Include Yes, M’Dear: Miss Lou Live (1983); The Honourable Miss Lou (1981); Carifesta Ring Ding (1976); Listen to Louise (1968); Miss Lou’s Views (1967); Jamaica Singing Games (1953); Jamaica Folk Songs (1953). Poetry: Jamaica Labrish (1966); Anancy and Miss Lou (1979); Selected Poems (1982). Other publications: Aunty Roachy Seh (1993); Laugh with Louise; and Anancy and Miss Lou.

Education: Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, England; St. Simon’s College; Excelsior College; Friends College for Jamaica.

Hero: Her mother, Kerene Robinson.

Motto: Use a smile to cover sorrow.

2013 CELEBRATIONS OF THE LIFE OF MISS LOU

Islandwide Celebration for Miss Lou during September

 

The Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) has planned a number of activities during the month of September to celebrate the 94th birthday anniversary of the late Hon. Louise Bennett – Coverley, OM, OJ, MBE.

 

These activities will be held in each parish across the island and includes Exhibitions on the life and work of Miss Lou in collaboration with Parish Libraries; Concerts featuring her works in poetry, storytelling & songs; a special ‘Storytelling’ feature for the ‘Tweenie Weenie’ children; and bringing back ‘Ring Ding’ time, in Montego Bay.

 

Below is the list of islandwide activities:

Parish

Date and Time

Activities

Venue

Description

St. Mary

Monday , September 2 – Saturday  September 28, 2013

Special Anniversary Display on the life and works of Miss Lou

St. Mary Parish Library, Port Maria

Exhibition will run daily Monday – Saturday

9:00am –  5:00pm

St. Thomas

Thursday September 5 – Saturday 7, 2013

Special Library Exhibition

St. Thomas Parish Library, Morant Bay

Special three day Display on the life and works of Miss Lou

Westmoreland

Friday September  6, 2013 commencing at 10:00am

   

 

Official Opening Ceremony of Pictorial Exhibition

Westmoreland Parish Library

Featuring performances of Miss Lou’s poetry, storytelling and songs. Exhibition to run daily September 6 – 28 – 9:00am – 5:00pm

Mondays – Saturdays

 

Kingston/St. Andrew

Friday September 6, at 10:00am

Library Exhibition

Kingston/St. Andrew Parish Library, Tom Redcam Avenue

Exhibition to run from September 6 – 13, 2013 Monday – Saturdays 9:00am – 5:00pm

Kingston/St. Andrew

Saturday September 7 at 4:00pm

‘Tenky Miss Lou Poetry Hour

Louise Bennett Garden Theatre, Kingston

A staged performances of Miss Lou poems and songs

St. Catherine

Saturday September 7

Library Exhibition

St. Catherine Parish Library, Spanish Town

Exhibition to run from September 7 – 21, 2013 daily from 9:00am

St. Catherine

Saturday September 7

Library Exhibition

Greater Portmore Library

Exhibition to run from September 7 – 21, 2013 daily from 9:00am

Trelawny

Friday September 13, 2013 at 10:00am

Official Opening of Library Exhibition Ceremony

Trelawny Parish Library, Falmouth

Guest speaker

Exhibition to run to September 28, 2013 daily from 9:00am

Hanover

 

Wednesday September 18, 2013 at 10:00am

 

Official Opening Ceremony of Pictorial  Exhibition and Storytelling Corner for “Tweenie Weenie” Library

 

Hanover Parish Library, Lucea

 

Featuring Internationally renowned poet Jean Breeze. Exhibition runs until September 28, 2013 daily from 9:00am

Manchester

Friday September 20 at 9:00am – 1:00pm

“Tenk God Fi Miss Lou” Tribute

Manchester Hugh School Auditorium & Grounds

A special tribute featuring panel discussion, exhibition and concert

Portland

Monday September 23, 2013 at 10:00am

Library Exhibition

Portland Parish Library, Port Antonio

Exhibition to run from Monday September 23 – Friday 28, 2013

9:00am – 5:00pm daily

Monday – Saturday

St. Ann

Thursday September 26, 2013 at 10:00am

Miss Lou Birthday Celebration

St. Ann Parish Library, St. Ann’s Bay

Official Opening of Exhibition, Guest Speaker, a special feature of an  essay competition and performances

 

St. James

Thursday September 26,2013 at 10:00 am

Miss Lou Mo Bay Ring Ding

Saint James Parish Library, Montego Bay

Featuring presentations from  Culture Clubs across the Parish

 

Thursday September  26, 2013 at 4:00pm

Miss Lou Poetry Extravaganza

Portland Parish Library, Port Antonio

A special tribute featuring a poetry competition and performances

Clarendon

Thursday September 26, 2013 at 4:00pm

Miss Lou Concert Tribute

Clarendon Parish Library, May Pen

A special concert featuring poetry, storytelling, drumming & quadrille

St. Elizabeth

Friday September 27, 2013 at 1:00pm

Miss Lou Poetry Competition and Awards Ceremony

St. Elizabeth Parish Library, Black river

A special dialect poetry competition in honour of Miss Lou’s work in dialect, guest speaker, awards ceremony and performances

Information provided by Jamaica Information Service, JCDC, and Who’s Who in Black Canada

Jason Walker is a freelance writer who has had an award winning journalism career that spans 20 years. He can be followed on twitter at www.twitter.com/jasonwalker_ or emailed at jasonarticle@gmail.com

marcusgarvey

In light of recent events and of course the birthday of one of the greatest men to ever walk the earth, I have been inspired to reflect on Marcus Mosiah Garvey.

Jamaica’s first National Hero, was born in St. Ann’s Bay on August 17, 1887. In his youth Garvey migrated to Kingston where he worked as a printer and later published a small paper “The Watchman”.

