My Fellow Sint Maarteners,
On this Emancipation Day eve, I am pleased to join you along with my wife Marie-Louise, to celebrate the observance of our Emancipation Day. We gather here on the sacred historic grounds of the former Diamond Plantation, in recognition of the significance of the 1848 Diamond 26 Run for Freedom in the emancipation struggle and triumph.
My fellow Sint Maarteners, Ten years ago, in 2012 I had the distinct privilege to affix my signature to the National
Ordinance that declared July 1 st a National Public Holiday.
In my official address to mark the celebration of Emancipation Day in 2012, I stated, that the July 1, 1863 Emancipation Day: “…….. marked the triumph of the indomitable will of the enslaved men and women of Sint Maarten to be free. …..” It is therefore my hope that “………..every Emancipation Day …. will be celebrated as the day when the people of Sint
Maarten officially became one people. ……”. I have since addressed you annually reemphasizing the significance of emancipation from slavery. Its significance as a day of unity, common purpose, and common destiny. Significant because not knowing the history of emancipation from slavery puts us at risk of having it repeated.
Today I continue my Emancipation Day talk with you. I will, in keeping with the theme, do so on the topic: Ancestral Echoes of Emancipation.
My Fellow Sint Maarteners, We are all formed by the echoes of our ancestors. Echoes transmitted from our parents,
grand-parents, great grandparents, their parents, and their parents’ parents to us through culture, experiences, or behavior. On Emancipation Day, we take stock of our ancestral echoes of emancipation.
My fellow Sint Maarteners, What then are those echoes?
The echoes of emancipation are our tangible and intangible heritage. They are inheritances which we carry in us and which we still experience around us.
The stories and images of the Middle Passage;
The rock walls throughout our island’s landscape;
The stories and images of plantation life;
The relics of former plantations, such as, the Diamond plantation where we stand tonight;
The life of salt pickers memorialized with the salt pickers statue;
The story of One-Tete Lohkay immortalized with her statue;
The 1848 Diamond 26 Run, for Freedom;
The rhythm of the Ponum Dance; or
The rhythm of our Steel pan, Calypso and Soca music, to name a few.
Echoes that tie us to this land, its rich culture, its history, and its future.
My fellow Sint Maarteners, Reflecting on the ancestral echoes of Emancipation we should all imagine how different life
would be for all of us if there had not been any Emancipation. The realization of Emancipation Day has been a defining moment in our collective history. In imagining no emancipation, I hear the echoes of my ancestors. Echoes reminding me of the injustices they endured and of the enduring impacts of the system of slavery. Echoes of indignity,
injustice, rebellion, sacrifice, courage, hope, resilience, and ultimately triumph.
My Fellow Sint Maarteners, Emancipation changed the course and redefined our collective destiny as a Sint Maarten
The echoes of the voice of emancipation rang loud in the hearts and souls of our forefathers because they knew that their imposed circumstance was no reflection of who they were, what they could be and what we, their descendants, could become. As a result, they were unrelenting in their struggle to be free. Unrelenting to cease the opportunity for a better life. The opportunity for all Sint Maarteners:
1) To have equal rights;
2) To own land;
3) To own and operate businesses; and
4) To govern our affairs.
On this Emancipation Day Eve we can say that we have made great strides forward but that challenges remain. On this Emancipation Day eve let us, as one Sint Maarten People, therefore draw inspiration from our Ancestral Echoes of Emancipation to address the challenges we face as we move forward. Challenges because of circumstances at home and beyond our shores.
As I stand here on these historic grounds, it is my hope that our individual and collective reflections on the meaning of our Emancipation Day, will inspire and invigorate each of us to always stand up for the ideals of emancipation. That is that we will heed our ancestral echoes as a call to action for a better, more just society. First, it is a call to educate ourselves and others of the meaning, historic importance, and present-day relevance of emancipation.
For only through a deeper knowledge, awareness, and recognition of our emancipation history and of the societal importance of Emancipation Day, will more people of all colors appreciate and celebrate this triumph of humanity. And second, it is a call for us, irrespective of color or creed, to strive for a freer and better future grounded (1) in an educated, mentally emancipated population, (2) in perfecting race relations, (3) in the elimination of crime, (4) in a healthier society, and (5) in a more economic resilient country.
We owe this to our forefathers, ourselves, our fellow residents, and future generations.
My Fellow Sint Maarteners, it is with that ideal for our Emancipation Day that I congratulate all of you on and wish you a most liberated Emancipation Day Celebration.
Thank you, God Bless you and May God Bless Sint Maarten and Protect its coast.