Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis said liberation from the covid19 pandemic is a complex one, but can be achieved if we work together.
In his Emancipation Day message on Sunday, Dennis said the holiday "comes at a time when we are actively charting a path towards our own freedom, from a frightening pandemic which has upended our existence."
The Buccoo/Mt Pleasant electoral representative said the pandemic has exposed some of the health issues among black people in the region.
"This pandemic has brought to light that the Afro-Caribbean community has one of the highest rates of chronic diseases globally. This is an extremely worrying statistic which we must address urgently to truly honour our fullest potential."
Dennis said the issues surrounding the pandemic must be aired in a respectful manner.
"At this juncture, we must be able to engage in the uncomfortable conversations with one another surrounding this crisis. These exchanges must be guided by an air of tolerance—an ethos we pledge to espouse as Trinbagonian people."
Reflecting on the significance of the holiday, Dennis urged members of the African diaspora to not take it lightly.
"Our freedom is the reality that was denied to many of our ancestors. It is deeply sacred and should never be taken for granted. As a country, we ought to feel a sense of pride that Trinidad and Tobago has led the way in honouring this historic day, which liberated the enslaved Africans from colonial subjugation."
He said conversations about righting the wrongs of slavery must not be taboo.
"Internationally, we are also witnessing this similar need for difficult discussions, as a greater shift to restorative justice continues to emerge. The calls for reparations by Caricom are also becoming louder, gradually shifting the issue from the proverbial back burner.
"Such developments remind us that our liberation is an ongoing process which began, not ended, in 1838. Given the extensive damage of the Transatlantic slave trade and institutionalised chattel slavery, the healing is not a quick fix. However, we must be fiercely determined to empower our community, releasing every shackle which remains from our painful past."
Dennis said there is much to be proud of as Afro-citizens.
"We continue to make a powerful contribution to the advancement of this island, and nation, in the fields of politics, entertainment, and sport. Beyond our borders, Afro-Trinbagonians continue to play a crucial role in advancing the Pan-African movement amongst the diaspora. Our impact will only continue to grow, as we make a greater conscientious effort to honour our ancestors through our lives."
He added, "While the African drums will not ring out through the streets this year, they will play a rhythm in our collective hearts. A rhythm that unites us, eases our pain, and strengthens our spirit to face tomorrow."