During his career Garvey travelled extensively throughout many countries, observing the poor working and living conditions of black people.

In 1914 he started the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), in Jamaica. The UNIA, which grew into an international organisation, encouraged self-government for black people worldwide; self-help economic projects and protest against racial discrimination.

In 1916, Garvey went to the USA where he preached his doctrine of freedom to the oppressed blacks throughout the country.

However, USA officials disapproved of his activities and he was imprisoned, then deported.

Back in Jamaica in 1927, he continued his political activity, forming the People’s Political Party in 1929, He was unsuccessful in national elections but won a seat on the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation (KSAC).

But the world of the 1930s was not ready for Garvey’s progressive ideas. He left Jamaica again, this time for England where he died in 1940. His body was brought back to Jamaica in 1964 and buried in the National Heroes Park in Kingston.

Garvey’s legacy can be summed up in the philosophy he taught – race pride, the need for African unity; self-reliance; the need for black people to be organised and for rulers to govern on behalf of the working classes.

Mention the name Marcus Mosiah Garvey to any Jamaican, black person or world citizen for that matter and the responses most likely to be heard are visionary, Jamaica’s first National Hero, ahead of his time, self belief, positive self esteem and self-image, liberation, racial equality and the development of Africa.

The recipient of numerous honours and memorials, which highlight the importance of his contribution and legacy, Marcus Garvey devoted his life to the liberation and holistic development of black peoples across the world and the advancement of Africa.

In spite of the fact that honours and tributes are the accoutrements of a prominent historical figure/achiever, a list of achievements and commendations cannot do justice to Marcus Garvey as a person; it serves only to highlight his value to world history, but neglects to sum up the essence of a man, whose teachings and philosophy have transcended time and space and is as relevant today, as a century ago.

 

Courtesy of JIS

AUGUST 1 IS EMANCIPATION DAY FOR ALL PEOPLE OF AFRICAN DESCENT

Emancipation Park statues representing Africans looking to the sky after Emancipation declared

Emancipation Park statues representing Africans looking to the sky after Emancipation declared throughout the British Empire in 1834

By Jason Walker

Emancipation day is an important day for the descendants of Africa, especially those whose ancestors were impacted by the Slave trade. In the 1800’s the holocaust of slavery was hit with a crippling blow around the world. The Emancipation Act was passed on July 31, 1834 throughout the British Empire and effectively ended the Slave Trade. Full freedom from slavery did not come until four years later on August 1, 1838.  The 4 year period was instituted as a transition period as this monumental change would irrevocably change societies worldwide. The abolition of Slavery in the British Empire would affect slavery everywhere mainly because Britain’s navy owned the seas and without the cooperation of the British Navy, it made slavery both difficult and expensive. And as destructive, dehumanizing and inhumane the European version of the system of slavery was; it was for all intents and purposes an economic manifestation.

Slavery was a system used to have Africans as free labourers in labour intensive industries such as Cotton, Sugar and Tobacco. Throughout the 1400’s through to the middle of the 1700’s products such as these fetched a very attractive price, along with the free labour, a tidy profit could be made. Although labour was free, the cost to keep Africans enslaved was high. Especially in areas where there were slaves freeing themselves and staging revolts. The most successful of these of course included the Maroons in Jamaica from the 1500’s through to the 1700’s and even more so the Africans (including Maroons) in Haiti who would successfully wage a revolution against French armies, supported by Spain and England.

Do not think though that the Emancipation act came about from any altruistic gestures by the British Monarchy. Due to the work of many abolitionists in Britain; the sentiment against Slavery had grown tremendously among the English population. Also the prices of the aforementioned products began to drop on the world markets as new products that did not need this labour intensive situation were now rising to prominence. Along with that came the advent of the industrial age which was ushering a new era where such labour numbers were not the order of the day. All the aforementioned along with the cost of keeping control and responding to revolts made these endeavours non-attractive. Continuing Slavery no longer made economic sense.

As we come to the present, we find that it is only in the past two decades that countries have decided to mark this date as a holiday, and of the countries that were affected by this act (Countries in Africa, The Caribbean, Central America, South America, & North America) a small percentage actually commemorate this day*. Maybe that is appropriate; I say this because although things are different from the era of slavery, people of African descent in the aforementioned geographical areas are not in a position of true emancipation.

The definition of Emancipation from the British Oxford Dictionary states that it is “the fact or process of being set free from legal, social, or political restrictions; liberation:” With the majority of African persons in these areas lacking resources, political clout, and in some cases freedom, can we really call ourselves emancipated? It was probably this same observation that led former Prime Minister of Jamaica and former leader of the Non-Aligned Movement (a coalition of countries that were not listed as industrial nations) Michael Manley to say; “The enslavement of the body which endured till 1838 was nothing compared to the enslavement of the mind which persisted since”. The affects of slavery and the propaganda to support slavery has endured and left a lasting mark and has conspired to keep those of African descent in such a position.

Yet by our accomplishments singularly and in some rare cases collectively we see we are a very powerful people. So it is possible to change the current existence. However we will probably have to do what Reggae Superstar Bob Marley said in his song Redemption Song: “Emancipate Yourself From Mental Slavery” before we can truly be at a stage of Emancipation. So although we celebrate the Act that saw fruition on August 1 1838 annually, we should probably use these days to see where we are on the road of getting to the next stage of Emancipation and be creative in getting to that new stage.

*Countries that Celebrate Emancipation Day include: Jamaica, Barbados, Bermuda, Bahamas, St. Lucia, Canada, Guyana, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Grenada, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks & Caicos, Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, St. Kitts & Nevis