A Linen Market with Enslaved Africans. West Indies, circa 1780 by Agostino Brunias (1728 - 1796) – Artist (Italian, active in Britain (1758-1770; 1777-1780s)
A Linen Market with Enslaved Africans. West Indies, circa 1780 by Agostino Brunias (1728 - 1796) – Artist (Italian, active in Britain (1758-1770; 1777-1780s)

Marcus Mosiah Garvey that great Jamaican, that distinguished Pan Africanist, that great black philosopher, admonished us that as descendants of slaves and freedom fighters we must:

"Emancipate ourselves from mental slavery, because while others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind".

Garvey added: Mind is your only ruler, Sovereign. The man who is not able to develop or use his mind is bound to be the slave of the other man who uses his mind."

As we said in an earlier editorial, with those words Garvey was challenging us in the Caribbean 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.

His Excellency Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmona, President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago expressed similar sentiments in his address on the occasion of Emancipation Day 2017. We quote below some of his thoughts on the issue of emancipation because they are so profound.

He wrote: "Emancipation Day is a day to recall the triumphant resilience embedded in the human spirit of our forefathers in their quest and thirst for freedom, equality and justice. Slavery is a stain on the very fabric of our humanity".

In his message, His Excellency President Carmona said to Trinidadians that:

"Emancipation Day is an occasion on which we must all reflect as a Nation, on the road we have travelled since our African ancestors were formally freed by an Act of the British Parliament in 1833, which was partially implemented in 1834, after which the former slaves had to undergo an additional period of Apprenticeship which ended in 1838. The shared devastation of the genocide wrought by slavery is reflected in the statistics that are macabre; 5.5 million enslaved Africans came to the Caribbean and when Slavery was abolished after 180 years the population has dwindled to 800,000, a survival rate of 15%".

He added that "we must ask ourselves the question, have we done as much as we should have, or are we doing as much as we could to honour the sacrifices of those who slaved on the plantations and in the factories without pay and without any sense of human dignity?

"This is a very important issue as we acknowledge that there still exist today many residual mental and other vestiges of slavery which are apparent or subtle in our daily lives. This brings me to a topic which has engaged and continues to engage the attention of Caribbean governments and members of the wider society over the last few years. I refer to the issue of reparations and compensation for atrocities committed under slavery. Notwithstanding the fact that full Emancipation took place some 180 years ago, the matter of reparations is still very much relevant today as we seek to properly honour the sacrifices of those who toiled without being compensated in any manner or form by their enslavers.

"In this regard, it is appropriate for us as a Nation to support the efforts of CARICOM Governments on the question of Reparations which was addressed very succinctly by Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies and Chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission who, in addressing the British House of Commons on the matter of Reparations on 16 July, 2014, the same body which enacted the Emancipation Act of 1833 indicated: "That the Government of Great Britain, and other European States that were the beneficiaries of enrichment from the enslavement of African peoples, the genocide of the indigenous communities, and the deceptive breach of contract and trust in respect of Indians and other Asians brought to the plantations under indenture, have a case to answer in respect of reparatory justice". The Caribbean is not alone in its quest for Reparation. The Afrikan Emancipation Day Reparations March from Brixton to Parliament Building in the United Kingdom is part of that yearly struggle to address the blood, sweat and tears of our ancestors that finance the economic growth and prosperity of Europe.

"We must examine affirmatively the case for reparations as adopted by CARICOM Governments and as advocated by Sir Hilary and other spokespersons. We in Trinidad and Tobago must view the call for reparations in the context of the duty we owe to our forefathers who made the ultimate sacrifice and whose contributions to our present well-being must be recognized in a world which now accepts that compensation and reparation are prerequisites in the dispensation of justice. As such, the case for reparations is not too late, but it is timely.

"I wish to call on all citizens to take time out during the Emancipation Holiday to focus on their life's journey: from whence they started, where they consider themselves to have reached and what is to be their life's achievement".

If we are to add to these thoughts of His Excellency President Carmona, 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 Dominicans 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 to divide and thus enslave us, daily abusing the intelligence that God gave to us with lies and misinformation and "fake facts".