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The spirit of yearning for freedom – that liberty of mind, body, and soul from ownership by others never deserted the African slaves and the indentured contracted workers who followed them after full Emancipation in 1838. Numerous were the uprisings, rebellions, protests, riots and strikes. Emancipation never came willingly or cheaply from the colonialists.
Against those sentiments, the GAWU salutes the memory of those who struggled and sacrificed for freedom and the descendants of our African forefathers who today have hopefully inherited their spirit of justice and true freedom from those who dared to stand up against the brutal, enslaving colonial system.
As we look back across the centuries at the atrocities and wrenching pain, which slaves suffered, during what should be assessed as the darkest period in human history, it seems mandatory that we celebrate the measures of freedom we now enjoy. Slavery was established for economic reasons, with accompanying assumptions about race, colour and perceived inferiority, which for centuries was rationalised from biology to theology, but such theories have long been proven unscientific and self-serving. slavery was an organised, profitable enterprise. Former Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr Eric Williams, in his “Capitalism and Slavery” demonstrated that it was the profits from the slave trade and slavery, which consequently made England the great workshop of the world. The late Professor Walter Rodney also explained that Western Europe’s vital sectors in finance, shipping, mining, insurance, agriculture, manufacturing and technology were developed from these two enterprises, and in that process, millions were reduced to beasts of burden, and stripped of their overall identity.
Western Europe went to Africa with their superior ships and cannons. Slaves were traded and packaged in barracoons as cargo, then taken across the horrendous ordeal of the Middle Passage. Men, women, children were brutally abused on journeys that lasted between six weeks to three months, depending on the weather. Diseases were rampant, mental stress and suicides were high, with many slaves throwing themselves overboard.
In the new lands, millions of lived their entire life, working from dusk to dawn, in pain. Over succeeding generations, the minds of their children were scrubbed, being replaced with European narratives, which ensured, among other things, that they forget their past. Such unspeakable hurt, torment and cruelty cannot be equated to or compared with any other form of human interaction or relationship.
GAWU feels that this Emancipation 2021 period should reinforce in us all the lessons of the post-1838 history. In unity, strength is most sustained. The descendants of Emancipation must all share in equal opportunity as our natural and human resources become available to development for all. No group should be favoured or discriminated against because of political expediency. It is such approaches that will help preserve and give enduring meaning to achievements like emancipation and independence. GAWU urges reflection at this time. Emancipation, Arrival and today’s challenges are issues that hold lessons for us and guide us in our pursuit and future endeavours. Let us heed them on Emancipation Day and onwards.
A pleasant Emancipation Observance 2021 from GAWU.