THE Prime Minister, in his Emancipation Day message, said Africans must learn about the horrors of slavery, but also youngsters must now grasp a future in TT’s digital economy.
Reflecting on the atrocities and wrenching pain suffered by enslaved Africans, Dr Rowley said today’s freedoms must be celebrated.
He said August 1 is a day to celebrate and reflect on the Caribbean history and contribution to world civilisation, and to mull TT’s future in the world of the 21st century.
“African slavery was established for economic reasons, with accompanying assumptions about race, colour and perceived African inferiority, which for centuries was rationalised from biology to theology, but such theories have long been proven unscientific and self-serving.”
Rowley said in that period, the African was deemed a sub-human brute, inferior to whites in body and mind, to be removed beyond the reach of mixture.
“African slavery was an organised, profitable enterprise. Our first Prime Minister, Dr Eric Williams, in his enduring, 81-year old classic, Capitalism and Slavery, demonstrated that it was the profits from the slave trade and slavery, which consequently made England the great workshop of the world.”
The PM said the late Prof Walter Rodney said slavery funded Western Europe’s vital sectors in finance, shipping, mining, insurance, agriculture, manufacturing and technology.
“In that process millions of Africans were reduced to beasts of burden, and stripped of their overall identity,” Rowley said.
“Western Europe went to Africa with their superior ships and cannons. Slaves were traded and packaged in barracoons as cargo, then taken across the horrendous ordeal of the Middle Passage. "Men, women, children were brutally abused on journeys that lasted between six weeks to three months. Diseases were rampant, mental stress and suicides were high, with many slaves throwing themselves overboard.”
Some 15-50 million enslaved Africans landed in the Americas, living their entire lives working from dust to dawn in pain. Their children’s minds were scrubbed, being replaced with European narratives, to forget their past.
“Such unspeakable hurt, torment and cruelty cannot be equated to or compared with any other form of human interaction or relationship.”
Rowley welcomed the recent re-assertion of the African personhood across the globe which sparked calls for the removal of statues and monuments of colonial and oppressive figures.
“This is an ongoing matter, and I believe such decisions require a deeper look at our history and must be followed by educational programmes and the necessary course corrections. The aim must be to know our history so as not to be victims of ignorance nor are we to glorify the oppressors of our lineage.”
Rather than Africans being derided as “black”, “ugly” “lazy”, “malingerers”, “gang leaders” and “prison statistics”, Rowley said they must learn how Africa contributed to the world and follow the economic predictions that in this century Africa will rise again as the centre of the world.
“Remind everyone that, in spite of slavery, persons of African descent have shown integrity, and proven their intellectual capacity, fortitude and acumen, through local and international achievements and accomplishments,” he urged.
“The 21st century is the age of the digital economy with technologies evolving in artificial intelligence, biotechnology, advanced materials, quantum computing, etcetera.
“I say to our youths this means you are caught in the march of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Step forward and grasp your future with both hands.”
The PM urged TT’s youngsters to find their place in these technological advances
“Research your past, because it influences your present, and will allow you to embrace your future, proudly, confidently and with boundless faith in your destiny as proud citizens of this blessed nation of TT. Happy Emancipation Day to you and yours!”