IT IS AUGUST 1, 2020 – HAPPY EMANCIPATION DAY BVI
My people of the Virgin Islands, Good Day and God’s Blessings to all of you.
Today is August 1, 2020, another day in this history of the emancipation in the Virgin Islands.
Today marks a major milestone.
It is 186 years since the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1834.
During our Emancipation Celebration, we are accustomed to putting on a display of our culture and talents and enjoying ourselves at different festive settings, as we reflect in music, speeches, poems, historical readings and other forms of reflections, on the trials and victories of our ancestors during the period of slavery.
COVID-19, as you are aware, prevents us from having the usual mass gathering events. So, we have to use the technology and have virtual versions of these events.
So this year, from 31 July to 5 August, is different as we are doing most of those activities, just in a different format.
That does not mean that our focal point must change.
It does not mean that the true meaning and reason behind our Emancipation Festival has gone anywhere.
When we would take to the streets, as we were accustomed to doing, we were reliving and remembering – in our own way – the jubilation that our forefathers would have felt with the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1834 – which, by the way was just a mere 186 years ago.
But the reading of the proclamation was one moment in time – a milestone along a very long road.
It is a road that started with the abduction of the first African slave in the African continent somewhere in the 16th century.
It is about the dehumanisation of every one of the 10 million to 12 million individuals who were stripped of their freedom and their dignity; every crack of every whip; every cry, scream and tear; every murder and every crime; every escape attempt and every punishment for trying; and every moment in between. This is what led to that moment in 1834.
So, while we celebrate and reflect, let us not forget. Our celebration is in remembrance of a legacy of Virgin Islanders who fought – some laying down their lives – so that today we could have freedom.
One question we must ask ourselves as we reflect on the collapse of the economic model of plantations and slavery; if those brave and unrelenting souls did not revolt in the 1800’s, would the Masters ever have stopped chattel slavery?
Emancipation was not voluntarily given to our people, but it was something that had to be fought for, with lives being lost.
Today, we talk about slavery, control, exploitation and oppression taking new forms with modern language.
Our slogan for this year is: “BVI Festival 2020: Be Fully Free: Emancipate Yourself from Mental Slavery as we Celebrate our Virgin Islands History!”
Mental slavery has to do with being unaware or unconcerned about the way mainstream channels are used to distort our perceptions of the world around us. It is like living in the Matrix; an artificial reality designed to exploit us.
So, as we celebrate from the safety of the virtual programmes, let us remember from whence we came, where we are now, where we are going, and where we will be.
We can only come into our true potential when we free ourselves.
This year’s theme is “Our Cultural Heritage in the Mix as BVI Celebrates its 66”. Our annual celebrations help us to bring our heritage back into focus at least once every year. Events like COVID-19 interrupt this renewal process.
But now that we are aware of this, we must fight harder to make sure our heritage stays alive so that our future generations know what they are a part of.
Yes, for this year we will miss the colourful banners waving in the streets, having the Festival Village in Road Town; Rise and Shine, local bands and artists; international guest artists, Queen Show, Parade, Prince and Princess;— all the things that you usually enjoy huddled together.
But this does not erase the fact that we are a free people whose ancestors fought and died to give us the life we have today. It does not change the fact that the culture of our ancestors is alive in our hearts.
That is why today we live in BVILOVE as a proud Virgin Islands people.
Let us enjoy our Emancipation Festival 2020 in a manner that always reflects our respect and gratitude for the fight our ancestors did for us.
For them it was not about what or who they were fighting against. But it was about who and what they were fight for.
They were fighting for us.
They were fighting for us to be free.
Remember the slogan: “BVI Festival 2020: Be Fully Free: Emancipate Yourself from Mental Slavery as we Celebrate our Virgin Islands History!”
I thank you and may God continue to bless these beautiful Virgin Islands.
It Is August 1, 2020 – HAPPY EMANCIPATION DAY BVI!