Emancipation vs Liberation

By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
July 25, 2008

EmancipationOne hundred and seventy-four years have passed since Afrikans were emancipated from European enslavement. Nevertheless, their descendants in TnT are still irreversibly entangled in the web of historical-ancestral dislocation and powerlessness.

The fact of the matter is that in 2008, the descendants of these ‘freed’ slaves are still a homeless and motherless people.

On the contrary, on 30 May 2008, the descendants of the 225 Indians who arrived in TnT from Mother India on 30 May 1845, still see/identify themselves as Indians, They are Indian-Trinbagonians. Their Indian-Motherland umbilical cord is still intact, although tampered with per indentureship.

They continue to internalize their historical-ancestral identity 24-7-365.

The same is not true in the case of the descendants of the enslaved Afrikans. On 1st August 2008, these descendants are just “One-Ah-Day-Afrikans”. From 2nd August 2008 until 31st July 2009, they are Trinbagonians “to de bone”. And if one were to call and/or refer to them as Afrikans, then, one would be the target of a true Trini cussing. That’s the stark reality of historical-ancestral dislocation.

Ergo, TnT now has three legitimate Carnival days with Carnival Emancipation Day being the third edition—sans ‘winin’. On Carnival Emancipation Day, Trinbagonians of Afrikan descent, who in 2008, still refer to themselves as Afro-Trinbagonians, only trade in their normal cheap “Red-nose sailor” outfits for very expensive Afrikan costumes. Their Carnival mind-set/ mentality remains constant.

The fact of the matter is that Afrikan-Trinbagonians are powerless on Carnival days in February and they remain powerless and dislocated on Carnival Emancipation Day, 1st August. Those are the constant variables.

Now is the time for the descendants of those enslaved Afrikans not only to embrace their true, correct historical-ancestral identity as Afrikan-Trinbagonians but also to begin to celebrate Afrika Year, that is, to internalize their inherited Afrikanness, 24-7-365. Indeed, all other ethnic groups in TnT do it.

Chinese-Trinbagonians are Chinese 24-7-365, not just on 12 October; Syrian-Trinbagonians are Syrians 24-7-365; Lebanese-Trinbagonians are also Lebanese 24-7-365 and so too are Portuguese-Trinbagonians. Indian-Trinbagonians are Indians 24-7-365 not just on 30 May.

Now is the time for historical-ancestral location which will lead to the empowerment of Afrikan-Trinbagonians while historical-ancestral dislocation will only perpetuate absolute powerlessness, ad infinitum. That’s the stark reality facing Afrikan-Trinbagonians in TnT today.

Now is the time for Afrikan-Trinbagonians to celebrate liberation rather than emancipation. Afrikans today are only free physically but they remain under the obdurate yoke of mental slavery. That’s the main problem with the celebration of emancipation—it does not speak of power to the Afrikan. It just speaks to “mass in yuh mass” festivities and annual government subvention.

As Bro. Bob Marley once warned: “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.”

In this regard, the poignant questions that come to the fore are: On Emancipation Day, in what tongue do Afrikan-Trinbagonian entertainers perform? On Indian Arrival Day, in what tongue do Indian-Trinbagonian entertainers perform?

This historical-ancestral-cultural-linguistic dichotomy/divide speaks volumes as to the dislocation (powerlessness) and location (empowerment) of these two major ethnic not racial entities in TnT.

Although these two ethnic groups share the common denominator of Euro-British colonialism and enslavement, the stark reality is that the Afrikan has been superficially emancipated while his Indian counterpart has been totally liberated, by design and not by accident.

The fact of the matter is that the Indian still possesses his Motherland’s name, religion, customs, tongue, way of life, identity, etc. He acts these out 24-7-365. On the other hand, the Afrikan has lost everything he brought with him from his Motherland, except the drum. However, most importantly, the Afrikan has lost his mind—power (Indian) versus powerlessness (Afrikan).

Now is the time for Afrikan-Trinbagonians to realize that our past is that of an Afrikan people, our present is that of an Afrikan and our future is that of an Afrikan people—and a powerful people at that.

Afrikans were brought violently and involuntarily from Mother Afrika to be enslaved in TnT and not the other way around. Ergo, their descendants are Afrikan-Trinbagonians, not for a day as on 1st August, but 24-7-365.

Now is the time for Afrikan-Trinbagonians to “look in de mirror” and see what they see—an Afrikan staring right back at them. Location, Location, Location!

As the erudite, renowned Afri-centric Afrikan-American scholar/researcher Dr. Marimba Ani correctly admonishes: “You’re not an African because you’re born in Africa. You’re an African because Africa is born in you. It’s your genes … your DNA … your entire biological make-up. Whether you like it or not, that’s the way it is. However, if you were to embrace this truth with open arms … my, my, my … what a wonderful thing.”

In the final analysis, until Afrikan-Trinbagonians begin to internalize their inherited Afrikanness 24-7-365 and celebrate Afrika Year then liberation and power will continue to “remain a fleeting illusion to be pursued but never attained.”

Afrikan-Trinbagonians unite; we have nothing to loose but our minds.

Shem Hotep (“I go in peace”).

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

5 Responses to “Emancipation vs Liberation”


  • Here is a perspective, close to home, that I want to share. I am always collecting t-shirts, from every event that I go to where a t-shirt is free. (In North America). When visitors from TnT come to visit, they can wear and have these t-shirts. The t-shirt no one from TnT has taken so far is a free one I got at the Emancipation Village in TnT in 2006.It says South AFrica, and has the colours of the SA flag.

