Happy Emancipation Day?
Though in some other West Indian states it’s already been celebrated, today here in The Commonwealth of the Bahamas, we celebrate Emancipation Day.
Emancipation Day serves as a day to celebrate the beginning of the end of slavery throughout the British Empire. Yes, the beginning of the end. In 1833, the slavery abolition Act was passed & the following year on August 1st, it came effect. Though, on this day, everyone was not truly free. For all slaves under the age of 6, their complete freedom was granted. However, slaves over the age of 6 became apprentices for their (former) slave masters and were still required to continue working, without pay, for them. This apprenticeship ended 4 years later on the 31st of July, thus imparting full freedom upon all former slaves throughout the Empire.
The Bahamas celebrates Emancipation Day, as a public holiday, yearly on the first Monday of August. The streets of portions of New Providence come alive with food, rum, and junkanoo. While in the family islands, many of them host homecoming festivals and/or regattas. I read online somewhere, something to the effect of Emancipation Day presently being a day set aside to celebrate the freedom of our soul from all the evil effect of ignorance and greed. This stood out to me.
I’ve mentioned in a previous post (Catch Flights, not Feelings!) that today, we live in a society that tells us anything that’s not Bahamian is better. Some may try to argue this & say that this is not true, but that’s telling you a lie. When it comes to travel, the family islands aren’t good enough for us. Food? We’re quicker to pick up a pack of Tyson chicken than we are to pick up Abaco Big Bird and how many of us completely bypass Blanco to pick up a bottle of Clorox? Do we have any reasons (with substance) for disregarding anything Bahamian?
We live in a Bahamas where the Bahamian Dream is to find yourself a hotel job (‘cause Baha Mar you can’t just say Atlantis anymore) where, for years, you will be nothing more than a, “Yes sir, yes ma’am, no sir or no ma’am” to all of the white tourists that you encounter. Because since we’re being honest, black tourists are not regarded as highly as white. We live in a Bahamas where, as a black Bahamian, if you visit any property more frequently visited by tourists (or more affluent white Bahamians) the service received, more often than not, leaves a lot more to be desired.
We live in a Bahamas where if a black Bahamian is stood on the side of a white or even lighter skinned black Bahamian and we would assume that the white or lighter skinned black Bahamian is more educated and/or generally, all around better off than the black Bahamian.
In the campaign leading up to our general election a few months ago, there was a “fear” that arose. It was a fear that if the Free National Movement were to win, a new UBP/Bay Street Boys era would rise in our Commonwealth. Especially with the return of the Hon. Brent Symonette to front line politics. Would that really matter though? The UBP, in its traditional sense, is long gone, but put this into perspective; how many black Bahamians can boast of owning a shop space on Bay Street?
In August of 2015, during his contribution to the House of Assembly, the then Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell quoted the late Bob Marley’s song, “Redemption Song” in response to the opposition. How fitting for a Bahamas 44 years post-independence and almost 2 centuries post slavery?
There's no denying that we have been emancipated physically a long time ago and that our physical shackles have been freed, but slavery still runs rampant throughout the country. The kind of slavery that, at one time, allowed 85% percent of a population to be deemed as nothing and ruled by the remaining 15% of the population. The kind of slavery that allows all that I’ve mentioned above, to be status quo of The Commonwealth of the Bahamas.
Mental slavery is real, despite the fact that we’ve deluded ourselves into believing that to not be the case. Though there are many other forms of mental slavery present & rampant throughout our archipelago, today can be the day where we start to live lives completely free from any bondage.
“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our mind.” – Bob Marley