Persad-Bissessar also urged that there is no place for divisiveness in this plural society. “Emancipation is the celebration of struggle and triumph over oppression. It is a reaffirmation of identity. It is the opportunity for all of us to pause and reflect,” said Persad-Bissessar as she spoke along the Brian Lara Promenade which started off yesterday’s Emancipation Day celebrations including a parade in the capital.
The Prime Minister arrived just after 8 am, dressed in bright yellow African garb and a green head tie. She was immediately surrounded by members of the press, well wishers, Government Ministers and Members of Parliament who were out in their numbers to support both the PM and the Emancipation Support Committee.
This year’s Emancipation theme was “Reawakening the spirit of Liberty” and celebrated the 172nd anniversary of Emancipation, the 40th anniversary of the Black Power Movement and was also dedicated to the citizens of Haiti, which despite being devastated earlier this year by a massive earthquake, its people have stood resolute in the face of adversity.
Persad-Bissessar recalled to the audience that Haiti was the first colonial territory to break free from the tyranny of slavery and to walk the road to liberty. “Their walk brought a tidal wave of action to the Caribbean which eventually led to freedom for the enslaved Africans,” she said. “I join the Emancipation Support Committee in honouring the courage of Haiti. They demonstrate an indomitable spirit in the face of tremendous hardship”
She reiterated her Government’s commitment to assist in the reconstruction of Haiti in terms of financial support and human resources as the country struggles to recover from the devastating earthquake of January 12.
She also described the Black Power movement as a “significant milestone in our history” and as a “testimony to the determined will of the people” and pointed out that the Government recently recognised Makandal Daaga, a People’s Partnership member, as a central figure in the 1970s Black Power Movement for his contribution to the people of TT.
“We can take pride in our multi cultural society — each group shares diverse cultural traditions. We are blessed with a vibrant democratic system and freedom of expression,” said Persad-Bissessar. “We must guard against complacency and jealously protect the freedom for which our forefathers have sacrificed so much.”
After PM Persad-Bissessar’s address, the audience was treated to a production by Eintou Pearl Springer entitled Freedom Morning Come. There, the focus centred on six slaves (out of the hundreds) who gather in Port-of-Spain at the Treasury Building site on the morning of Friday August 1, 1834 to hear the Emancipation Proclamation read by Governor Sir George Fitzgerald Hill. While they wait, they discuss their distressing experiences of enslavement, express their hopes, disappointments and plans through drama, humour and song.