Chairman of the Emancipation Support Committee (ESC) Khafra Kambon says the concept of having an emancipation village open throughout the year is again on the committee's agenda.
Responding to concerns raised by National Carnival Commission chairman Winston "Gypsy" Peters in a Newsday article on Tuesday, Kambon said, “We had a team working on this just a few years ago, but due to unfortunate circumstances we did not get a final report on it.
"But it is something that we have on the agenda again. And once it is on the agenda it is not going to take too long. It all depends on when we have something identified that is satisfactory.”
On Monday, Peters, in lamenting that there was no established holiday for Afro-Trinidadians and Tobagonians in this country, said he did not understand why there was no permanent place where African people could have an emancipation village all year round.
Peters said that when he was a minister in the People’s Partnership government he told Kambon to go and look for 25 or 30 acres of land somewhere and he (Peters) would lobby for it.
Yesterday, Kambon said long before that, the ESC had put in a request for land but were told the Mt Hope area where they wanted had been identified for the university expansion at the time.
He added that regardless of who was in government, once they submitted a proper proposal for land they would get it, but said the space would not be for the emancipation festival. He said it would be a space for a museum, some accommodation, some shops and things of that kind.
Kambon explained the ESC’s activities were not just Emancipation Day-related saying the group hosted activities related to African development all the time. Regarding the emancipation festival, he said even the Grand Stand at the Queen's Park Savannah in Port of Spain might now be inadequate.
“We can’t be unrealistic that we will be able to create those kinds of facilities in another space at this time. And a critical part of the emancipation commemoration is the festival on the street. That emancipation day parade on the streets of PoS is critical and we don’t intend to take that away from August 1."
He said the many other activities that were hosted in different spaces now could be focused in a particular space when the time came.
He said that would mean having to raise funds to build the necessary facility.
Kambon said the simplest part was getting the land, the committee had a very good idea of the areas it wanted, but the long-term project depended on the extent to which people were prepared to put the funds out to make it become a reality.
“Those finances have to be raised from the people here. People who want to see that development would need to understand that you are talking about millions of dollars.”
He added: “We have never seen this as a minor project. It is not something symbolic that you have a piece of land, we are not going for the symbolism, we are going for something that can have real use value, and to have that it will be necessary to raise millions of dollars to realise it.”
He said he did not know how long it would take the ESC to get such a project completed because raising funds on the necessary scale would be a major challenge.
“I know that, I am not fooling myself about that. So I can’t say if it’s a year, two years, ten years, 15 years it all depends on the flow of funds that we are capable of generating. That will determine the timing.”