By Dr Keith Rowley
Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago
August 01, 2021 – Facebook
Happy Emancipation Day to all the people of Trinidad and Tobago, from the Government, my own family and myself on the occasion of Emancipation Day 2021.
Today, we recognise not just the horrific experience of our African ancestors – but the impact it continues to have on the lives of millions of their descendants.
The Atlantic Slave Trade became profitable for Europe, creating over time its tremendous economic development and the living standard advantages, which we are witnessing today.
As our first Prime Minister, Dr Eric Williams wrote in the historic masterpiece, “Capitalism and Slavery” it was the profits from the slave trade and slavery which created the “Industrial Revolution” transforming England into the workshop of the world in the 1760s.
But, on the other hand, the slave trade and slavery marked the darkest period in modern history.
With their guns and ammunition, Europeans demanded that tribes supply slaves or be sold as slaves themselves.
Africans became products for export. Families were ripped apart; men brutally beaten, women and children raped, mutilated and murdered in cold blood.
Our own CLR James, a recognised international scholar and author, gives us “a conservative estimate” of some 15 million Africans crossing “the Middle Passage”, but advises that other estimates indicate 50 million and even higher, during the period 1550 to 1850.
“Slavocracy” in the new world was a total institution. The slave was robbed of every aspect of his/her humanity. They were stripped of their personalities, their names, their religion, their identities. The new world created an entirely new person.
We can point to the Haitian Revolution, the Maroon revolts, other uprisings and riots as high-points of resistance in which slaves demonstrated tremendous military skills and organisational prowess along the road to Emancipation.
We, the descendants, now talk openly about slavery, but many still do not recognise its lingering psycho-social, cultural, moral, economic, political and many other influences on our lives.
One writer suggests that since Emancipation “new world”-Africans are trying to heal their wounds, and “re-make themselves” — but are “trapped” by the effects of a Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome, and walls of institutional racism.
We say that “de glorious morning come”, but the struggle continues. In many countries, despite our resourcefulness, our apparent strengths, and demonstrated intelligence in almost every endeavour, we are placed at the bottom of “the good” list, and the top of the “bad” lists.
But in this country Emancipation holds a true meaning. We are no man’s property, but part of humanity.
There are no limits to what we can become. Afro-Trinidadians do not see themselves as mentally, physically, culturally, or spiritually inferior.
The world sees Afro-Trinidadians, not as descendants of slaves, but as proud, assertive, confident and colourful personalities. We have gone on to that world stage, making outstanding contributions in every aspect – the professional, creative, sporting, and all other fields.
As we celebrate, Emancipation Day 2021 we must be mindful at every turn not only of the deadly potential of Covid-19.
We must also turn our attention to the events in Haiti, and the manoeuvrings following the death of that country’s President, remembering too that it was the defeat in that country which shocked European powers.
We must also pay attention to the calls for reparative justice for centuries of slavery, particularly in light of how the Covid-19 vaccines were appropriated by the developed world.
And finally, we must acknowledge the greatness of our country. Since Emancipation Afro-Trinidadians have lived peacefully alongside those who came at different times, in different ships, with different traditions and world views.
Importantly, our democratic tradition holds to the resolution of conflict through some measure of compromise.
Within recent times, there has been an increasing deterioration of our long-cherished tradition of tolerance and compromise.
Today, we only have to look to recent conflicts in Rwanda and Bosnia, where those traditions of tolerance and compromise were lost. I do not need to say more.
Happy Emancipation Day to everyone and may this day bring you a renewed spirit and determination to make tomorrow better than it was today for all of us and our future generations.
12 thoughts on “Dr Keith Rowley’s Emancipation Day Statement”
I have a slightly different take on this event. The abolition of slavery is a significant event in the way human beings (Africans) were treated and pedalled as property, with ownership titled to Europeans who saw themselves as “superior” being and the “goods” (Africans) being sold and pedalled as “inferior”. The whole premise of this type of human behavior is EVIL in thought, word and deed. The traders were treated as heroes, obtaining their authority to trade in human flesh from royalty, the papacy, legislature, banking and insurance industries. While it is common to condemn the traders of this evil, we almost never think about those who aided and abetted in the trade. The profits from this trade catapulted many financial giants to be the leaders in the financial industry today. Such giants as J.P. Morgan Chase and Barclays banks provided the finances necessary to carry out the evil acts of capturing and enslaving our forefathers.
