As Barbadians observed Emancipation Day yesterday, the significance of the day still seems not to have resonated with the majority of the population.
“Even though Government policy and all of the ministers have been pushing the notion of a Season of Emancipation, it still has not caught on in the way that we would like it to – as being a season which asks us to reflect on our development and struggle for freedom, our accomplishments, our heroes and other leaders who would have forged the privileges and other rights that we have now.
“We ask that people take this season from April 14 until August 23 to reflect on these things and there are specific dates that we’ve highlighted,” Director of the Commission of the Pan African, Dr. Deryck Murray, told Barbados TODAY in an interview ahead of the Emancipation Day Walk.
“The Crop-Over Festival itself, the entire … festival, is considered to be a part of the Season of Emancipation, in other words the Season of Emancipation subsumes Crop-Over and people are often surprised by the additional activities such as the Crop-Over Read In, the Visual Arts and so on that really speak to our cultural development and to our emancipation. Those events don’t get the same profile as the other glamorous events but they are just as important and they’re playing a pivotal role in the development of the psyche of the nation,” he stated.
He contends that Emancipation Day itself was the most important holiday on Barbados’ annual calendar because “it took us a couple centuries of struggle to realise Emancipation”.
“It wasn’t handed to us, the majority black population, from a benevolent god on high or England or a benevolent planter/merchant class. We had to struggle for every inch we’ve been given. It was the same as the 1937 revolts but because we were given the impression that these things were handed to us and we really didn’t fight for them.
“We’ve fallen into a state of complacency and we weren’t given that impression by accident or we didn’t develop it on our own, we were told that. We were programmed in terms of the way that the history was written and what was taught to us that; we were the recipients of the generosity bestowed on us of these freedoms and rights and privileges but if you don’t fight for something or if you’re given the impression that you didn’t have to struggle for it then you become complacent with it.
“You also further never fully understand the magnitude of the work and the sacrifice that the heroes and leaders and your ancestors had to make and that’s why we witness such a weak response and turnout to the commemorations that we use to mark the significant dates including August 1, Emancipation Day,” the director said.
He reminded that it was only recently that Emancipation Day was officially recognised as a holiday and the fact that it took “so long even for our leaders to recognise it properly, is an indication if the distance that we’ve come but the distance that we’ve had to go because it will take some time for the majority of the population to internalise and to make it a part of their psyche”.
Murray said that because Crop-Over had more machinery, in terms of “PR and marketing”, and the string that tied the festival and the Season of Emancipation together was “a relatively recent concept” which would take people some time to appreciate and absorb.
“It is crucial, even if we do it gradually, that the stakeholders in Crop-Over understand the concept of the Season of Emancipation because it gives them some direction and grounding for the development of the Crop-Over Festival itself, in terms of the cultural richness and depth that could be excavated from our linkages with Africa and from the stories of struggle that we can write and rewrite and reproduce, that will give Crop-Over meaning and purpose,” he said. (DS)