Emancipation versus Liberation

By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
July 20, 2007

AfricansOne of the most perplexing, disturbing and still yet unresolved perennial reality-check dilemmas that afflict Afrikan-Trinbagonians is their supremely blurred vision to clearly ascertain the intrinsic, historical differences between emancipation versus liberation.

In this regard, Malcolm X is perfectly correct when he concludes: “The major problem with Black people is that we left our minds in Africa.”

However, the sad tragedy/legacy of this historical dilemma is that the internalization of Afrikanness by Afrikan-Trinbagonians will “remain a fleeting illusion to be pursued but never attained” as long as they continue to celebrate emancipation instead of seeking total liberation, by any and all means necessary.

The annual celebration of Emancipation Day (1st August) speaks volumes as to the tragic truism that Afrikan-Trinbagonians are exhibiting the symptoms of the deadly diseases of Afrikan dyslexia, amnesia, sclerosis, paralysis and atrophy.

They are in serious denial of their inherited Afrikan self.

The fact of the matter is that Afrikan-Trinbagonians must realize that the most potent weapon to challenge European supremacy is for Afrikans to come out as a powerful people from Mother Afrika in ancient Kemet/Egypt in the B.C. era.

This period represents 99.9 percent of the history of Afrikan people on this planet; most importantly, during this period, Afrikans were a free, spiritual, independent, liberated and powerful people. They were also the world’s original teachers and master-thinkers.

The fact of the matter is that Afrikan peoples cannot challenge European supremacy as powerless, defenseless and nothing slaves coming out of the plantations in the Diaspora/Caribbean in the A.D. era.

This period represents only .01 per cent of the history of Afrikan people on this planet; during this period, Afrikans were enslaved, colonized, dependent, powerless, religious-Christian, expendable, nothing, “infidel” peoples.

Now is the time for Afrikan-Trinbagonians to delete/expunge the ubiquitous, asinine Carnival-bacchanal mentality/atmosphere that embodies Emancipation Day. Moreover, this day represents a total, utter mockery and bastardization of and insult to, the torturous, dehumanizing conditions our forefathers had to endure during their prolonged period of enslavement.

The bottom-line is very simple: Emancipation is the problem; liberation is the only solution. Emancipation represents historical dislocation; liberation represents historical location, location, location.

Emancipation focuses on Afrikan Nationality; liberation zeroes in on Afrikan Originality. Emancipation deals with Afrikan history from 1516 A.D.; liberation deals with Afrikan history from 1516 B.C.

Emancipation focuses on the Afrikan connection with Father Europe; liberation focuses on the existence/potency of Afrikans in Mother Afrika before there was a Father Europe. The philosophical construct of liberation suggests that Afrikan peoples do not need a European connection to make them legit.

The fact of the matter is that there would not be a Europe of today if there were not an Afrika of yesterday. Indeed, the continent of Europe is named after Princess Europa of Mother Afrika.

In addition, Emancipation represents a period in their history when powerless Afrikan slaves (our forefathers) picked cotton, sugarcane, tobacco, cocoa, etc, for powerful Europeans; liberation, on the other hand, represents a period in history when powerful Afrikans (our ancestors) civilized, humanized and educated the powerless Greeks (world’s first Europeans).

The fact of the matter is that Europeans do not celebrate any period that manifests/exposes their historical powerlessness.

For example, Europeans do not celebrate their powerless/lethargic experience during the Middle/Dark Ages when they were people poor, land poor and resource poor. Europeans do not celebrate their Bubonic plague experience when Europe lost one-third of its population or 20 million people.

Europeans do not celebrate their period of enslavement from the middle of the 7th century – a period known in history as their “thousand year fear of Islam.” This represents a period during which these European slaves referred to their slave-masters as “Infidel Arabs.”

Afrikans are the only people on this planet who celebrate their history from a position of powerlessness. This is the overt dysfunctional nature of Emancipation.

The fact of the matter is that a capitalist is a capitalist 24/7/365; he is not a capitalist only at Christmas time.

Likewise, an Indian-Trinbagonian is an Indian 24/7/365; he/she is not an Indian only on Indian Arrival Day, Divali and Eid-ul-Fitr. He/she is also proud of Mother India.

Similarly, a Chinese-Trinbagonian is Chinese 24/7/365; he/she is not Chinese only on 18 October. He/she is proud of Mother China, and so on, and on and on, for all ethnic groups in TnT. Afrikan-Trinbagonians are the only exception – the only motherless group.

The stark reality is that on their national days, Indian-Trinbagonian performers always sing in the tongue of Mother India and on Chinese Arrival Day 2006, Chinese-Trinbagonian performers sang in the tongue of Mother China at Queen’s Hall. In addition, Chinese-Trinbagonians speak in their Mother tongue 24/7/365 – liberation cum historical location.

