Emancipation Day is more than a holiday, but serves as an opportunity for residents to commemorate the uniqueness of the land and its peoples.
Those are the words of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley in his Emancipation Day message.
Rowley called on members of the public to celebrate T&T’s melting pot of culture, to forge what he called a “political consensus”, or risk an explosion of discontent between different groups.
He said: “We are multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious, a beautiful ‘patch work quilt’ society, some people say. In recognising that diversity, we, as citizens, have been becoming more aware of our historical roots, and at the same time learning that our sociological make-up has forged extraordinary prospects for a workable, political consensus, if only we will let it.”
“We should also be reminded that this makeup has fault lines, which carry inherent dangers of entrenched cleavages and segmentation, with possibilities of ongoing contentions, and contrived, social conflicts which, experiences in other countries have shown, could smoulder and ignite at any moment,” he warned.
Rowley said there was hope among the citizens of T&T. Moreover, he said the thousands of people of African descent who take to the streets to mark Emancipation Day, are demonstrating resilience by glorifying their heritage despite their checkered past.
“In colourful attire today, we, the descendants, will be voicing to the world that we are the children, born out of the brutality of slavery and reminding that the wrongs of that experience still echo, but we embrace hope and confidently look forward to a bright future,” he said.
The Prime Minister also noted the extensive injustice suffered by African people.
He recalled that this race of people was examined, auctioned, then made to survive the dehumanisation by being stripped of their identity, family ties, religion, names, language, dress, and culture to work on plantation fields under slave masters.
Rowley said between 14 and 40 million people crossed the Middle Passage and suffered this fate. This included murders, child separation, beatings, rape, castrations, lynchings, and mutilation.
Acknowledging that the gateway in Medina in the Cape Coast province in Ghana, where stolen Africans departed Africa, was called “the door of no return”, he said Africans have found their way back to their ancestral roots to join hands and find common causes with those who live there.
“They now see Africa, not through European eyes as a dark continent, but as the cradle of human civilisation, citing the discoveries of its great empires.
“They talk of it glowingly, as the world’s fastest developing economic region in the 21st century, having just overtaken Asia, and of its six of the ten fastest growing economies in the world and of its minerals, critical and indispensable to the technologies of the 21st-century green economies,” he noted.
“Today, recognising the pain of the Middle Passage, and the centuries of colonial brutality, I salute the African community, a people, who through grit and determination, is on the march, striving for further discovery and self-realisation, searching, and transforming themselves for the challenges of the 21st century,” he noted.