On Saturday, the 182nd anniversary of Emancipation, the Emancipation Support Committee unveiled a monument to celebrate triumph over enslavement.
Delivering the feature address at the unveiling in front of the Treasury Building on Independence Square, the Prime Minister said freedom was a condition that had to be continuously fought for because enslavement was a perpetual condition.
He said over the years enslavement evolved from the whip to the whisper, and from the plantation to the mansion, but it was a condition that some people could never escape because other people condemn them because of the colour of their skin.
He recalled injustices over decades such as black men being lynched for whistling at white women, black people killed for trying to vote, and the death of George Floyd.
Floyd, who was black, died when a white police office knelt on his neck for several minutes in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25. His death sparked worldwide Black Lives Matter protests.
“Today the news around us is not about emancipation and Governor Hill." Governor George Hill read the Emancipation proclamation at the government building, possibly on the site of the old Treasury Building, on August 1, 1834.
"Over 400 years and we’re still talking about making the point that black lives matter," the Prime Minister said. And even then there are people pretending not to understand and attempting to equate slavery with other temporary inconveniences.”
Dr Rowley said in this day some people feel they are superior to and entitled to the work of others, so if black people stop fighting, freedom would be lost.
“So the time has come for us to put this emblem before us and our children as a mark of our recognition of our place in the world that will not always be kind to us and which has been very oppressive and unkind to people whose only crime, in their eyes, is the colour of the skin.”
He encouraged black people to continue to respect themselves and others. He said each individual needed to be comfortable in their skin and when that happened they would not need the accolades of others, nor would they need to degrade or disrespect others, to accept themselves for who they were.
In her address, Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts, Dr Nyan Gadsby Dolly, said recent world events were teaching the people of TT an invaluable lesson about monuments. She said they were supposed to teach mankind a meaningful lesson about paths travelled and lessons to be learnt.
“Here in TT, we have proudly honoured some of this country’s finest men and women across all spheres with monuments. They reinforce our patriotic spirit and drive to honour our prolific figures. Regrettably, not all monuments evoke similar sentiments. Some trigger pain and anger. They hurt the deepest parts of our sensibilities. As leaders, we must acknowledge every reaction to a monument and come together as intellectuals to discuss this reality.”
She said the monument symbolised several aspects of TT’s Emancipation movement including slavery, "the rebellious spirits of our African ancestors" as they fought for freedom, The Kambule Riots, the rise of steelpan, The 1970 Black Power Movement and more.
“May we collectively strengthen our appreciation of our African ancestors and their tireless battles. May this monument radiate hope and a spirit of resilience, especially during this particularly unique predicament across the world.”
The monument was designed and created by a team of artists, including studio artist Kenywyn Crichlow, headed by jeweller and designer Gillian Bishop.