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Emancipation or freedom

Mac Fingall

Emancipation or freedom

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I have noticed for some time now that the Emancipation Day ceremony is always poorly attended. It seems that Bajans just do not relate to this day. It seems to be of no significance to them.
I wondered why. Are we really so insensitive? Don’t we appreciate the sacrifice made by our forefathers? Are we just callous? Or, is it that our selfishness is so strong and  deeply rooted that it does not allow us to understand that such an occasion should be celebrated and fervently so?
It bothered me for a few years and then I thought, maybe it’s the word “Emancipation”. Words tend to conjure certain thoughts and images.
The dictionary defines “emancipate” as (1) to free from restraint, influence, or the like, (2) to free (a slave) from bondage, and (3) Roman and civil law: to terminate parental control. But the precise definition that we are dealing with here is “the freeing of the slave from bondage”.
“Freedom” is defined as “the state of being free”.
What is the difference between the two words? Freedom tells you what and where you are, whereas Emancipation tells you why you are what and where you are, thereby – by extension – creating thoughts and images of sad times.
Maybe that’s why we are not therefore innately and spontaneously, urged to take part in these celebrations.
Let us look at the power of other words used to convey the same messages but which unwittingly conjure up different thoughts and images.
“Party”, “fete”, “dance” and “bashment” are words all used to invite you to a place where there will be music, food, drink and dancing. But you can tell beforehand what type of behaviour to expect by the mention of the different words which in essence mean the same thing. These different words will conjure up thoughts and images that will either create excitement or resentment based on what excites you or what you resent.
Even the naming of venues, with the same intended service, can cause a whole different type of clientele.
Not surprisingly, the nightclub called “Club Extreme” appealed to the young. These young people do everything to the extreme. Watch the X-Games and you will see.
On the other hand, the “After Dark” nightclub, which provided the same nightclub entertainment, attracted a different type of customers. The suggested “sneakiness” in the title appealed to a generation of “sneaky” people. The generation of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s used to hide and do their thing after dark. “I can see you but it got to be after dark.” “Where?” “In de ‘After Dark’ nightclub”. Today’s generation don’t hide and do stuff.
You cannot hear the word “Emancipation” and not think of slavery. That word takes you back to sad and dark times with memories of rape, brutality, degradation, dehumanisation, floggings and hangings. These memories then perpetuate hatred, distrust, and revenge, which are burdens to the soul.
Should we celebrate the memory of the pain or the freedom from the pain? Freedom is now! Appreciation for the moment – the now.
It should be a joyous day, not a sad day.
The heavy burden in the heart and soul which results from thoughts of hatred, no matter how far removed, can be erased through forgiveness. Forgiveness frees the forgiver – you who are doing the forgiving, the victim, and not the forgivee. The person who committed the act has God and his conscience to deal with.
The slave masters, their accomplices, and their offsprings – even four generations removed shall have to answer for it is written that the sins of the father shall follow him unto the third and fourth generation.
And so, I am calling for forgiveness and a change of the name from Emancipation Day to Freedom Day.
It will not change the significance of the day, but by using a word that tells you about now and gives you reason to celebrate rather than remember sad times, I guarantee you that more people will attend the ceremony and thereby be aware of its origins.
The freed slaves were longing for “freedom”. I am sure they wanted to forget that period of their lives and move on.
Living in the past keeps you back. Living in the present gives you hope. Making the future your present shows advancement.
Happy Freedom Day!
Mac Fingall is an entertainer and retired secondary schoolteacher. Email [email protected]