Today, these same institutions exude morality in lending and providing capital for businesses. With that in mind, I do not share in “celebrating” emancipation. I view the event with solemnity and respect for human life and aspiration. Not only were we chattled, we were deprived of learning, co-habilitating, expressing our spirituality and denied common decency to congregate with each other. Through all of this, we survived and conquered. Today, we can walk and talk with the best. It is for this reason i abhor the word “celebrate”. I believe that we should treat emancipation with solemnity and reflective acceptance on how far we have come and should praise our ancestors who endured the cruelty of this evil system. In so doing, we should spare no time in making sure our young are ALWAYS made aware of this history. The bitterness of this treatment is still very raw in the minds of many of us. Jamaica is pettitioning Britain by seeking reparations from them for this kind of treatment. I believe that Trinidad and Tobago should join with Jamaica.
So, with that in mind let us honor, respect and pray for a better future for all of mankind.
“Within recen times, ther has been a deterioration of out long-cherished tradition of compromise.” PM Dr. Keith Rowley
Inconvenient, it is interesting that you referenced that conversation which occurred on this blog. I had a lot to say about the subject matter and it goes to show that freedom of speech does have unwritten rules indeed. While we have the right to freedom, that same right is unacceptable if it denigrates another person’s character. Equally distasteful was Kamla’s bill in parliament denigrating Rowley, his father and his children. The attempts made to coerce his son’s mother in Canada to confirm the made up stories was equally distasteful.
Kian, going after
The pre and post 2010/2015, aggressive pursuit and hounding of Dr. Rowley’s family is typical, racist, classless, malicious, violent, indian trinidadian/Guyanese anti-african DLP/UNC/PPP politics, and it has and will continually to deteriorate because african educated/economic class/elites and other non-indians, are unwilling to criticize the indian community and its religious, political etc leaders without dishonestly fabricating and spinning non-existant parallels with PNM and africans. T&T is a dishonest society, and african trinidadians are master reality-escape artists!
“Dr. Rowley’s family is typical, racist, classless, malicious, violent, indian trinidadian/Guyanese anti-african DLP/UNC/PPP politics…Linda.
When you so racist you can’t even put your thoughts together….
Excerpts from the Prime Minister’s Emancipation Address.
“Importantly, our democratic tradition holds to the resolution of conflict through some measure of compromise.
Within recent times, there has been an increasing deterioration of our long-cherished tradition of tolerance and compromise.
Today, we only have to look to recent conflicts in Rwanda and Bosnia, where those traditions of tolerance and compromise were lost. I do not need to say more”.
Yes. You do need to say more. You need to assure the population that under your leadership, T&T will never become another Rwanda or Bosnia.
Our watchword, “tolerance” should become “acceptance”
You and the Opposition leader should stop your childish and petty bickering. Your vitriolic exchanges are damaging the good will established by former leaders and having a negative, divisive impact on the population.
You, sir should stop your verbal abuse of the media and anyone who opposes you.
It is possible to disagree without the use of crude, intemperate language. Try the power of civilized, friendly persuasion.
TMan, I happen to share the opinions expressed about the media. The media is petty, nonsensical, ill-informed and not worth reading or sharing. Those who write do not research their materials before printing nor do they appear to have knowledge of the matter to which they put content. The value of what passes for news in our country is very poor.
“But in this country Emancipation holds a true meaning. We are no man’s property, but part of humanity.”
A well thought out speech. From property to property owners as part of humanity. Freedom gives all of us the rich experience of what it means to be human.
Africanas have savoured the fat of the land. As the privileged class in TnT. Dr. Williams, Ellis Clarke, Rodha Baptiste, sprangalang, mighty sparrow, George Weekes, Beryl McBuney, Patrick Manning, Kitchener, Brigo, Hasely Crawford, Errol McLeod…. Yes indeed freedom affords all the high privilege of living out the TnT dream.
