The Meaning of Emancipation Day by Molby McKay
Thank God for Jamaica land we love and Emancipation Day. The month of August marks the most fundamental event in the history of Jamaica. For people who are not aware, August 01, 2020 marks the 186th anniversary of the emancipation proclamation and the 182nd anniversary of “full freedom”.
Freedom came in two stages:
- August 01, 1834 marked the emancipation of all slaves in the British colonies but it was a case of freedom with conditions. At this time the only slaves who were truly freed were the unborn child and those under the age of six years. All other slaves entered into a six-year apprenticeship during which they continued working on the plantations for their former masters in exchange for food and lodging. The apprenticeship ended two years short of its intended six-year term on August 01, 1838.
- August 01, 1938 marked the second stage of freedom – the day all slaves were made free.
In 1997, the government of Jamaica restored Emancipation Day as a public holiday. Many people publicly declared their mixed feelings about the celebration of Emancipation, as they did not want to be reminded of the cruelty of slavery. But how can we wipe out this era from our history? How can we erode this radical transition from slavery to freedom of an entire race of people?
The abolition of slavery marked an important event in the lives of man. So, this day is indeed worthy of celebration as it carries a psychological and emotional memory for Jamaicans. Robert Nesta Marley (Bob Marley) in his song “Redemption Song”, expressed this forcefully: “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.”
We should not forget, we should appreciate the freedom for which some of our National Heroes fought, challenged and conquered the institutions of colonialism, thereby changing the course of Jamaica’s history from slavery to emancipation which we often times take for granted. August 01, Emancipation Day, marks the anniversary of the end of the most outrageous experiments that any race of human beings had ever been forced to endure.
Emancipation Day, August 01, may be a day of rejoicing, but we must use this occasion for serious reflection, to thank God and to better understand where we are, who we are as a nation, what we think, how we think, our entire political, social and cultural life, our relationship with each other and the rest of the world. This understanding should allow us to constructively manage the process of change from slavery through emancipation unto political independence.
Thank you, Lord, for our island home, Jamaica land we love, and all the men and women that fought for our freedom.