THE EDITOR: Last Thursday, I had the privilege of speaking at an Emancipation Day commemoration at the Gasparillo Secondary School (also known as Gasparillo Composite).
I had been invited to the event by Cindy Chadband who co-ordinated the programme which ran from 1 pm to 2.30 pm. The entire school — students and teachers — was present at the auditorium. Female teachers, in particular, were resplendent in African wear.
The event helped to reinforce my previous statements that Emancipation Day is a spiritual occasion and that it may be observed in the days before, after or on the day itself.
The event began with prayer and the singing of the national anthem. One student rendered Bob Marley’s Redemption Song and calypsonian Luta (Morel Peters) sang How Free are We and a spiritual calypso, Victory.
Furthermore, the student body, primarily African and East Indian, made it clear that Emancipation Day should be observed by everybody in TT. They cheered Luta lustily and they received my presentation with marked intent.
I was later taken on a visit to the school’s Emancipation Day display which was mounted in the library.
There were items of clothing, artefacts and posters which carried information about various aspects of the African experience.
Gasparillo Secondary was not the first school to have an Emancipation Day celebration but, as one teacher told me, the fact that the day falls during the school vacation limits the capacity of schools to fully involve the students.
However, Gasparillo Secondary proved otherwise, more so as this was the first time the school held its celebration.
Nonetheless there are two suggestions I want to make about when schools are having their events, before or after Emancipation Day.
One idea is to find links between the school and its catchment area with regard to its African heritage.
Selected students can research and make short presentations to the other students at the celebrations.
The information may be taken from the culinary arts, religious activities, domestic life, collective wisdom, such as proverbs, traditional stories and African history within the community.
For example, I peaked their interest with the history of Africans in Gasparillo and surrounding communities. I asked if they knew that rebel enslaved Africans (Maroons) ran away from the estates and settled in places like Mayo. That in 1832 Africans on the Plein Palais Estate, Pointe-a-Pierre, set the estate on fire and retreated to the forested areas of Caratal and Gasparillo to escape being shot by the militia.
That Yoruba people settled in Gasparillo.
That before the 20th century African Muslims (Hausas) lived at Guaracarite (Hausa or Houssa Road) and in Mayo. And so on.
The other suggestion that I wish to make is that schools may select calypsoes for performance at Emancipation Day celebrations from the NACC/NYAC Emancipation Calypso Competition. There is a repertoire of emancipation calypsoes in existence for 21 years — from 1997 to the present time.
I hope Gasparillo Secondary and other schools have many more Emancipation Day celebrations.