It was an evening of spirited performances that sought to encourage those in attendance to make greater connections with their African heritage and work in a united manner to achieve the goal of an African emancipation from a dominating post-colonial mental bondage.
Emancipation Day celebrations 2019 in Barbados as always was attended by a small number of people. Small is used in this context in comparison to any other given Crop-Over event. In fact Emancipation Day is the worst attended event on the Crop Over calendar which ironically is part and parcel of the season of emancipation.
This year the National Cultural Foundation was mandated with overseeing the day’s activity and its overall marketing. What was conceptualized was a gathering at Weiser’s on The Mighty Grynner Highway, followed by an extremely short walk up the beach to a drum circle. At the drum circle several Pan African groupings and individuals gave short performances. A small fire was situated in the middle of the drummers and housed in four small metal barrels cut in half.
Performances spoke of the need to be more self-assertive as African descended people and not cower to the imposed position of less than by our former colonizers and their present descendants. Messages spoke of the need to unify and love each other more. One performer tried to impress on those gathered that emancipation was a grand celebration in Barbados, and while numbers at the present gathering were very poor in the grand scheme of things, the numbers on the road for the Crop Over jump up told another story. I personally did not agree with that sentiment as I am quite certain that that 99.9% of the people reveling on Crop Over day do not give any consideration to their emancipation as it is taken for granted and thus under-valued. To solidify my point, I turn to the twin island republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Carnival Day attracts thousands of Trinbagonians, but unlike Barred-Down (Barbados) Emancipation Day is equally well attended. Further to this the music of the festival does not speak of an emancipated people. The slave trade tore apart the African family structure by force. Parents and children were often separated due to the sale of slaves from one plantation to the next. Today the music of the festival is preoccupied with objectifying the Black Woman within a sexual context . It also produces a number of songs that advocate HORNING (Cheating on one’s spouse/partner), which in turn almost always leads to the breakdown of the family and all the other disfuncionalities that come in tow.
Example of a well thought out Emancipation Day activity.
Emancipation Day on the road 2018 Trinidad and Tobago.
One message from a Rastafari woman spoke of a recent journey taken by members of her organization to Ghana. In this message she spoke of visiting the Slave Castles where our African brothers and sisters waited transportation to their awaiting prisons in the West. So excited to have made this journey she told those gathered that they were still in Ghana in spirit and that it (Ghana) was our home. This in itself was interesting to me as Rastafari normally speaks of Ethiopia as their destination when envisioning returning to Africa. A brother who accompanied her flew the Ethiopian flag. I can totally identify with what this sister was saying as I got the same feeling of returning to the past after viewing the movie “ SANKOFA”. After watching that movie I could see and feel my ancestors in the cane fields as I drove past them. I had also gotten that feeling on entering a house that was formally a great house and housed several house slaves. From their sleeping quarters I could feel their pain and sadness. I am grateful to the architect of life that my spirit needs no airfare to return home.
An interesting performance was the gathering of the women in attendance, forming a circle moving around the fire. The sister leading this procession sang in what I believe to be the Yoruba spiritual observance of Ifa.
For the most part the crowd gathered there remained very reserved as if seated in a church (not Baptist) congregation or lecture. Energy levels spiked a few times when spiritual contributions were made by a brother representing Nyabinghi Rastafari and the Spiritual Baptist. This was acknowledged by the fire as it rose during these moments. It (the fire) had to be manually stoked and manipulated by a flammable agent (looked like lighter fluid from where I stood).
I conclude this article by saying it is very telling that no government ministers were in attendance outside of well known pan-Africanist, David Comissiong. We are accustomed to see our government ministers attending church services for one reason or another, but can’t recall seeing any of them on Emancipation Day. Let’s just leave that there for the minute.
Please note that the youth of the AHF will be conducting a Warri workshop at Bridgetown Market from 12pm – 6pm on Saturday the 3rd August. Visit the AHF at Bridgetown Market, meet some of its members and be more informed on what this pan-African charity is involving itself in. For more information contact the charity at 260-4795