Thus, the crucial question that immediately comes to the fore is: In what tongue do Afrikan-Trinbagonian performers sing during shows on Emancipation Day? – emancipation cum historical dislocation.

It is indeed this ominous, scary historical differential that has compelled social commentator Morel Peters (Luta) to ask in song: “How free, how free are we?”

Indeed, the Afrikans who celebrate Emancipation Day are just One-Ah-Day, feeling-good Afrikans. The more fundamental questions that must be faced are: Who are they from 2nd August to 31 July?; what’s their mind-set, worldview and modus vivendi during this period?; what clothes are they wearing, what foods are they eating and what Gods are they worshipping during this period?

The reality is that Afrikan-Trinbagonians are powerless on Carnival Monday and Tuesday; they are also powerless on carnival Emancipation Day.

The celebration of Emancipation Day is a myopic, micro, truncated, divisive, albeit Euro-centric interpretation of the totality of Afrikan history; the celebration of total liberation under the rubric/banner of Afrika Year is a holistic, unifying, macro, linkage, albeit Africentric interpretation of the totality of Afrikan history.

This all-inclusive concept of Afrika Year embraces such Afrikan milestones as Afrikan Liberation Day (25 May), independence of Ghana (6 March), Emancipation/slave resistance (August), Haitian revolution (1st January), Kwanzaa (26 December-1st January), Pan Africanism (July), just to name a few.

Most importantly, Afrika Year seeks to re-connect, re-locate and re-vitalize the umbilical cord that was deliberately and purposely severed, dislocated and emasculated between Afrikan-Trinbagonians and Mother Afrika. It seeks to re-unite Afrikan children with their mother.

Liberation emphatically postulates that there is a Mother Afrika and that Afrika is our Home, TnT is our Destination. Afrikan-Trinbagonians must be Afrikans in mind, spirit and action, 24/7/365 and not just on 1st August.

In the final analysis, whereas Emancipation gives Afrikan-Trinbagonians a fish to feed themselves for one day (1st August), liberation teaches Afrikan-Trinbagonians how to fish so that they can feed themselves for the rest of their lives.

Dr. Kwame Nantambu is a part-time lecturer at Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies and University of the West Indies.


9 thoughts on “Emancipation versus Liberation”

  1. Sir,
    You have hit the nail on the head. The men that wrote these documents of Emancipation were lawyers and understood the language. When breaking away from Britain the whites in the now U.S. made sure the used the word Liberation for themselves, but emancipation for the Afrikan, Moors and indigenous Black man when it came to slavery. Emancipation has nothting to do with freedom as you put it…”In the final analysis, whereas Emancipation gives Afrikan-Trinbagonians a fish to feed themselves for one day (1st August), liberation teaches Afrikan-Trinbagonians how to fish so that they can feed themselves for the rest of their lives.” I would go one step further and say this applies to the Afrikan, Moor and Aboriginal Blacks of the western hemisphere.


  2. I believe that Dr. Kwame Nantambu is very harsh on Afrikans with his comments and a bit unfair to several persons who have worked hard to have a day to reflect on: a day which signifies their legal freedom from the shackles of chattel slavery itself. Yes Dr. Nantambu, people all over the world do commemorate incidents that may be unpleasant. Two such examples are the Jewish Passover, the Christian’s Good Friday and the recent Americans’ “9/11”. But somewhere in your comments is a point waiting to be made. I seriously and anxiously await the discourse.

  3. Doctor Nantambu is absolutely correct. He is not being harsh on Africans. I mean was Malcolm X harsh on Africans when he stood on podium in Harlem and extolled them to “get off that crack and welfare” and stand up like a man. Africans underwent more than three hundred years of an experience that is unique in the existence of humankind. The global institutionalized colonolization and enslavement of Africans represent an enduring pathogen of attitudes and behaviours that need to be dissected and analyzed. And our acceptance of Emancipation as some kind of benevolent gesture from those who held us in captivity and required joyful songs from us might just be one the areas that need to be examined.

    The Jewish Passover and Christian Good Friday are not historically analogous with emancipation and its attendant circumstances. You cannot conflate events that represent narrow cultural and spiritual belief systems with events that are unquestionably matters of historical facts. In addition, Americans do not commemorate the events of 911 in a vaccum with respect to their national history. Such commemoration involves a total embodiment of what makes them Americans, how they came to be Americans, and why they remain proud as Americans.

