Emancipation Day: Confront the great challenges of our time

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Leader of the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP), Philip J Pierre

By Philip J Pierre

This year’s observance of Emancipation Day, that — August 1, 1838, when Slavery was abolished in the then British West Indies is occurring at a critical juncture in world history. It is a juncture in which the Black Lives Matter Movement has risen against racial injustice and systemic racism in the USA has spread around the world. It is a movement that is demonstrating that the fight against racism which enslaved black people in the Caribbean and the Americas is far from over, even almost two centuries after the passage of the 1838 British Slavery Abolition Act.

The determination of the Black Lives Matter Movement reminds us that Emancipation in the British West Indies was not due only to the work of abolitionists in the British parliament. It reminds us that it was due just as much to resistance by the slaves to their unjust conditions, to their frequent armed rebellions like the 1794-1798 Brigand Wars in Saint Lucia, the 1816 Bussa Rebellion in Barbados and the successful Haitian Revolution of 1804 in which the Haitians defeated the great army of Napoleon, the French Emperor.

On this Emancipation Day, let us, therefore, pay homage to the fight of our ancestors to free themselves from slavery. We can best do this by emulating their example when we confront the great challenges of our time. Let us adopt their ingenuity and fortitude in our struggle to survive the devastating economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic. From the Black Lives Matter Movement, let us understand that it is incumbent upon us to continue to battle for total liberation — liberation from attitudes that belittle our heritage and our patrimony, that divide us as a nation, that separate us as a region and consequently weaken us internationally.

We in Saint Lucia must be bold enough, like our ancestors, to free ourselves from bondage of whatever shape, from the chains of greed, from the shackles of corruption, from the yoke of intolerance, from the manacles of political victimization, from the burden of mismanagement and from the fetters of neo-colonial practices and policies. We must be brave enough to overthrow oppression in whatever form and courageous enough to always stand up for what is right.

It is for this reason that the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) strongly supports the crusade by the CARICOM Reparations Commission for reparatory justice for the historical crimes of African enslavement and native genocide in the Caribbean by European colonial powers, as well as their outstanding debt for slavery. That is why, when the Saint Lucia Labour Party forms the next government of Saint Lucia, the observation of Emancipation Day will no longer be an insignificant holiday but will be turned into a major event in our national calendar. We also recognise that to successfully honour the story of our enslaved ancestors, it is essential that our people be informed of that story and therefore, we shall also ensure that the history of our country is permanently taught in all our schools.

Let us start by acknowledging and appreciating the significance of this date. I wish everyone a peaceful and meaningful Emancipation Day.

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