Letters & Opinion

Emancipation Day Activities in St. Lucia 2022: A Cultural Detonation

Sylvestre Phillip M.B.E
By Sylvestre Phillip M.B.E

Emancipation day activities in St. Lucia for 2022 was a mighty explosion!  Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre had made it abundantly clear that his government considers Arts, Culture and Creative Industry as a vital social and economic sector that needs strategic support for shaping our uniqueness as a people and creating opportunities for economic empowerment.

Indeed, the prime minister reinforced the point when he said that Emancipation Day will not continue like it used to before 2022, quiet and lacklustre. And he kept to his word!

Hon. Ernest Hilaire, who has the responsibility for culture as minister, took the idea and run with it. And I want to take the opportunity to congratulate Minister Hilaire and his team for all the very well-executed activities for Emancipation Day 2022

The activity which had me riveted was the daybreak activity on Emancipation Day itself. Long before 4:00 a.m. that morning, cultural groups and individuals had assembled on the waterfront to provide expression to Emancipation Day and to re-affirm their liberation from slavery almost 200 years ago.

It was a carnival-like atmosphere which many people, inside their homes and outside of it, really did enjoy.

People from around the region, including Rastafarians, participated in the activities and complimented the government in organising the Emancipation Day activities in such a big way.

I have reason to believe that Emancipation Day activities will take root in St. Lucia and would become a nationwide activity such as Carnival and Creole Day.

And I won’t be surprised if Emancipation Day Activities edge out Carnival and Creole Day activities in the very near future.

Already, based on what has happened in St. Lucia for 2022, other Caribbean nations are contemplating replicating the St. Lucia experience.

Now in order to understand emancipation or the liberation of black, African people, I cannot complete this article without referring to the ‘Great Liberator’, Paulo Freire whom I encountered during my studies in Adult Education and Community Development.

Paulo Freire was a Brazilian educator and philosopher who was a leading advocate of Critical Thinking. His influential work of the oppressed is: “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”, and was first published in 1967-68.

By pedagogy I mean the method and practice of teaching. And as an educator myself, and a person who has been deeply involved in community work, I am very much interested in the work of Freire.

Let us examine some of the thoughts expressed by Freire which are relevant to our Emancipation Day Celebration.

“Any situation in which “A” objectively exploits “B” or hinders his and her pursuits of self-affirmation as a responsible person is one of oppression. Such a situation in itself constitutes violence, even when sweetened by false generosity, because, it interferes with the individual’s ontological and historical vocation to be more fully human”. By ontological I mean, the science of what is of the kinds and structures of objects.

Friere speaks quite a lot about dehumanization of the human being. As I write, I have just read a letter from the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Equity, indicating, very sadly the inhumane treatment meted out to ‘Homeless’ and “Street’ people in the Castries area, by a group of men. I was really very saddened by this revelation. The beatings which takes place at nights leave the ‘powerless’ with broken bones.

Over the last few weeks I have been dealing with “Preventing Behaviour Problems-What works”, and I am so sorry to hear of that situation with our Street and Homeless people. In particular, I am very concerned about the behaviour of our young people who are mostly involved in these criminal behaviour.

This is in fact what Freire speaks about, dehumanization as a form of oppression. This is the kind of situation which black people went through about two centuries ago and Emancipation Day was meant to highlight and the eventual freedom which was won by our fearless and heroic slaves.

According to Freire, “Freedom is acquired by conquest, not by gift. It must be pursued constantly and responsibly. Freedom is not an ideal located outside of man; nor is it an idea which becomes a myth. It is rather the indispensable condition for the quest for human completion”.

Are our streets and Homeless people of our Fair Helen still in bondage after two centuries? Does the celebration of Emancipation mean something to all of us St. Lucians?

I am aware that the Ministry of Equity is moving swiftly to deal with the street and homeless of our Fair Helen. And I am standing ready to assist if called upon to do so.

We should always remember that those street and homeless people are our brothers and sisters. Their conditions now may have been as a direct result of dehumanizing factors in their lives, with no one to come to their rescue.

Like many of the slaves, our forefathers, these people are unable to fight back. So they simply have to suffer the consequences.

I have no doubt that the government of St. Lucia will see into this matter and get our brothers and sisters off the streets of Castries or anywhere they may be in St. Lucia.

The Ministry of Equity and Department of Human service, I am sure, will be getting to work on that matter. The St. Lucy’s Home for street and homeless people is standing in readiness to assist.

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