I think the responses coming from familiar sectors confirm what I said about “unity and celebrations” to express oneness. We as a group of people were not placed here based on our own choices. The Indians had a choice of destination, because they voluntarily contracted to emigrate here. While Africans were placed here to gratify the economic exploits of a master class, we had to modify our mode of living to suit the fancies of those who placed the rules and under what conditions we must exist. Those are the conditions that gave us “Dr. Williams, Ellis Clarke, Rodha Baptiste, sprangalang, mighty sparrow, George Weekes, Beryl McBuney, Patrick Manning, Kitchener, Brigo, Hasely
Crawford, Errol McLeod….” as Mamoo alluded to. The so called “privileges ” is laughable when your have gotten it on the backs of the ill-treatment your forefathers were subjected to. Those who lament “our privileges” always seem to think that because
“we enjoy it”, it is somehow the benefits of something worthily passed on to us without a qualifying effort or lack of sweat. When Indians were placed in this region by the British, they knew fully well that co-existence was going to be contentious with the Africans. It is the primary purpose of “divid and rule”. The English knew they did not have enough Englishmen and women to fully occupy the lands they “discovered”, the calculation and seemingly well envisaged intent was that Indian occupation will produce the desired effect. These responses are evident of that calculated desire. Will there ever be a time when Indians can and will seek common ground with the African to share occupation peacefully? For an answer to that, we can look to places with similar divide like Guyana, Fiji and Mauritius to name a few and what we see is very much the same type of confrontation and evidence of non-alignment. As a group (Indians and Africans) we must decide if that is what we want for our future or amalgamate. That is what the future Sat Maharajs and Eric Williamses must contemplate.
I am not aware that these countries you mentioned have an education policy that educates their population about the diverse groups that make up their society. People need to know how and why different groups ended up in their countries. This education should encourage the exploration of different religious and value systems. People should be encouraged to explore and challenge everything.
Indian and African political antagonisms in Trinidad and Tobago allow ‘Whites’ to evade scrutiny while they harbour similar racist ideas and attitudes about Africans and darker-skinned Indians. It makes no sense that different ethnic groups continue to cuss each other which only serves to distract. In this way, it allows a few at the top of the socioeconomic pyramid to collaborate with politicians on either side to reap the most economic benefits from the country.
Anyone familiar with whites in the caribbean, us, uk, canada etc would know that whites have a fetish for Indians of any colour…and indians know this and are increasingly arrogant and boastful about it. In other words, dark skin is okay…as long as the hair and nose are straight.
MP Stacy Roopnarine gets married
The gas station racket
“When Indians were placed in this region by the British, they knew fully well that co-existence was going to be contentious with the Africans”….
The Emancipation of the African was the not the removal of slave labour from the Empire. Indentureship was slave labour. The African could not work the fields. This was labour that they were totally unaccustomed to.
The British rule India for 200 years and during that time they observed the strong work ethic of the Indians. Indians saved Africans from the continuance of slavery by being the replacement workers. Without Indians, Africans would have still been subject to cruel and inhumane treatment.
Africans owe a great unreapayable debt of gratitude for those Indians who came here to rescue them from the cruelty of such labour. Kian seems to think that the word indentureship meant that Indians did not have to work hard. He is mistaken. They had to rise at 5 a.m. and toil with their children nearby. If they did not work there was a man dressed up with a whip who ensured maximum labour was extracted. They worked at times until 9 p.m. Their hands and feet developed callouses.
The presumption that there would be conflict with Africans who move to the cities is again a misguided racialized view from Kian. Indians and Africans got along well in Trinidad, until politics emerge and the PNM exploited black insecurities and made Africans feel threatened. The threaten African then became a victim of propaganda that somehow Indians are to be feared when it was actually the white man enslaving black people. My mother was best of friends with an African lady. I have a number of African friends who have helped me in various situations. I don’t hate black people is just the PNM pushed that divide and rule agenda. And made victims of Kian and his black nationalist friends. I say to him respect and love people and stop being like the ISIS waving your black flags all the time. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/09/isis-flag-apocalypse/406498/
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