TOMORROW, as we observe Emancipation Day, the 178th anniversary of the end of the atrocity called slavery — easily man’s greatest inhumanity to man — we need to ensure that the legacy of our forefathers, who fought for freedom, is preserved and respected.
We reiterate our resolve to resist the attempts by some persons to discount the value of our history and our need to recall. For it is our unwavering view that only by knowing and exploring our history can we truly understand why and how we are who we are. That, we hold, will assist us better to move forward, particularly at this juncture when we embark on our next 50 years as an Independent nation.
Failing that, we risk making the same mistakes of our sordid past or forgetting the valuable lessons we ought to have learnt.
Just as the Jews have done with the holocaust, we must not allow the world to forget the fact that millions of our ancestors were forcibly taken from their homes in Africa, transported thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean in the most sub-human of conditions and sold like livestock to the highest bidder in colonies.
Many lives were also lost during that brutal Middle Passage voyage, adding to the resentment to colonial symbols and the concept of empire that exists among blacks to this day.
We have always maintained in this space that in the Jamaican context, we should all take inspiration from the consistency of struggle and resistance, both active and passive, of those who refused to accept that slavery and brutality were justly their lot.
That sustained refusal to submit to oppression and injustice, even at the risk of loss of life, ultimately led to the overturning of slavery in 1834. And even then, the colonists freed only children under age six and implemented the system of apprenticeship in a number of countries in order to continue living well off the sweat of fellow humans.
It was not until a further four years before the colonial masters fully accepted and implemented the abolition of slavery, as it was clear that they refused to acknowledge the equality of all humans.
It is with those facts in mind that we continue to encourage Jamaicans to be guided by the examples set by our freedom fighters, some of whom are now recognised as national heroes.
Their efforts, and those of the thousands of Jamaicans who supported them, must continue to be highlighted, in schools, communities, and among young people. For it is those characteristics, coupled with a deep understanding of our history, that will ensure our existence as a people and sovereign nation.
It is those characteristics that will help influence public response to criminals who, in reality, are enslavers, just like the colonial masters. It is those characteristics that will go a far way in our quest to strengthen justice and equity in our country.
That is why our observance of Emancipation Day is important, very important.