I join with the national community in extending Emancipation Day Greetings to our brothers and sisters of African heritage on the 185th Anniversary of Emancipation. On August 1st, 1985 Trinidad and Tobago became the first country in the world to declare Emancipation Day a public holiday to commemorate the day on which the Emancipation Proclamation came into effect.
Emancipation Day is more than a mere holiday but it is a day of celebration that honours the determination and the courage of a people to overcome tribulation as well as capture the success which is thoroughly demonstrated by the invaluable contributions that have been made by members of the African Diaspora in all forms of life ranging from academia, sports, music, art, science and technology across the globe.
To fully understand the immense significance of Emancipation Day, we must acknowledge that there has never been a crueller or more inhumane act than slavery. However, to fully appreciate Emancipation Day we must recognize that without the contributions of those who were brought here in chains, those who endured so much and yet still triumphed – our country, our region and our world would not have progressed as well as they have.
Emancipation Day serves as a reminder of the strength, the resolve, and bravery of the African people to battle brutal hardship and persecution which continued even after they left the plantation. Our African forefathers never for one moment gave up or lost hope that a better day would come.
We must be inspired that as a people they didn’t wait for that better day to come but they fought resiliently to ensure that success and sustainable development would become synonymous with the African diaspora.
Today we see great sportsmen and women, poets, musicians, artists, as well as intellectuals, scientists, innovators and politicians, leaders making their mark on our national landscape and across the world.
Even as we celebrate this special day, the African community continues to battle against hate, injustice, and divisiveness – even in our own country. I applaud those who seek to rise above the negativity and do their part to fight against attempts to divide us, recognizing that there is more that unites us than separates us.
The journey of our African brothers and sisters has not been easy, but it is one to be proud of given the many accomplishments.
Today their descendants must be proud of who they are, how far they have come and what they have achieved.
On this special day, it is important that we pay respect and gratitude to those who protected and preserved African culture and traditions, passing them down from generation to generation.
Today that culture has formed the foundation for many entities within our own national identity as it has influenced the music we love, many of the dishes we enjoy and many religious practices which can be found in Trinidad and Tobago.
Our nation is richer for the many contributions of all who journeyed to Trinidad and Tobago albeit through different circumstances – and eventually called her “home”. As we look at what is taking place in our country today, I call on each and every son and daughter of our beloved nation to join hands and let us pledge to work towards fixing the ills that plague us – the scourge of crime, a weakened economy, rising unemployment, decreased opportunities for our children and youth, and inadequate healthcare.
One hundred and eighty-five years ago the battle for freedom was won by courage.
Let us use the same courage as a united people to continue working towards a better nation as well as enhancing the lives of our fellowman.
Kamla Persad-Bissessar, SC, MP
Leader of the Opposition
1st August, 2019