NEITHER rain nor a nearly two-hour delay could dampen the spirits of those who took part in yesterday’s Emancipation Day parade through the streets of Port of Spain.
The Prime Minister, his wife Sharon Rowley, Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly and Minister of Public Utilities Robert Le Hunte were among the scores who braved the rain, smiling and greeting spectators along the route.
The parade – also referred to as the Kambulé Street Procession – began on Independence Square in front of the Treasury Building, between Edward and St Vincent Streets, proceeding east before turning north, ending at the Lidj Yasu Omowale Emancipation Village, Queen's Park Savannah.
A few people told Newsday the turnout seemed smaller this year but most of those who came out – some from as early as 6 am – were dressed in traditional African garb. Several women had on elaborate, brightly coloured head wraps. Many men, including the PM, had on kufi caps while a few others wore Aso Oke hats.
The day began around 4 am with ancestral veneration rituals and a libation ceremony at All Stars Pan Yard, Duke Street, Port of Spain. About two hours later, there was a re-enactment of portions of Pearl Eintou Springer's play, Freedom Morning Come, in front of the Treasury Building and the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation.
The parade was scheduled to start two hours after that but for some reason – no one Newsday spoke to could explain the extended delay – the guests of honour didn't take to the stage until shortly after 9 am.
There was another libation ceremony, performed by Brother Ikeno Moyo of the Emancipation Support Committee (ESC), to bless the parade. Then, as the clouds got darker – indicating imminent rain – ESC chairman Khafra Kambon announced a change of plans.
"We want to get going before the rains come", Kambon said, telling the crowd Gadsby-Dolly would wait until they reached the Emancipation Village to deliver her speech but that Rowley would bring brief remarks before the parade began.
Declaring "it has always been known that freedom has to be guarded and freedom of opportunity is the greatest emancipation that can ever come to a people," Rowley said there is work still to be done by him and his fellow "children of the African enslaved."
"We also must use (this) occasion to prepare ourselves to accept the responsibility of the present and the future. Those who are adults today, we have a responsibility to ensure that our children and grandchildren know the true story of Emancipation.
"We have a responsibility to understand economic enslavement – it is not only working on the plantation that could result in enslavement. It is the denial of opportunity and the missing of opportunity that could result in enslavement," Rowley said.