Why I celebrate Emancipation and my Afrikaness

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By Veronica Yearwood

A people far removed from their inheritance, livelihood, way of life, family and home. Placed in the most inhumane conditions that had been forced on any one people throughout history; forced to labour with no part of the rewards, were finally released from such atrocities on August 1st 1834.

The Antiguan enslaved people gathered together on July 31st and waited with anticipation for the bells to ring out at midnight to signal the beginning of their freedom. Imagine what an individual could have been feeling at that moment when the bells of the Spring Gardens Moravian Church pealed. I can hear the chants of “Arwe free now!”and see the jubilation in the dancing and jumping, and the look on our ancestors’ faces at that moment. Absolutely priceless!

Not withstanding the upcoming hardships of trying to forge a new life, and the fact that there was no compensation for their labour, and the building of the economies of the colonialists’ mother countries, in our case, England, lack of home ownership and land for growing of crops to feed themselves, I am sure that being a resilient people, they would have found a way.

So August 1st rolled into August 2nd and life may not have changed all that much, as the colonialists were not letting go that easily, but freedom was attained and no one could change the hands of time.

It is now 2020 and August 1st is still a grand celebration for a few Antiguans! Why do I celebrate after all this time you may ask?

Celebrate my ancestors and their resilience, and the knowledge that they have left me. If nothing else, that is cause for celebration.

Celebrate my food and what is associated with the Antiguan Culinary Arts, the freedom to cook them.

Celebrate my clothing and our designers, and the use of our inherited fabrics and styles, and the artform. I celebrate the opportunity to wear them at will.

Celebrate my music, the opportunity to play it and create it. Celebrate the young strong hands of my sons and nephews on the drums that continue to sound out the rhythms of my ancestors.

Celebrate my dance, and especially the dance for me, the movement of the feet and the connection to the music, continually reminding me of the rhythmic nexus among my people.

Celebrate my festivals where the music fuses with the explosive artistic expressions of my people. The calypso and benna that comes out of the belly of my people.

Celebrate the process of being able to educate to tell our story when this was forbidden.

Celebrate the ability to keep my family together and even something as small, but significant, as the freedom to name my child, Might Intelligent One Who Uses Reason, Disciple of Jesus, so he can be a reflection of his African heritage. This came about with the ringing of the bells that August morning.

I celebrate the physical, in the many colours and shapes of the faces around us that speak to the African diaspora which is a clear refection of the Mother Land, Africa.

The depth and scope of what we have inherited, either physical or intangible can sometimes be overwhelming, and for me, even emotional. The acceptance of the culmination of all these things is more than enough reason to celebrate our Emancipation from slavery.

Out of much adversity we have conquered!

Having reflected on these many thoughts, why does the celebration of Emancipation in Antigua and Barbuda not have more emphasis than Christmas and even Valentine’s Day?

Where is the necessary big celebration so our next generation can understand their past and look to the future with more confidence?

       Thoughts and views expressed in guest editorials do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Observer NewsCo, its management or staff.

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