The Island Government of St. Maarten celebrates and commemorates Emancipation Day on July 1st of each year. This day signifies the official abolishing of slavery after one hundred and sixty one years. Emancipation Day must always be about reflection and celebration notwithstanding the hurt, ugliness and evil that was perpetuated against a people simply because of the color of their skin.
Out of the depth of this dark chapter of the world’s history emerged the traits of resilience. As long as there are descendants of enslaved men and women alive there is every reason to celebrate and commemorate emancipation day. History ceases to exist when a people have become totally extinct. At that point the reason to celebrate emancipation day becomes null and void.
Today is not the time to revisit the pain of slavery, rather we should reflect on the miracle of surviving it. It is time to re-establish the pride and dignity of resilience and resistance. It is time to pause and appreciate the amazing gift of renewal that we have been blessed with after being through the most cruel and dehumanizing period of the past five hundred years.
History has given us One Tete Lokay who represents the triumph of our collective memory. She reminds us every day as we get to know her better that although we were told that Emancipation Day was July 01, 1848, there were many of our ancestors who were identical in spirit to her: they were the ‘Free Slaves’. Regardless of the chains that bounded their bodies and the tamarind whip that tore their skin, their spirits were always free and anchored in faith.
Fellow St. Maarteners it is so easy to build up bitterness when looking at the past, however Emancipation Day although rooted in the past is about the future. It’s about the renewal of dignity, pride, resilience, self reliance and resistance. It is ultimately about "A New Beginning".
I will end by reminding each and every one of you with a quote by the late Honorable Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who eloquently stated:
"I am a slave to no man, but a servant to all".