My Jamaican brothers and sisters
This year we celebrate Emancipation Day amidst the challenges and hardships that we continue to face as a nation.
Every year at this time I can imagine and feel the excitement of our ancestors as they prepared for the August Morning, referred by our ancestors as “Augus Mawnin”, that promised them freedom.
I can imagine their joy as they sang and danced to their freedom songs – songs that bore images of Freedom, Equality, Justice and Respect. We have come a long way from that Augus’ Mawnin in 1834.
Emancipation Day remains important for us today to mark this Milestone as it symbolizes the hope and possibilities that must still guide us today.
It provides us with an opportunity to re-commit to laying the foundations required to ensure that the horrors of slavery, and of the Apprenticeship period that followed, will never happen again in any shape or form in our lifetime or the generations to come.
My brothers and sisters, as we think about where we are as a people today, we must make ourselves aware of our history.
Our Heritage that is retained in our very DNA urges us to use the cues from our past to evaluate our present circumstances and guide the path to our future.
We must recall the struggles of Slavery and the four years of Apprenticeship during which the Freedoms of our forebears were postponed.
In that four-year period, as our Ancestors moved from the category of ‘slave’ to ‘apprentice’, they were fooled, tricked and conned into believing that they were free.
They were deceived about their rights and freedoms by those who sought to exploit them.
Our historians tell us that our enslaved Ancestors saw Emancipation as an opportunity for them to finally have the opportunity to participate fully in creating the life they wanted for themselves; giving them the Rights and Freedoms that Slavery and Apprenticeship had denied them, giving them the opportunity to be the best that they can be.
Our ancestors fought hard, suffered and died for us to be free. That is why, every time we are asked to make sacrifices, we must carefully examine what it is we are being asked to sacrifice. We must never sacrifice our rights and freedoms.
On this Emancipation Day, we must affirm that we owe it to ourselves, in our time, to our children and to the memories of our ancestors and our heroes, named and unnamed, to jealously guard the rights, freedoms and privileges that were attained for us by the blood, sweat and tears of our ancestors.
There are still some among us who feel they should hold our brothers and sisters hostage in their communities and neighborhoods. To them I say, every time you rape a child or a woman, you are perpetuating what the slave masters did to our ancestors.
Every time you murder and maim someone you are perpetuating the inhumane abuses of the Slavers on our ancestors.
Instead, we must do as National Hero the Right Excellent Marcus Garvey said so appropriately and beautifully put to song by Bob Marley.
“Emancipate yourselves from Mental Slavery, none but ourselves can free our mind”.
As we recall the suffering as well as the triumphs of our forebears, we must carefully examine all those elements of our existence that prevent us from achieving our full potential as a people.
We must renew our resolve to ensure that, in our time and in our children’s time, Jamaica will belong to all Jamaicans regardless of colour or class.
We must make sure that the benefits of our struggles, our work and our sacrifices, will contribute to the progress of Jamaica for all Jamaicans.
Emancipation Day must continue to have special meaning for every Jamaican.
Each time the farmer feels the soil between his fingers; he must draw on the strength in the ground he tends, moistened by centuries of the blood, sweat and tears of our ancestors.
Each time the teacher prepares her lesson, she must remember the slave child who was denied the opportunity to read and write.
Every time the nurse or doctor administers care to their patients, or brings a child into the world, they must think of the times when our people were forced to tend to each other’s illnesses in small wooden shacks or deliver babies in the very cane fields in which our women toiled.
Every exchange between employer and employee must be guided by memories of exploitation and must constitute a fair exchange between two parties living in this land of equality.
That farmer, that teacher, that nurse, that businessperson; every single Jamaican worker and owner of capital must recognize that the efforts they make, contributes to the workings of this nation, despite the challenges we face.
Every effort is central to our growth and development. Without that effort we can never be truly free.
“. strive that by our labours, succeeding generations of our own, shall call us blessed, even, as we today call the generation of the past blessed.”
In these difficult times we must put away attitudes of ‘me’ and think of ‘we’; we must move away from ‘mine’ and think of ‘ours’.
The community must be the family that facilitates our survival.
We must each re-evaluate how we interface with our communities and think of ways we can become involved.
On this Emancipation Day, every Jamaican must be thinking about the meaning of true freedom.
Every child must be free to dream to be free.
Every student must be free to access a high quality Education.
Every worker must be free to expect, to find and to retain decent work with proper remuneration.
Each heart must believe in our freedom and every hand must work to protect that freedom.
Our African brother Kannaan recently called the entire globe to action with his anthem of peace and unity.
He sang as we should: “Give me freedom, give me fire; Give me reason, take me higher”.
That is my vision for this remarkable nation and our people. A people, ‘full free’, charged and empowered, moved and inspired; ready, willing and able to take Jamaica land we love onward and upward.
I believe in Jamaica. I believe our people, our youth and our children.
I believe in ‘a true and lasting Freedom, I believe in our future.
On this Emancipation Day Marcus Garvey’s words ring true.
Jubilee has come todayPraise to God the Only KingCenturies have passed awayAnd Good Freedom’s rights begin
Come what may I’m free to dwellWhere sun and stars do shineNever more can slavers sell This triumphant soul of mine.
Better men of noble bloodFought the tyrants all the wayThey before the world had stoodFighting for good freedom’s day.
My fellow Jamaicans, let us rise to rescue Jamaica, repair the breach and restore the hope.
I pray that the Eternal Father will continue to bless our land.
My Jamaican brothers and sisters