Jacco's message: emancipate yourself from mental slavery
Bernard Wiltshire of the Waitukubuli Ecological Foundation (WEF) should be congratulated for his latest effort at helping Dominicans remember the contributions that the maroons have made to our independence, especially as we get ready to celebrate the 2014 edition of Emancipation Day.
As we prepare this edition of the Sun, Wilshire is organizing a ceremony, on Saturday July12th 2014 at the Old Roseau Market in honour of the 200th anniversary of the death of Chief Jacco. According to Wilshire the event was intended to "fill a gaping gap in our history" and to highlight the "tremendous impact of our maroon ancestors who alone for more than half a century carried the burden of the main direct resistance to slavery. Jacco's death was a tribute to the intrepidity of those ancestors of ours who we should be celebrating for their wonderful courage, independence and since they were the origin of our very independence, their foresight that one day slavery would end and that we could become masters, at least in some measure of our own destiny".
Undoubtedly, Wiltshire and the other speakers at the ceremony will stress that Jacco's message for his modern descendants are still extremely relevant. In our view that message is simple: substitute self- esteem for self-contempt, put self-confidence and self-reliance in the place of dependence and self-distrust. In other words emancipate ourselves from mental slavery as Marcus Garvey, the great Jamaican, stated so eloquently.
But in 2014, 200 years after Jacco died, we have not realised his 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 celebrations which we will observe in Dominica on Monday, August 4th 2014. That is necessary because over the years we have gradually watered down the impact of Emancipation until it has now become nearly meaningless. We believe that Emancipation Day should be an opportunity to evaluate, first, how far we have come since our forefathers were freed from the shackles of slavery. And, secondly, that this is the time for us to consider how far we have to travel as a people along the continuum from slavery to full freedom. Truly, there are so many more miles to go before we sleep.
So, on Emancipation Day 2014 and as we recall the contributions of Jacco let us endeavour to teach each other how to evaluate ourselves and our government, or our political party and political system, objectively.
Our black women, in particular, must remember the Seventies, during the Black Power Movement, when black people worldwide struggled earnestly to become psychologically free. But now, it seems, our black women have retrogressed. That retrogression is obvious in the way they now dress, the way they wear their hair (like Caucasians), the foods that they eat and the cultural norms that they emulate. Black, it seems, is no longer beautiful. Black women's hair now resemble the hair of whites, Asians or Indians and are purchased as wigs from Beauty Wise. Why are black women not comfortable with their natural hair and why do they have to look like Europeans?
We should also evaluate why our people are not willing to emancipate themselves from that dependency syndrome that forces them to crawl to politicians for everything that they need. Aren't they aware that that disposition is a carry-over from the days of slavery? Why are we not being encouraged to develop our country by our own blood, sweat and tears, instead of being perpetually dependent on hand-outs from Venezuela, the People's Republic of China or Morocco? Do we have a plan to be economically independent, say, in the next fifty years and are we striving resolutely towards that goal?
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 and on the 200th anniversary of Jacco's death, we must encourage Dominicans to consider the Greek proverb that advises us that : "A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in."
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, child abuse and corruption in political office. And we need to resolve that we will not tolerate these aberrations whether it is practiced by our beloved political or religious leaders. We need to find ways to emancipate ourselves from the thought processes and the residues of slavery that allow us to believe that foreign products and systems are always better than our own.
As we remember Jacco, we should discuss ways of getting out of the mindset which prevents us from making significant progress on issues such as the creation of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy and the acceding to the Caribbean Court of Justice, which Dominica accomplished recently. The celebration of the 200th anniversary of Jacco's death is an opportune time to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because none but ourselves can free our minds.