Sun | Dec 10, 2023

Acknowledge struggles of slaves in fight for freedom

Published:Monday | February 6, 2023 | 12:06 AM


In the Caribbean, Emancipation Day is celebrated enthusiastically as the day when slavery ended, and this is as it should be. It isn’t the same day for all the territories, as the different slave-owning nations issued or enacted Emancipation Proclamations on different dates. For the Dutch-, French- and Spanish-held territories, emancipation occurred on a different date for different colonies; in some cases years apart. Using post-George Floyd terminology, this was the day when the enslaver ‘took his knee off our neck’.

Shouldn’t we also celebrate the day on which we, as oppressed persons, forcibly removed the enslaver’s knee off our neck, even if only briefly and only partially? Isn’t it just as important for our mental emancipation to acknowledge our self-liberation, so that we don’t perceive ourselves as helpless victims who were only freed because the enslaver had a change of heart? Some territories – Guyana, with the great Berbice Rebellion, and the former Danish Virgin Islands, where the 1733 uprising is remembered every year on the day after Thanksgiving Day – have sought to do this.

Shouldn’t each territory elevate the date of the start of the most significant bid for freedom in that territory’s history to the same level of significance as ‘Emancipation Day’? As Bob Marley said in his 1979 Redemption Song, “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds.”


Freedom Fighters of the Caribbean