“On Thursday 1st August 2013 the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago celebrates Emancipation Day. This is the commemoration of freedom from a life bound by oppression and shackles of forced labour and torture of an African and Creole slave society.”
They came from Yoruba, Hausa, Congo, Ibo, Rada, Mandingo, Kromanti and Temne in Africa. They were skilled craftsmen and builders who were brought to fulfill the British Empire’s labour shortage in the colonial Trinidad and Tobago. The slaves came at a time when sugar estates were the main economical driving power on the islands. Their labour helped to supply the high demand for sugar in Europe. After years of being subordinate to disease and cruelty the slaves revolted in whichever way they could. These included working slowly, damaging tools and equipment as well as complaints among other things. It was only until 1838 that the slaves were all granted complete freedom. They settled in areas away from the plantations like Belmont, Arouca, Laventille, Port of Spain and San Fernando. It was here they began their new lives executing their craft and establishing their family life.
Today, August 1st is a national holiday with much festivity. There is a week long celebration which includes street parades, a market area for trade of artifacts and crafts from skilled artisans. There are intellectual symposiums as well. Even international artistes from the African continent visit the country for musical performances in concert. Celebration is due as a nation upholds many achievements for the African society. From Uriah Butler, Dr Eric Williams, George Padmore, CL R James, Stokely Carmichael renown politicians to iconic sportsmen, international music artistes, poets, esteemed academic lecturers, financial advisers, mas men and incredible fashion designers. It is safe to say equal opportunity for all in the land of oil . The community has been able to safeguard some of its traditional religions such as Shouter Baptist and Orisha fellowships. Their crops have even migrated here today. Some of which we take for granted for eg. our pimento peppers. They have changed the demographic and added their fair share of spice and colour to the cultural landscape with their diaspora.
As a Trinbagonian Emancipation day for me heralds a triumph of a people not just an African people but all people in Trinidad and Tobago. A cosmopolitan society that is independent of any colonial ties. We have forged a way forward for ourselves to excel, to govern and to prosper. The people of Trinidad and Tobago have a voice and this ability to demand and chart the way forward for our brothers and sisters to excel and rise as a nation signifies a new chapter in Emancipation. Not only are the shackles of slavery abolished but the mental bounds of an oppressed society are now liberated. Trinbagonians have emancipated themselves. Truly, they have realized how important a nation moves forward when together we aspire, together we achieve.
Live, Love & Let Live
Let’s Go Trinidad and Tobago