Prime Minister’s Emancipation Day Message 2023
Message to the nation from Dr the Honourable Keith Rowley Prime Minister of The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago on the occasion of Emancipation Day 2023
Greetings Fellow Citizens,
This message on African Emancipation Day 2023 holds the sincere wishes of the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, my own family and myself, as Prime Minister.
Some citizens may choose to see today as just another of our national holidays, greeting it as a day of relaxation and relief, but in fact, it is a momentous opportunity for us all to celebrate, and truly appreciate the uniqueness of our land.
We are multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious — a beautiful “patch work quilt” society, some people say. In recognising that diversity, we, as citizens, have been becoming more aware of our historical roots, and at the same time learning that our sociological make-up has forged extraordinary prospects for a workable, political consensus, if only we will let it.
We should also be reminded that this makeup has fault lines, which carry inherent dangers of entrenched cleavages and segmentation, with possibilities of ongoing contentions, and contrived, social conflicts — which, experiences in other countries have shown — could smoulder and ignite at any moment.
Hope, however, is one of the exceptional qualities that lodges within our collective Trinidad and Tobago personality. So today, when thousands of people of African descent take to the streets, they are asserting and glorifying their heritage, their self-realisation, grateful, too, that Trinidad and Tobago is not a torn nation, or failed state, but a real place, peopled by citizens, who every day celebrate its uniqueness, carrying their eternal hope for a better life for themselves, their families and for this nation.
In colourful attire today, we, the descendants, will be voicing to the world that we are the children, born out of the brutality of slavery, and reminding that the wrongs of that experience still echo, but we embrace hope and confidently look forward to a bright future.
We will be saying that we have been dealing with our history openly, directly, and honestly, but we cannot forget the whips on the backs of our ancestors.
The estimated figures of those who crossed the Middle Passage range from fourteen million to as high as forty million. The life of every captive meant, in varying ways, suffering and social death in a new world – first, being examined and auctioned off like an animal, then, survival on the plantation was a constant de-humanisation process — a stripping away of identity, family ties, religion, names, language, dress, culture; overall, it attempted to strip every aspect of the enslaver’s humanness. Yet we survived!
Over the centuries, our ancestors endured outright murders, child separation, beatings, rape, castrations, lynchings, and mutilation, with some body parts even being severed and sold as souvenirs. Yet we survived!
Finally, the enslaved were considered not fully human, just a denuded, mindless objects, who created sugar solely for foreign tables, under a Massa, as overseer, with whip and gun at hand. Yet we survived!
The gateway in Medina in the Cape Coast province in Ghana, from which the stolen Africans departed Africa, was called “the door of no return.” Yet we survived and returned to find our ancestral roots to join hands and find common causes with our modern-day brothers and sisters.
In the marches across the country today, you will see a people, coming out of the legacies of the torturous centuries of slavery, yet standing tall, proudly articulating their roots – a people saying they will not be marginalised, and are evolving in every human way.
They now see Africa, not through European eyes, as a dark continent, but as the cradle of human civilisation, citing the discoveries of its great empires. They talk of it glowingly, as the world’s fastest developing economic region in the 21st century, having just overtaken Asia, and of its six of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world and of its minerals, critical and indispensable to the technologies of the 21st century green economies.
Today, recognising the pain of the Middle Passage, and the centuries of colonial brutality, I salute the African community, a people, who through grit and determination, is on the march, striving for further discovery and self-realisation, searching, and transforming themselves for the challenges of the 21st century.
Let us all reflect and educate ourselves as we celebrate African Emancipation Day 2023.