Everyone Should Join The Emancipation Walk Next Sunday

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Director of the Commission for Pan-African Affairs, Dr. Deryck Murray, (second from left), at Emancipation Day acitivities in 2009.??

All Barbadians, irrespective of race, colour or creed are being urged to show solidarity with black Barbadians and join the Emancipation Walk on Sunday, July 31.

This call has come from the Director of the Commission for Pan-African Affairs, Dr. Deryck Murray, who said it was incumbent on the various ethnic communities to support the event, and "demonstrate that they understand, to some extent, or wish to identify with the issues black people still grappled with because of the horrors of enslavement by the colonial powers".

Dr. Murray: "We all live here as a society, and so we should be there in our numbers, even the minority groups among us. This would in no way dilute the significance of the walk for people of African ancestry. Indeed, it would emphasise that we are all Barbadians, and what blacks were subjected to years ago did not end just with the passage of an Act, but we are committed to reversing, uprooting and dismantling the negative legacies…

"In other words, we are showing that we acknowledge the wrongs and the ills that were inflicted on the majority population, and we are actively working to expunge any residual effects."

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Members of the public are expected to gather in Independence Square at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, to walk from the Chamberlain Bridge from 4:00 p.m., through a number of City streets and onto the Emancipation Village at Bridgetown Market, Spring Garden Highway (Courts Pasture).

There will be a cultural presentation at the Village featuring the Barbados Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Israel Lovell Foundation dancers, among others, as well as some keynote addresses.

A number of stations are expected to be set up along the route and walkers will get the opportunity to place floral tributes and pay homage to this island’s national heroes. Flowers will also be laid at the shrine at the Emancipation Village.??

In further underscoring the importance of commemorating Emancipation Day and supporting the walk, Dr. Murray stressed that it was a period one should never forget. "That is why we need to be vigilant and that is why we need to walk to remind our children, first of the struggles and resilience of their ancestors, and also to ensure they appreciate what it means to be free and continually forge systems and values that would cherish the notion of freedom …," he suggested.

The Director noted that because of the legacy of slavery, where black people were told that all things black and all things African were either inferior or of the devil, some persons now had serious issues of self confidence and self esteem.

"We need to walk on Emancipation Day to remember that it is going to be an ongoing struggle to dismantle those mechanisms that reinforce a sense of inadequacy among each other. And, this sense of inadequacy and lack of self esteem often leads to a lack of self love, which leads to a lack of love for each other, and this, in turn, leads to a lack of confidence in our ideas, our values and the country’s overall development."

Some members of the public have expressed criticism about the Emancipation Day public holiday being observed on August 2 and not August 1, which is Emancipation Day. However, Dr. Murray suggested that persons should see this year’s Emancipation celebrations as being held over a three-day period, starting with the walk on Sunday. He explained that on August 1 the National Cultural Foundation would pay tribute before the start of Grand Kadooment, and said on the following day people should "quietly reflect" on what it meant to be emancipated.

Giving an overview of slavery here, Dr. Murray stated that as soon as the enslaved Africans arrived, they started their resistance, which grew even more intense with the sugar revolution in the 1640s.

He noted, however, that Barbados only had the Bussa uprising in 1816, even though several plots were either discovered or thwarted along the way. According to him, this insurrection was the start of a fresh round of uprisings throughout the British West Indies and it made enslavement economically difficult. "It also made the traditional way of enslaving people and using them for labour an extremely precarious endeavour that was always overshadowed with the threats of an uprising," he pointed out.

The Director argued that, in a way, the enslaved Africans in the Caribbean played a major role in the dismantling of physical slavery which was supported by the abolitionist movement in the United Kingdom.

As a result of the pressure which was applied from different quarters, the apprenticeship system was introduced in 1834 as the precursor to breaking the chains of slavery and liberation eventually came about in 1838.

So, as Barbadians prepare to observe Emancipation Day and salute their ancestors, whose resistance led us to this commemoration, may we never forget their struggles, as we fight other societal issues daily, confident that we too will overcome because of our courageous past.

saustin@barbados.gov.bb

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