    For me, Europeans should be celebrating emancipation with a lot more fervor than Africans. They are the ones who were liberated from an immoral and unethical prison. For Africans, that day should be one in which we solemnly and somberly reflect on the circumstances that made it necessary. That day should be one in which we juxtaposition the attitudes in existence then with those in existence today, and determine how much, if any, change has taken place. But more importantly, that day should be one in which we re-evaluate our approach to things in this world, and ponder whether our unique experience does not qualify us to be vanguards in a global struggle for justice and equality. For there is no greater cause that man can dedicate himself or herself to, than one that equally guarantees the basic human rights to all people without regards to race, color or creed.

  4. Dr Nantambu presents a compelling thesis and clearly and logically expands his point. His argument is extremely convincing. I am awaiting a second article explaining WHY “one of the most perplexing, disturbing and still yet unresolved perennial reality-check dilemmas that afflict Afrikan-Trinbagonians is their supremely blurred vision to clearly ascertain the intrinsic, historical differences between emancipation versus liberation.”
    As the expert on African affairs,he needs to present reasons why Afrikan-Trinbagonians are affected by this “blurred vision”.To elucidate on a condition is not enough.

  5. It is not only African Trinidadians who tend to avoid dealing with the intrinsic difference between Emancipation and liberation. It is a dillema that plagues the entire African diaspora. And it is quite explainable.

    One cannot examine, or more accurately comprehend some of the displacements that affect the African diasporic psychology without quantifying the effects of the forceful cultural disassociation that circumstanced the atlantic slave trade. It was not just a matter of kidnapping a group of people and forcing them to work for free. It involved the brutal and deliberate disconnection of them from familial and cultural links the rest of this world take for granted. And it endured for centuries. All the kings horses and all the kings men could not put Humpty Dumpty together again after he had fallen off the wall. The task of putting Africans back together after being pushed off a wall into an abyss of nothingness that endured for centuries is no less a herculean task.

    Africans, for the most part, were forced to see the world and themselves through a prism of their captors creation. And many still do today. Africans tend to see the end game as being invited to sit with others at a table as opposed to getting an equal bite of same fare regardless of where they sit. Emancipation represent the symbolism of being free to join others at a table. Liberation represent the substance of being an equal participant at the gathering rather than a guest invited on condition.

  6. Mr.Daniels:

    Africans today in Africa are sitting at a table which they can prepare and build for themselves and in my view all your intellectuall rantings and ravings shall not be able to do for Africans what they should and must do for themleves….come together as a people and deal with their challenges as a ” people” without relying on other people to assit them and to accomplish that African people need to find ( or he or she finds them) a leader allong the lines of Mao,Fidel Castro,Saddam Hussein,Stalin,Hugoo Chauvez,Simon Bolivar and Shaka Zulu rolled into one and it ain’t you becvause all you ever do is ” talk” and probably go have your” libation” and talk some more all smoke and no real fire!

  7. About the last thing AficanS need is advice from such as you. That would be like drinking malathon to cure a bellyache. Regardless of how low it gets for Africans, the advice of crazy little racist eichmans like you is the last thing they need. Swallow it and poison yourself you little twerp.

  8. Dear Dr. Nantambu

    Just to say sir, that your article really is propelling and rich. Every person of African descend can relate to the facts you stated. Being from Continental Africa, I can safely endorse that Africans are the only race I know that would neglect and forget their true definition and would gladly adopt somebody else’s belief system. The Continent of Africa is in turmoil, because we believe outsider more than believe each other. An outsider will not understand my troubles, my grief, my stress and all my unbearable circumstances more than the person I share them with. So, how can I delude myself into thinking that an outsider vs my own brother would have my best interest at heart? It’s time for Africans world wide to get a dose of reality, let us acquint ourselves with our true-selves, let us acquint with each other…if we are to thrive in this world then nothing beats togetherness and knowledge of origin. We’ve been told for many years what to believe, we’ve stood back for many years and gave people the platform to define what it means to be an African. We’ve been put to shame and denigrated as a people…made to believe that our deviance is our norm. It’s only gonna end when we take our place in the world, when we re-unite with and embrace our progenitors for their contributions in building the world as we know it today, start perceiving them as HEROES instead of ZEROES. A tree has no life without ROOTS and roots give a true meaning to life…we need to go back to our roots in order to live…and not just live life, but live life in abundance and as a trully Liberated people.

  9. I think that all this debate about emancipation vs liberation might be good, but look at the bigger picture. A price was paid the we as Afro- Trinibagonians are now free. What we need to do is educate our younger generation more, and show more love to our brothers and sisters instead of cutting one another down. Let us take this one day to reflect, rejoice and cry because our children don’t know and don’t care to know about our history and are only focusing on material things.

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