THE Prime Minister says part of the long-term effects of the slave trade and slavery on its descendants include the struggle of a people, trying since 1838 when slavery was abolished, “to establish personhood and dignity in a world, in which racism has been deeply institutionalised.
In his Emancipation Day 2019 message to the nation, Dr Rowley said: “Slavery has left many a black person scarred and denuded of basic values. In the eyes of some, the perception remains that blacks have been placed at the bottom of every ‘good’ list, and the top of every ‘bad’ one. Despite, their strengths, resourcefulness and intelligence, they are forced, still, to cry out to the world that ‘black is beautiful, too.’”
He said, as we celebrate Emancipation Day as a national holiday, it is important to note that we in TT are unique in that we have been commemorating the abolition of slavery in the former British West Indies since August 1, 1985.
“We have long recognised slavery as the sad, dark, side of human existence, in that almost every people, every race across the world has had this wretched experience, but we from West Africa have suffered the worst.
“Historians continue to document these cruel exploitations, in human societies, from century-old events in the Arab world to the evolution of democracy in ancient Greece, developments which helped to shape modern Western civilisation of which we are a part.”
Rowley said, recent studies in social psychology now suggest that the scars and oppression of slavery are lodged generations after in their collective unconscious – in the minds of Africans in the Caribbean and the Americas.
“In short, theirs, as we say, is a double whammy: institutionalised racism on one hand; and the mental chains of pain and suffering held within their own psyches.
“But this is the 21st century. A tectonic shift is taking place; there is a new ‘scramble for Africa.’ The world’s superpowers are turning attention to Africa, again, as the new economic frontier. The UN predicts that by 2025 there will be more Africans than Chinese people in the world, as African economies are among the fastest growing in the world.”
He said what this means for the African person in TT is a question that every one of this race must ask. He urged citizens to acknowledge the past and continue to research the rich, historical ancestry of African civilisations – “the legacy from whence we came.
“We must continue to remember how we came here and what we are engaged in building here, a new society based on equality and harmony in our colourful and vibrant democracy. Remember the struggles of the fore parents on and off the plantations to the birth and growth of this nation.
“Then let us find ways to unlock and emancipate ourselves from the mental chains, and, finally, embrace the opportunities of the 21st century – with an understanding that TT will only achieve the future which we all, as citizens, create for our generations to come.”