The monument “Arise” unveiled by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, Minister of Culture Dr. Nyan Gadsby Dolly and members of the Emancipation Support Committee during the Emancipation Day celebrations in Port-of-Spain on August 1. Photo credit: Office of the Prime Minister/Facebook Page.
By Sue-Ann Wayow
IF persons of African descent want to have different symbols and emblems that they think better represent their history, that is their right.
This is according to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley as he delivered the feature address at Emancipation Day celebrations in Port-of-Spain on Saturday.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions there was no annual parade.
The highlight of the event was the unveiling of the Emancipation Monument a sculpture entitled “Arise”. This will be hung in front of the Treasury Building in Port-of-Spain. Last year, Rowley promised that the building would have an appropriate emblem.
The prime minister said it was unfortunate that centuries after the abolition of slavery, “we are still talking about that black lives matter.”
Giving a bit of history about European countries, Rowley said: “The period of greatest prosperity was the period when Africans were enslaved.”
Stating that the worst condition for anyone was to be enslaved, Rowley said freedom needed to be fought continually.
“The worse condition that could happen to you is to be enslaved. Freedom is that condition that has to be fought for on a continuous basis because enslavement is a perpetual ambition of some.
“It comes in a variety of forms. It evolves from the whip to the whisper. From the plantation to the mansion. It is a permanent condition. Only last month George Floyd couldn’t breathe. We are still talking about that black lives matter.”
He said, “Today, if we are called upon to review, revise and re-visit how we treat with these conditions, we need the permission of no-one to do so. And if as we do that, we come to the conclusion that we want different emblems and symbols, it is our right to do so.”
Since the death of George Floyd in the US, there have been renewed calls globally and nationally for the removal of statues and other symbols which members of the African community stated showed glorification of slavery since many of the historical figures including Christopher Columbus supported slavery.
Dr Rowley also called on members of the African community to respect themselves, respect others and not to allow themselves to be disrespected by any.
He added that once people were comfortable in their own skin, there would be no need for “acclamation from others.”
The Treasury Building located at Independence Square Port-of-Spain is an important location in the history of abolition of slavery. The Emancipation Proclamation was read at that site in 1838.
Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly and Executive Chair of the Emancipation Support Committee of Trinidad and Tobago, Zakiya Uzoma-Wadada were in attendance at the ceremony.