Those of us who have the privilege of leading today, whether we are in Government, business, the church or civil society, have an absolute duty of ensuring that August 1, for people of African descent, is never forgotten or minimised.
It is too critical a date in our history, too important a contributor to what has influenced our psyche, simply too significant a part of who and what we are, for us to fail to act in a manner that preserves its message for future generations.
But as important as the date is, what we must also remember, acknowledge, and act on, is the unmistakable truth that emancipation is a journey – a near 200-year-old struggle that continues today. For too many people of African heritage, while we continue to celebrate “freedom”, equality and equity continue to elude us in too many spheres of our lives.
And while we may need the cooperation of others to achieve the dreams that we have sought for centuries, there are critical steps we can take as a people to bring about meaningful progress.
We are all familiar with the old maxim, “a bundle of sticks is not easily broken”. We know that our ancestors fought for and achieved emancipation by standing together — even when the consequences included their death.
This Government’s decision to open diplomatic missions in Africa is about reuniting with our past, claiming our Atlantic destiny, proclaiming our African heritage, acknowledging that we have more in common with the people of Africa than those who have sought to define our history in times past would wish us to believe.
Equally, even as the country debates our decision to become a republic on November 30, this year, there can be no denying that complete self-governance must be an integral part of the process of emancipation. We cannot shy away from it.
Just as important as the process, must be the symbols of our shift in thought. The new Freedom Park in Bridgetown, for example, must be seen as one of the most visible modern-day representations of where we are, and where we are headed.
But let us not forget the steps we have already taken, including the removal of the statue of Lord Nelson from Heroes Squares and the introduction our new highest national award, The Order of Freedom of Barbados, along with a suite of new parish-based Pride of Barbados Awards.
So, Barbadians, as we reflect on August 1, let us not forget we are on a journey, a journey that started almost two centuries ago, a journey that will continue for some time. But it is a journey that will be made that much easier and more rewarding if we approach it like the proverbial bundle of sticks.
I wish you all a blessed Emancipation Day!