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Many years ago Marcus Mosiah Garvey, the great Jamaican, admonished us, as descendants of slaves and freedom fighters, to "emancipate ourselves from mental slavery, because while others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind".

Speaking in Menelik Hall, Sydney, Nova Scotia in 1938 Garvey added: "When God Almighty made man in His own image and likeness, it wasn't the physical, it was the mind that was like God. Every man represents God in his unitary intelligence. When man abuses that intelligence he lowers himself. God has given you intelligence to take care of you".

As we stated in an earlier editorial, Rex Nettleford, the late Caribbean intellectual, said Garvey challenged us to smash the old stereotype, to substitute self esteem for self contempt, to put self confidence and self reliance in the place of dependence and self distrust. In other words emancipate ourselves from mental slavery.

But more than seven decades after Garvey made that inspiring speech we have not realised Garvey's vision for black people. The fact that a great majority of us are still enslaved, in one form or another, must become the focus of the annual Emancipation Day which we will observe in Dominica on Monday 1 August 2016.

That focus is necessary because over the years we have gradually nullified the meaning of Emancipation Day until it has now become meaningless. To the majority of Dominicans, young and old, that very special day is just another holiday, a time to fete and "cool-out" with friends.

We believe that Emancipation Day should be an opportunity to evaluate how far we have come since our forefathers were freed from the shackles of slavery nearly 200 years ago. And also that this is the time for us to consider how far we have yet to travel as a people, along the continuum from slavery to complete freedom. After 200 years we still have millions of miles to walk towards freedom.

Although Dominica received political independence from Britain, our former slave masters, on November 3rd 1978, we must understand that the struggle for true emancipation-economic as well as social and personal- has just begun.

It is sometimes painfully obvious that it is much more difficult to obtain the status of economic emancipation than to break off the chains of slavery. In fact, many persons are of the view that instead of moving forward on the road to freedom we have indeed taken a few steps backward.

Here's a typical example that social scientists point to, of the manifestation of black people still struggling under the psychological burdens of the effects of slavery. That is the current fashion of Black women plastering Indian and Caucasian hair to hide their own as if the hair of their race was inferior. We are no longer black and proud, it seems.

On Emancipation Day 2016 we should also evaluate how much effort that our Government and our people are making to erase the dependency syndrome.

On Emancipation Day 2016 we should note too that our Government and our skilled nationals are arguing about the allocation of contracts to build bridges to foreigners over competent Dominicans. How can anybody justify this blatant manifestation of mental slavery in the year 2016?

And we should consider what harm that this sidelining of nationals has done and continues to do, not only our economy, but also to our national self-worth and whether our government is inadvertently perpetuating self-contempt and self-doubt among its people. It's never what politicians say, it's always what they do.

On Emancipation Day 2016 we should also recognize the magnitude of the sacrifices of our founding fathers and national heroes who paved the way to freedom from slavery to political independence. It is therefore our duty and responsibility to continue our slow but upward progress towards economic independence; otherwise we will forever remain international beggars.

On Emancipation Day we must also recognise that we need to take small and decisive steps to emancipate ourselves from the mental, spiritual and emotional shackles which allow us to tolerate domestic violence and child abuse of all types. We must emancipate ourselves from the slave mentality that we have to protect, for political reasons, men who abuse women and children. Real, emancipated men do not abuse children.

On that special day, Emancipation Day, we should also consider the malaise which prevents Caribbean people from having a shared vision, a set of goals and values to which we will all aspire and which will eventually lead us towards the dreams of our forefathers.

To paraphrase Marcus Garvey, Emancipation Day is an opportune time to take steps to "emancipate ourselves from mental slavery". Now is not the time for us to "stand aside and look" as politicians continue abusing the intelligence that God gave to us.


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