Address by Hon. Menissa Rambally on Emancipation Day August 1, 2002
Address to the Nation by
Hon. Menissa Rambally Minister for Social Transformation and Culture
on Emancipation Day August 1, 2002
“A DAY OF SOLEMN REMEMBRANCE AND JOYOUS CELEBRATION”
Fellow St. Lucians,
Conflicting Emotions As I address you on this emancipation day, I am torn between the conflicting emotions of solemn remembrance and joyous celebration. Indeed, it is impossible to enjoy the fruits of our freedom today, if we do not understand the pains and suffering of the past, nor can we fully appreciate the blessings of St. Lucia today without reflecting on the heroism of our fore-parents in helping to create the society which we take for granted.
As we celebrate our freedom therefore, we must never forget their heroism both in enduring and resisting slavery. As we mark Emancipation Day 2002, it is fitting that we give equal expression to the conflicting emotions of the pain of remembrance and the joy of celebration, in order that we may gain a holistic appreciation of the true meaning of emancipation today. Let Us Remember My fellow St. Lucians we have walked the full journey from chattel to citizens. These freedoms were won by the millions of African peoples who perished along the triangle of death in the slaveholds on the West Africa, the slave ships on the Atlantic Ocean and the sugar plantations in the Caribbean. Who could have imagined that the children of the shivering, frightened and shackled Africans who toiled from sunrise to sunset would one day become the masters of their own destinies, and sovereign lords of their own independent state. How many would have believed that the sons and daughters of these noble African people, stripped of their dignity, and denied their humanity, would one day produce world thinkers capable of capturing the highest recognition for their ideas, logic and creativity.
A Unique People and a Unique Civilization This is who we are in the Caribbean today. Our experience in the Caribbean is a clear reminder of the possibilities of history. It is a lasting lesson that we must never under-estimate who we are, and who we can become.
We, the St. Lucian and Caribbean People, are a people who have transformed the pains of our historical experience into our tools for survival, endurance and meaningful existence. We have transformed the oil drum, an instrument of labour and oppression, into the steel pan, an instrument of cultural expression, pleasure and regeneration. Just as the slave masters selected the fittest of the fittest from the African motherland, so have they ensured all of us who have survived the Atlantic crossing, and the hardship of the plantation, of our capacity to overcome the challenges of existence. Just as the logic of production demanded the presence here of African, Indian, Chinese, Middle Eastern, Native American and European people, so have we inherited the gifts of cultural and religious tolerance, the possibility of racial harmony and human synthesis and understanding.
We are indeed a unique people and a unique civilization.
We Were Not Created by Slavery But let us never forget that we were not created by slavery. The African people who came to the Caribbean came from rich civilizations whose wonders continue to astound the world. The greatest injustice we can do to ourselves is to deny their humanity and their civilization. When we commit this error, we are telling ourselves that we are only the children of slaves. My fellow St. Lucians, as we celebrate our Emancipation, let us remember that we are not the children of slaves. We are the descendants of great and mighty civilizations, whose true greatness the world will one day come to understand and appreciate.
Let us remember too all the other civilizations which helped to make us the special people that we are. The East Indians who suffered indenture were also victims of slavery. So too were the European slave masters whose humanity must have been affected by their experiences in the Caribbean.
Towards a Slavery Memorial This is why we must begin to explore the possible mechanisms through which we can erect a memorial to show our respect and gratitude to our fallen parents. For this reason, in the weeks and months ahead, the Ministry of Culture will be exploring proposals for submission to Cabinet on the establishment of a Slavery Memorial in Saint Lucia. Such a memorial must be dedicated specifically to the African victims of slavery. We simply cannot continue to exist without an appropriate standard marking the heroic contributions of our black forefathers to our present happiness. It is an affront to History, that whilst St. Lucia possesses so many European memorials, there is nothing to mark the memory of our black fore-parents whose blood sweat and tears have nourished this land that gave us birth.
A Dignified Celebration But whilst we remember, we have to celebrate. I have been particularly pleased at the level of dignity and thought which has gone into the celebration of this years’ Emancipation Day. No longer is our Emancipation marked by excessive drinking and excessive noise. Our communities are maturing, and this is reflected in the activities of sober reflection, discussion and cultural exchange through which we have chosen to celebrate Emancipation Day 2002. It is a dignified celebration. I am pleased that you share your government’s commitment to making Emancipation Day one of the most significant dates on our Calendar of national activities. The amnesia of the past is clearly over.
Let me congratulate all the community groups, organizations, and Governmental Agencies which have helped to make this year’s celebration successful. In particular I would like to thank the Cultural development Foundation and the National Television Network for providing the coordination and guidance to this year’s activities and for the wholesome coverage which they have received. I wish to assure all of you of the Ministry’s support and gratitude for your efforts.
Thank you and have a peaceful and dignified Emancipation Day.
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