If we forget our history, if we forget slavery…

TOMORROW, as we observe Emancipation Day, the 178th anniversary of the
end of the atrocity called slavery — easily man’s greatest inhumanity to
man — we need to ensure that the legacy of our forefathers, who fought
for freedom, is preserved and respected.
We reiterate our resolve to resist the attempts by some persons to
discount the value of our history and our need to recall. For it is our
unwavering view that only by knowing and exploring our history can we
truly understand why and how we are who we are. That, we hold, will
assist us better to move forward, particularly at this juncture when we
embark on our next 50 years as an Independent nation.
Failing that, we risk making the same mistakes of our sordid past or forgetting the valuable lessons we ought to have learnt.
Just as the Jews have done with the holocaust, we must not allow the
world to forget the fact that millions of our ancestors were forcibly
taken from their homes in Africa, transported thousands of miles across
the Atlantic Ocean in the most sub-human of conditions and sold like
livestock to the highest bidder in colonies.
Many lives were also lost during that brutal Middle Passage voyage,
adding to the resentment to colonial symbols and the concept of empire
that exists among blacks to this day.
We have always maintained in this space that in the Jamaican context, we
should all take inspiration from the consistency of struggle and
resistance, both active and passive, of those who refused to accept that
slavery and brutality were justly their lot.
That sustained refusal to submit to oppression and injustice, even at
the risk of loss of life, ultimately led to the overturning of slavery
in 1834. And even then, the colonists freed only children under age six
and implemented the system of apprenticeship in a number of countries in
order to continue living well off the sweat of fellow humans.
It was not until a further four years before the colonial masters fully
accepted and implemented the abolition of slavery, as it was clear that
they refused to acknowledge the equality of all humans.
It is with those facts in mind that we continue to encourage Jamaicans
to be guided by the examples set by our freedom fighters, some of whom
are now recognised as national heroes.
Their efforts, and those of the thousands of Jamaicans who supported
them, must continue to be highlighted, in schools, communities, and
among young people. For it is those characteristics, coupled with a deep
understanding of our history, that will ensure our existence as a
people and sovereign nation.
It is those characteristics that will help influence public response to
criminals who, in reality, are enslavers, just like the colonial
masters. It is those characteristics that will go a far way in our quest
to strengthen justice and equity in our country.
That is why our observance of Emancipation Day is important, very important.
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