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Thousands remember African ancestors
Mind our business! Love who we are! Stay emancipated! These were some of the messages conveyed at the annual Emancipation Day celebrations put on by the Emancipation Support Committee in Port-of-Spain yesterday. The celebration, which commemorates 175 years of African slaves’ emancipation, began with a procession—emancipation parade through the streets of Port-of-Spain, and featured many emancipation community groups from all over T&T participating in their full colourful traditional wear. Whether it was the beauty of the traditional African costumes, the moko jumbies that never got tired on the long journey or the occasional man or woman seen “ketching power,” it was a moment of reflection and appreciation for the origins of our ancestors and the suffering which they were made to endure under the hands of the slave master and the hard work which they had to put in after their eventual freedom from slavery.
Cultural groups from every “nook and cranny,” some as far from San Fernando and Moruga, came chanting, beating drums and showcasing African traditional dance as they paid homage to their African ancestors who once tilled the soil. A large delegation, inclusive of princes and other diplomatic representatives from Uganda, Nigeria, Liberia and North America, brought greetings on behalf of their respective homelands and joined in the celebrations. They walked through the streets with local politicians, including Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, Tourism Minister Stephen Cadiz, COP political leader Prakash Ramadhar, who brought greetings on behalf of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, and Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism, Dr Lincoln Douglas, who at times received jeers from spectators and cultural groups during the parade.
The procession, which ended at the Lidj Yasu Omowale Village at the Queen’s Park Savannah, provided further entertainment for the audience gathered at the Grand Stand. Performances by Jambu Cultural Performers, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, National Cultural Performers and from the Ras Shorty I clan, March and Eldon Blackman, set the tone for the formal part of the event, which led to a feature address by Nigerian-born Nobel Prize winner and author/playwright, Akinwande Oluwole “Wole” Soyinka. During his brief speech, Soyinka said he was happy to see what the Emancipation Support Committee was doing with the annual day of commemoration in memory of the African ancestors and African heritage. He said the ceremonies in the celebration of the day proved that “we are not forgotten and the ancestors have not forgotten us.” “To be free we must first stay emancipated and then emancipate others,” Soyinka told the gathering. He said he was very proud that his country (Nigeria) was the first country to liberate Africans—to ensure their identity remained intact. He said there was only one way to approach reality and truth and that was in keeping your identity. Soyinka was also presented with the Henry Sylvestre-Williams Award by the Emancipation Support Committee for his long-standing contribution to African history and the literary arts.
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