Today, T&T celebrates Emancipation Day.
It should be a time for all of us to commemorate the end of perhaps the worst abuse and enslavement of a people in the history of the world.
Millions of Africans were forced from their homes and brought to the newly ‘discovered’ Americas to work for free under unimaginable brutality, and in the process, their dignity, culture and family life were all but stolen from them.
Even after they were ‘freed’ they were still forced to perform a period of service to their former masters, as the planter-class was able to get a transition period between slavery and true freedom.
Trinidad and Tobago as a country must be proud that it led the way and became the first place to recognise Emancipation with a national holiday.
We must all celebrate the freedom of emancipation but also reflect on the scars and the wrong that the forefathers of a large part of this population suffered.
This year’s celebrations also come at a tumultuous time in the country’s history, as crime and violence remain front and centre on the nation’s psyche with hundreds of citizens being murdered and robbery and assault seeming almost insignificant as people celebrate escaping with their lives.
The posting online of videos showing the viewing of fisherman Akini “Dole” Adams, adorned with gold, a block of what appears to be marijuana, hundreds of US and TT dollars, all while people were seeming to enjoy what to many would be macabre, is telling of the decay of a society.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s recent statement in recognising that people of African descent are not doing very well in the society is not without merit.
A 2017 IDB study revealed that in 2014, people of African descent were three times more likely to be murdered in Trinidad and Tobago than people East Indian descent.
It is a frightening reality that speaks to the killing of young black men, often by other young black men. The prison population also reflect a similar demographic.
These are harsh realities that do not just speak to violence but issues of family life, discrimination, failed opportunity, personal responsibility, culture and State failure.
In a plural society, it serves no one’s interest to have a large part of the population facing problems that are peculiar to that community and think it will not eventually touch all of us.
As we celebrate Emancipation Day, we must see it as an opportunity to redouble our efforts to forge a better society.
We must ask ourselves how as a society we can find solutions to the problems that we all face but which seem to translate in greater proportions to bad outcomes for people of African descent.
We owe it to ourselves, for the memory of those who suffered during slavery and to those who fought so hard for freedom.