    I wore it to I-fest Houston, in 2008. A lot of people came up to me to inquire if I was from South Africa. a lot of Africans manning booths, called me “sister”.

    When I wear African clothes in the USA, I am called beautiful- by all sorts of people, in TnT many behave as to ask “wey she playing, wearing dat?” That mindset is not Afro-trini, but all-trini. People seem threatened if a tall woman who seems confident in self, wears African clothes. That seems to be reserved for the Nigerian ambassador.

    I tell you, we in TnT, of all shades, need to have our heads examined.

    I continue to invite Afro-Americans to come visit during Emancipation, but we Trinis who are African-originated people need to understand that those remnants of African culture that survived in us, need to be celebrated.I recently added a segment on the Shango beliefs to the workshop I do for expats coming to live among us. To me, it is as valid a belief system as Anglicanism, Catholicism, Hinduism and Islam. Now, go to the books and see how African belief systems are described- all in terms of derogation. Unfortunately, diaspora Africans have internalized the derogation. The call to wake up, has to move from the bottom to the top, and back again.

  • Dr. Kwame Nantambu,

    Indians and Africans descendants, what makes the former powerful and not the latter? You seem to be painting the picture that Africans are still under slavery (mental). Are they? And by whose choice? Do each of us not have the power of freeing ourselves from mental slavery as you have quoted Bob Marley?

  • “The fact of the matter is that the Indian still possesses his Motherland’s name, religion, customs, tongue, way of life, identity, etc. He acts these out 24-7-365. On the other hand, the Afrikan has lost everything he brought with him from his Motherland, except the drum. However, most importantly, the Afrikan has lost his mind—power (Indian) versus powerlessness (Afrikan).”

    It is about time we bring this Boat Bramhin episode to an end here in T&T. The Indians that CAME to Trinidad were not PROUD of their identity, don’t matter what they try to tell us today.
    The goodness of YouTube.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBxy1R0jitM

    http://www.triniview.com/gallery/main.php?g2_view=core.DownloadItem&g2_itemId=243333&g2_serialNumber=1

  • There seems to be a consensus, citizens that represents the both major racial and ethnic divide are still unable to resolve identity and other historical issues. This has manifested itself often times in unconscious inferiority complexes. My concern however is this, if elites, educated, and world exposed adults are confused, try and imagine the plight of the kids of the nation, illiterates, and unsophisticated.
    It would appear that these Europeans colonial masters are much smarter then we give them credit. First they raped and abuse our early ancestors. Secondly they brainwashed succeeding generations with antiquated education. Finally they allow us to believe that we are free and liberated through so called independence. And today lay back and manipulate us like naïve, sentimental, kids via Privy Councils, and stupid pomp and pageantries, as we all today strive to assess how successful we are based on how much we are able to look like, and emulate, all their discarded actions and behaviors.
    How pathetic indeed today to have our obviously black citizens that make up this divide , boast about who have green eyes, more money, better education or religion , and can do a more successful job of mimicking. In the mean time no one is prepared to build a nation.
    In conclusion, the fact of the matter is that there is absolutely nothing wrong in having a love affair with our past history whether it’s based in Asia or Africa. The people of those two continents however could care less about any of us, as we are obsessed about them. They laugh at your Kinte cloth, West African prison gabs – worn at festivals, or Amitabh Bachchan/ Rai sell out show and Indian national Cricket team adulations. As a matter of fact they wish that a few more millions can leave the continents.
    Unless you are prepared to talk about nation building and play your part to see that this twin Republic rise, then you are wasting time and would be better served to find something more useful to do. Is it any wonder we are fast becoming the laughing stock of the entire Caribbean and soon the world at large? Perhaps the most wealthy English speaking Caribbean island and close to being the most backward- all at once , as almost every citizen with the means ,run to the airport with often stolen millions, to reach for some illusive foreign dream.

  • DAVIS MICHAEL EMILLE

    Real change comes only when an individual or a people morphs though the phases of 1) Acknowledgment of ignorance. 2) Conscious Awakening to the reality of Truth. 3) Psychological Deconstruction. And 4) Psychological Reconstruction. In our immaturity we overlook the fact that a baby can not care for itself and so needs the care (loving/nurturing/protecting) of two parents an an extended family network. Our brother Franz Fanon did not look with critical eyes upon the “Wretched of the Earth”. Instead it was with eyes of understanding and patience. I will work on the re-education of my people. The Dr. who brings us to this forum affords us the opportunity to wrestle with the hard issues that are hardly mentioned elsewhere. Some of us are already prepared to put our shoulders to the wheels. If you are reading this response / comment, you are a candidate for the level of leadership needed to effect change appropriate to the social ills discussed in the column above. The wheel need not be reinvented. Many have given their entire lives in research and study so that we could rise up and conquer these insurmountable roadblocks to our progress as a people. We need not waste another day. Eloquent discussions, angry rhetoric, passivity and hopelessness will get us as far as where we are now,nowhere. My contact information can be gained from the publishers / facilitators of this forum. I give them permission to release it to all who request. Let us gather together and with scientific and surgical precision, begin the process of eradicating this cancer from among us. Yes We Can!!!

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