Published On: Mon, Jul 3rd, 2017

Critical Emancipation Day celebration “We are bound to a system that was used to enslave”

One tete Lohkay - LBGREAT BAY – Minister Silveria Jacobs (Education, Culture Youth and Sport) emphasized on Emancipation Day the importance of decolonizing our thinking and our systems. “Break the silence on our skin, our hair, our language, our perception of ourselves and other. Break the silence in education, in society about our identity, our nationality, our culture, our economy, our lack of care for the environment, the stigma of abuse, mental health and sexuality,” the minister said in a fiery Emancipation Day address.

Jacobs described the slavery era as “a period of hundreds of years in which colonial powers ruled the waves, enriching themselves on the backs of persons whom they enslaved.”

The minister noted that the history of slavery is “often glossed over and whispered about in order not to cast blame and embarrassment on the descendants of enslavers or to remind the descendants of the enslaved to spare them shame and pain. And though we commemorate this day with dignified services, speeches, cultural manifestations and festivities, the silence continues.”

Jacobs said that the discomfort and underlying fear of our civilized society endures in this silence: “It is another form of enslavement – the enslavement of the mind.”

While we are physically freed from slavery, the minister said, “We are bound to an education system, a governmental system, a societal system grounded in colonial norms and values – the same ones that were used to enslave.”

Minister Jacobs made the case for decolonizing the education system: “Before we can truly become free (independent) we must rid ourselves of the colonial ways, thinking and habits that stifle us. We must decolonize our classrooms and educational systems and the material that is taught.”

Lastly, the minister made a call to “free ourselves from mental slavery: “Our former colonizers masquerade as equal partners and are still invading our minds and habits through our thinking, the clothes we wear, the manner in which our hair is considered presentable, the materials taught within our classrooms and the policies executed daily. Mental slavery and fear of free speech hamper the possibility of living our truth. Our ancestors were enslaved but their minds were free to envision themselves living in a free world.”

Governor Drs. Eugène Holiday reiterated his call for the establishment of a National Emancipation Monument during a speech in the Emilio Wilson Park on Saturday. That monument should include an information center and be constructed at the Diamond Estate run for freedom site. “A beacon to function as a national symbol of our continued collective pursuit to perfect the protection of the rights and freedoms of all people as stipulated in our constitution.”

“Throughout the history of slavery our forefathers and -mothers relentlessly stood up and raised their voices to justice,” the governor said. “Today we are the beneficiaries of the legacy of their sacrifice, struggle and ultimate victory for justice.”

Looking to the future, the governor continued, “We the people of St. Maarten have a moral obligation to join forces in the tradition of the protest chants, to stand up for justice. We must remember as my grandfather Lionel Bernard Scott often said: there is no success without sacrifice.”

Quoting Robert F. Kennedy, the governor said: “Each time a man stands up against injustice he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression” and added a quote from Martin Luther King: Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

The Emancipation Day program consisted of a church service, wreath laying at the One Tete Lohkay and the Freedom Fighters roundabouts, a re-enactment of One Tete Lokhay’s run for freedom and a program in the Emilio Wilson Park.