As the Season of Emancipation came to an end and the world recognised the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, Barbadians witnessed the opening of the long-awaited Rock Hall Freedom Park at Rock Hall, St. Thomas, yesterday.
The ceremony commenced with a call on the ancestors, delivered by the Priestess and Chief Elder of Egbe Orisha Ogun; prayers and blessings by the Anglican Diocese; and a welcome by Permanent Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office with responsibility for Culture, Jehu Wiltshire.
In his key-note address, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office with responsibility for Culture and the National Development Commission, John King, expressed pride in honouring the memory of the tremendous sacrifices which were made in defence of freedom and humanity on the night of August 22, 1791.
“We remember the tragedies and the consequences of the greatest act of inhumanity this world has ever experienced, but most of all we acknowledge that our understanding of the historical lessons is critical in freeing us from the ghosts of mental slavery. We commit to forgive, but never to forget!”
“As we remember, as we seek to understand and as we apply the historical lessons learned for the benefit of today’s and future generations, we do so fully cognisant that our history is one full of complexities. The history of Barbados in particular has largely been a profound and deeply complicated tale of human survival against the odds, and the story of the establishment of Rock Hall as Barbados’ first Black freehold village certainly symbolises the intricacies of a history wrought with survival and pain,” he stated.
Minister King called for Barbadians to stay the course on the path of redefining their identity and forging a greater sense of national consciousness.
“Our history is not a series of fairy tales; neither is it simple nor straight forward; and it is precisely because it is so complicated; oftentimes so difficult and painful, that we must face these memories collectively and constructively as a nation committed to common understanding, peace and reconciliation…”
“We must therefore be prepared to confront and investigate our history, to make wise and ennobling choices about what aspects of our history that we – as a collective, as a people – wish to identify with and celebrate,” he advised.
Those present at Rock Hall, or viewing the ceremony via social media enjoyed dance, folk music and drumology telling the story from Africa, to life on the plantation and the eventual celebration of the abolition of slavery.