ABSRC hosts invigorating, thought-provoking Watchnight Gathering ahead of Emancipation Day

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The 14th annual Watchnight gathering was a cultural event held to commemorate Emancipation Day at the Botanical Gardens on Sunday Night. (Photo courtesy Antigua and Barbuda Reparations Support Commission Facebook page)
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By Makeida Antonio

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The 14th Annual Watchnight Gathering has been described as an “invigorating, thought-provoking, entertaining, and honouring” exercise.

On the eve of July 31st, scores of residents attended the event held at Botanical Gardens to mark the 188th Anniversary of Emancipation from Slavery, and paid homage to our forefathers who fought, bled, and sacrificed so that freedom can be enjoyed today.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne, Minister of Creative Industries, Michael Browne, and Minister of Education and Sports, Daryll Matthew participated in Sunday night’s celebration which was organised by the Antigua and Barbuda Reparations Support Commission (ABRSC).

According to an ABRSC media release, the event saw performances from calypsonians Sammie C and Richie Francis, Reggae artiste Zambai, “pulsating” drumming from Ras Freeman Nyabinghi drummers, “sweet” iron band music by the Royal Police Force Iron Band, “thought-provoking” poetry from Fayola Jardine and “riveting [email protected] from Ambassador  Ireneo Namboka, Global Vice President of Aido Network International from Africa, and Ms Desley Gardner, Heritage Resources Officer at National Parks Authority.

Late Ambassador, King Frank I, who was an integral member of the Reparations movement here in Antigua and Barbuda and across the region, received a special tribute.

The Watchnight Emancipation hour was ushered in at exactly 11:50 pm with the playing of the Negro Anthem and the police iron band.

The ABRSC thanked residents for supporting the event held in celebration of Emancipation.

“We say thank you to all who participated and supported our annual Watchnight Gathering as we pay respect and honour the true reason to celebrate Emancipation,” the ABRSC said.

Prior to the event, Observer media spoke to ABRSC Chairman Dorbrene O’Marde about the possibility of Emancipation Day becoming a public holiday.

However, while cognizant of the backlash previously received from both the public and private sectors due to economic implications of the holiday, O’Marde said the issue will be raised again next year.

“We will address it again in the coming year. We have made the point that even the backward Republican aspect of the United States government has made a ‘Juneteenth’, which is the equivalent of Emancipation, has made that a public holiday across the US,” he told Observer on Sunday.

Emancipation Day (August 1st) is a public holiday in Barbados, Belize, Guyana, Jamaica, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago.

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