By Prince Court
Just as Labour Day in Antigua and Barbuda is celebrated on the first Monday in May, instead of the first of May, Carnival Monday is the day that represents the first of August, which is Emancipation Day.
The Labour unions hold activities on Labour Day, and the day has been officially recognized here for about two-thirds of a century.
But what about Carnival and Emancipation? Well, for the last decade, a few people have been trying to remind this society that August 1st is the day in 1834 when slavery was abolished in this country and our ancestors celebrated with iron band.
It’s not the first time, nor the first set of people, but we didn’t have a calendar of Emancipation activities before. Certainly, we had no established Emancipation Watch Night on July 31st.
So, for the last decade, the Antigua and Barbuda Reparations Support Commission, established by government as part of a Caricom Reparations Support Commission, has been organizing Emancipation Week activities, culminating in the July 31st Watch Night event, with artistic expressions, audio-visual presentations, mini lectures, and the midnight iron band jam session.
Without official recognition, and in obscure locations like the historical Betty’s Hope, a tiny handful of faithful folks have gathered, and in the most recent years, in the St John’s Botanical Gardens, or Park, as it has been most commonly known.
But who takes note, with a major carnival show at the Antigua Recreation Gounds always eclipsing the Emancipation Watch Night?
Last year however, the government declared the Emancipation Week activities part of the annual carnival celebrations.
Great. Yet, for the second time such declaration, with the carnival shows now spread over an extended period, it was still not seen fit to dedicate the night of July 31st to the theme of Emancipation.
The Eurocentric Caribbean Queen Show could easily have been held on another night.
There can be absolutely no excuse for placing in on July 31st, Emancipation Watch Night, once more leaving a few people to huddle under a tree in the Botanical Gardens, like the meagre remnants of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, or some other vanishing lodge.
There, in the Botanical Gardens, while the rest of the country is focused on the Queen Show, the few faithful do our best to feel good about ourselves, while suffering what is known in theatre or cinema as cosmic indifference.
That is, the world around couldn’t care less about a few miserable creatures in a little side-alley show.
It is mockery of our ancestors, and of ourselves, to declare the activities official and then disregard them.
The group of Nigerian artists should have been coming for Emancipation celebrations. Instead, there’s official cosmic indifference.
Again Next Year?
With official promotion, people dress up in madras cloth each year, looking like maids and butlers in Massa’s house.
But one could count the number of persons in any African-inspired clothing on African Dress Day on Friday July 28th.
What official promotion was there?
But with official promotion, massive crowds went out almost naked onto the street for so-called T-shirt mas.
Will we do this official disregard again next year so as to leave our young people clueless of who they come from and what they should become?
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