Greetings by Dr. the Honourable Nyan Gadsby-Dolly at the Launch of the 2020 Pan African Festival TT – Emancipation Support Committee- Facebook Live on May 25, 2020
It is my honour on behalf of the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, to address you at this, the Launch of the 2020 Pan African Festival Commemorating Emancipation and the Observation of African Liberation Day. I would like to congratulate the Emancipation Support Committee on their innovation for this year’s festival. You are demonstrating great resilience and creativity in this time of the world’s very troubled history.
I think now, more than ever, we need to reflect on our history of resilience. The theme for this year’s festival is 1970 Remembered, Reconnection and Recommitment as we observe the 50th Anniversary of the Black Power Revolution, the 182nd anniversary of the emancipation of the enslaved Africans in British Colonies and the beginning of the second half of the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent. This is a heavy theme but a weight we all as Trinbagonians of African descent carry with pride. Sometimes it is heavier than other times but at no time is it ever light.
I take this theme very seriously, in the words of one of my favourite authors Maya Angelou, “I have great respect for the past, if you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you’re going. I have great respect for the past but I am a person of the moment.”
It is integral as descendants of this rich ancestry that we understand where we have come from. We must remember the struggle of our ancestors, the battles fought by so many and the sacrifices that thousands would have endured in order to just survive. And we must think about how this legacy has formed who we are in this moment.
Today also being African Liberation Day makes this launch even more significant. It is a reminder that our ancestors would have endured so much pain, pain so deep that it is still felt in our cellular memory. But it is also a reminder of our resilience, of our triumph, we did not get here through acceptance but through decades of resistance.
We have journeyed well but we still have a long way to go and we must still understand and treat each other with love; we must still recognise that while much has been accomplished and in many cases much improvements have been made, vigilance is still much needed. Technology brings this world together. It brings the world into our homes and it affords us the opportunity to see both good and bad; it allows us to see gratitude, love and compassion but it also allows us to see that decades of racism and hate are still very much alive. But it is the opportunity that allows us to teach our children how to be better, how to choose good. We must remember the past not to harbour hate but to unlock our potential for the future.
Reconnection; relinking; rewiring; recoupling; the act or result of restoring a connection. African nations are connected to their diaspora by the traditions that they would have been passing on over decades. Their authentic selves are grounded in this very heritage that is being celebrated. Loosing this makes us loose our center, our grounding.
In Trinidad and Tobago, our cultural assets embody our heritage and was birth out of struggle. From the ancestral call of the drum, to the call and response of Calypso, from the rebellious sound of the Pan, to the resounding victory of Kambule, from the defiant parade of Carnival, to the story telling of the spoken word. These victories remind us of our centre, they reconnect our souls, ensuring that we embrace all of who we are as we traverse this world of distractions.
Every year as we commemorate Emancipation in our own special way; we look forward to all the events, the lectures, the marches, the music, the food and of course the beautifully adorned garments, all of these paint a vibrant canvas of colour and music which celebrates our African ancestry. How do we therefore demonstrate this recommitment to our heritage in this time of our new normal even at the Ministry without many of our various programmes like the Best Village programme that celebrate our heritage. How do we recommit?
African nations have been adapting to changing social, economic and external environments for decades and still have found ways to ensure that their traditions flourish. We must learn from this. We must learn to protect our ancestral resources, protect our families and communities. We must become sustainable enough to rely on our own richness and therefore ensure that we create a better quality of life for Pan African generations to come, in the words of Africa ‘Ubuntu’, “I am, because we are.” Overall a sustainable community is based on the idea of shared responsibility for our common environment. Our common environment is that of dispersion of our ancestors, they ensured that no matter where they made a home, we would never forget where we came from. We may be apart but we are never alone. May this year’s Pan African Festival reignite this fire within us and help us to remember, reconnect and recommit to our heritage.
I thank you.