Remaining Emancipation Month Events to Feature Reparations, People of African Descent

Drum and Dance Ritual on Emancipation Day (Photos: Events Saint Lucia)
Drum and Dance Ritual on Emancipation Day (Photos: Events Saint Lucia)

The Cultural Development Foundation (CDF) and other stakeholders behind the activities for Emancipation Month 2023 are expressing pleasure with developments to date.

As the month enters its final fortnight, they’re focusing on unveiling of Emancipation murals next week, as well as art workshops, online panel discussions, feature films and videos, among island-wide public activities for Emancipation Month 2023.

Activities this week included observance of Marcus Garvey’s 136th birthday (August 17) with a march in Choiseul yesterday, while the coming week will include observance of August 23 as the United Nations-designated International Day for Remembrance and Condemnation of Trans-Atlantic Chattel Slavery.

The National Reparations Committee (NRC), one of several entities represented on the CDF’s Stakeholder Committee, has organized a special live-streamed panel discussion for that day, featuring contributions by presenters on the topic ‘Heirs of Enslavers and Heirs of the Enslaved – Building Bridges for Reparations’.

Panelists will include former BBC presenter Laura Trevelyan representing Heirs of Slavery (a group of UK families with links to slavery wishing to undertake atonement across the Caribbean) and Lucy Gaffney representing the O’Brien Repair team (led by Digicel founder Denis O’Brien and engaged in discussions with CARICOM governments and the University of the West Indies about implementation of a long-term reparations ‘Repair’ plan).

Heirs and Repair teams have over the past year crisscrossed CARICOM, meeting National Reparations Committees (NRCs) and other reparations entities, and on August 22, met with member-entities of the NRC, ahead of next Wednesday’s live-streamed panel discussion on NTN.

NRC Chair Earl Bousquet
NRC Chair Earl Bousquet

NRC Chair Earl Bousquet says, “Through the panel discussion, Saint Lucians will get an opportunity to air their views alongside those already expressed by various spokespersons.

“So, we will not only hear what the UK families and private persons have in mind, but also for them to hear what people think of their expressed intentions.”

The next day, August 24, will see two activities: the formal launch of the Emancipation murals painted by local artists on the walls of Castries CDC buildings on Jean Baptiste Street, followed by a virtual panel discussion that evening on The History of Vieux Fort with the sub-theme ‘Slavery and the Roots of Landlessness: Emancipation and Empowerment in Vieux Fort Today’, to be broadcast on NTN at 8:00 p.m.

Monday August 28 will also see two events: The Monsignor Dr Patrick Anthony Folk Research Center (FRC) will host a workshop on ‘Emancipation and Art’ to be led by Trinidadian artiste Makaemba Kunle at 3:00 p.m., followed by a short documentary on ‘Uncovering the History of Street Names in Saint Lucia’, on NTN at 8:00 p.m.

Bousquet says “The documentary on how our streets got their names will help Saint Lucians better understand why CARICOM in 2019 called on member-states to revisit names of streets, public places and spaces named after individuals who perpetuated racism and slavery in the region during colonialism.”

August 30 will see the ‘La Woz Festival Gwan Fet’ that’ll include a church service at 10:00 a.m., a parade at midday and performances from 2:00 p.m. – all in Gros Islet, while NTN and other media houses are also presently screening an Emancipation Cultural Documentary entitled: ‘Mizik se Festen Fle Sent Lisi’ (Music of Saint Lucia’s Flower Festivals).

Thursday August 31 is the UN-designated International Day for People of African Descent (IDPAD) and NTN will host another top-notch panel discussion on the future of the International Decade for People of African Descent from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

That panel will include a presentation by Ambassador Dr June Soomer, one of two CARICOM representatives on the UN’s Permanent Forum for People of African Descent on ‘What Next for The Decade?’

That online panel will also launch the ‘Black Hair Matters’ theme to be featured during a day-long observance of IDPAD on Sunday September 3, at the new Corinth Museum Heritage and Health Retreat.

The all-day event will include a fashion show featuring African hairstyles and costumes, as well as local hair and health products — from soaps and deodorants to oils and shampoos.

The September 3 activity will also include a Grounding with Youth and Elders, aimed at acknowledging the contributions of Saint Lucians over the years to the struggle for Saint Lucians to pay more and better attention to their history and culture.

According to Bousquet, “The Corinth Museum Heritage and Health Retreat is itself a new historic local landmark that all who visit will want to return to, because of the unique manifestations of living history documented and on display there, most never seen…”

Asked ‘Why Black Hair Matters?’, the NRC Chair told THE VOICE: “Black hair has a long and interesting history on the continent and among people of African descent everywhere and the objective is to show and help people know and understand why it’s always mattered.”

He said the topic is also timely, against the background of what he described as “the return of the continuing decades-old discussion here and across the Caribbean, about whether students should be allowed to attend school with dreadlocks hairstyles.”

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