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EDITORIAL: Emancipation Day more than just another day


BARBADOS NATION

EDITORIAL: Emancipation Day more than just another day

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MOST BARBADIANS KNOW that today is Kadooment Day, when the big street parade climaxing the annual Crop Over Festival takes place. It is a national event that will attract thousands.

Some Barbadians know also that Emancipation Day, which normally falls on August 1, is usually observed with a few low-key activities. It attracts little national interest and the event appears to hold no special meaning.

Barbadians want Kadooment to be a success, for it goes beyond being a mere parade offering merriment. It is of significance to the national economy and to businesses, irrespective of size. It is a time to relax and reflect on our creativity, be it in the production of costumes or music.

Emancipation Day is a day which should also hold significant meaning to all Barbadians. It is the time when we should give thanks to mark the end of the transatlantic slave trade which had been inflicted on the people of African heritage brought to the British West Indies to work on the plantations.

Yes, full emancipation came 178 years ago, but not long enough to forget or pretend that that pernicious era of degradation did not take place. The rigid plantation system which followed actually kept people in subservience for a very long time afterwards. It is a shameful episode that many people, regardless of colour, would prefer not to be discussed, arguing that the past should be left alone.

However, there must be no amnesia about a period in our history during which millions of people were brutally killed, families torn apart and a virtual caste system introduced. The post-Emancipation period brought little relief as evidenced by the uprisings across the region 100 years afterwards.

The holocaust of slavery must never be forgotten. This is why we, the people of Barbados, must show we appreciate the importance of Emancipation Day. It cannot be an event relegated to the fringe of society, but should be celebrated by the mainstream.

It is evident that the Pan-African Commission has not remained relevant in the leadership of this observance. It therefore presents an opportunity for the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies to work with the non-governmental organisations, religious groups and political parties to inspire a national observation of such an important day.

Indeed, the weight of government must be behind such an initiative. Some of the energy placed on ensuring Kadooment Day is a success should be given to embracing Emancipation Day.

The occasion is one which we must not let slip. Today is a public holiday and the public knows why.

Tomorrow is another public holiday but with no clear national purpose. We must not downgrade Emancipation Day, which will be marked a day later than normal, to just another event on the calendar.

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