Barbadian youth are in danger of being re-enslaved to a new master — largely because of a lack of knowledge.
So said president of the Barbados Youth Development Council, Cherisse Francis, as she addressed Emancipation Day celebrations at the foot of the Emancipation Statue at Haggatt Hall yesterday morning.
Before an audience that included Minister of Youth, Stephen Lashley, Francis said: “Today, as we continue in this commemorative tradition, we must not only sing and dance and speak, but we must quietly reflect on our past accomplishments, our present state and the future to which we aspire.
“Our ancestors such as ‘Bussa’, beneath whose [statue] we congregate, fought so that they and we in later years could experience a ‘setting free’ that is, the true meaning of emancipation.
“In doing so, they struggled to preserve and create a culture that is uniquely ours; an Afro-Caribbean melting pot which we can cherish and live out as our way of life. So when in the name of development we refuse to sing the Negro spirituals or preserve our oral tradition as the griots of yesteryear did, are we still emancipated or are we instead becoming slaves to a new culture that is not ours?
“When we refuse to inform our children about Golden Square or the screw dock and instead tell them of places that were transplanted to our island by another, what are we saying to the youth about ‘we culture’?
“Sadly, it seems as though we have forgotten that home drums beat first and instead of being emancipated we have just become slaves to a new master. So today, I on behalf of the youth acknowledge the contributions of those who set us on our path and gave us a beginning.
“For all in the hearing of my voice, I charge you, when you reflect, share with others and give the youth a look into the past so that they may understand the present.”
Francis added: “Even without understanding the true meaning of the word emancipation, our young people will tell you that they are emancipated and free beings — and I don’t blame them. In a society which is riddled with a constitutional and fundamental rights, statutes, conventions and a myriad of documents which proclaim our independence, we appear as free individuals.
“But I wonder if we simply traded our physical enslavement for another form of mental entrapment. How free can we as a people really be if we choose to remain uninformed and firmly bound to an ‘Animal farm’ mentality?
“Our ideology that one person is more equal than the other does not shackle us physically or force us to perpetuate the ideas of a master based on the colour of our skin, but it does limit us.
“Furthermore, discrimination against a person due to a disability, their sexual orientation or their religious orientation is another crippling hindrance which has left our society captive in mental prisons. When we liberate our thought processes and open ourselves to embracing people and new ideas then we learn, as we learn we understand.”