Dr. Kwame Nantambu

Emancipation vs Liberation

By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
July 25, 2008

One hundred and seventy-four years have passed since Afrikans were emancipated from European enslavement. Nevertheless, their descendants in TnT are still irreversibly entangled in the web of historical-ancestral dislocation and powerlessness.

The fact of the matter is that in 2008, the descendants of these 'freed' slaves are still a homeless and motherless people.

On the contrary, on 30 May 2008, the descendants of the 225 Indians who arrived in TnT from Mother India on 30 May 1845, still see/identify themselves as Indians, They are Indian-Trinbagonians. Their Indian-Motherland umbilical cord is still intact, although tampered with per indentureship.

They continue to internalize their historical-ancestral identity 24-7-365.

The same is not true in the case of the descendants of the enslaved Afrikans. On 1st August 2008, these descendants are just "One-Ah-Day-Afrikans". From 2nd August 2008 until 31st July 2009, they are Trinbagonians "to de bone". And if one were to call and/or refer to them as Afrikans, then, one would be the target of a true Trini cussing. That's the stark reality of historical-ancestral dislocation.

Ergo, TnT now has three legitimate Carnival days with Carnival Emancipation Day being the third edition—sans 'winin'. On Carnival Emancipation Day, Trinbagonians of Afrikan descent, who in 2008, still refer to themselves as Afro-Trinbagonians, only trade in their normal cheap "Red-nose sailor" outfits for very expensive Afrikan costumes. Their Carnival mind-set/ mentality remains constant.

The fact of the matter is that Afrikan-Trinbagonians are powerless on Carnival days in February and they remain powerless and dislocated on Carnival Emancipation Day, 1st August. Those are the constant variables.

Now is the time for the descendants of those enslaved Afrikans not only to embrace their true, correct historical-ancestral identity as Afrikan-Trinbagonians but also to begin to celebrate Afrika Year, that is, to internalize their inherited Afrikanness, 24-7-365. Indeed, all other ethnic groups in TnT do it.

Chinese-Trinbagonians are Chinese 24-7-365, not just on 12 October; Syrian-Trinbagonians are Syrians 24-7-365; Lebanese-Trinbagonians are also Lebanese 24-7-365 and so too are Portuguese-Trinbagonians. Indian-Trinbagonians are Indians 24-7-365 not just on 30 May.

Now is the time for historical-ancestral location which will lead to the empowerment of Afrikan-Trinbagonians while historical-ancestral dislocation will only perpetuate absolute powerlessness, ad infinitum. That's the stark reality facing Afrikan-Trinbagonians in TnT today.

Now is the time for Afrikan-Trinbagonians to celebrate liberation rather than emancipation. Afrikans today are only free physically but they remain under the obdurate yoke of mental slavery. That's the main problem with the celebration of emancipation—it does not speak of power to the Afrikan. It just speaks to "mass in yuh mass" festivities and annual government subvention.

As Bro. Bob Marley once warned: "Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds."

In this regard, the poignant questions that come to the fore are: On Emancipation Day, in what tongue do Afrikan-Trinbagonian entertainers perform? On Indian Arrival Day, in what tongue do Indian-Trinbagonian entertainers perform?

This historical-ancestral-cultural-linguistic dichotomy/divide speaks volumes as to the dislocation (powerlessness) and location (empowerment) of these two major ethnic not racial entities in TnT.

Although these two ethnic groups share the common denominator of Euro-British colonialism and enslavement, the stark reality is that the Afrikan has been superficially emancipated while his Indian counterpart has been totally liberated, by design and not by accident.

The fact of the matter is that the Indian still possesses his Motherland's name, religion, customs, tongue, way of life, identity, etc. He acts these out 24-7-365. On the other hand, the Afrikan has lost everything he brought with him from his Motherland, except the drum. However, most importantly, the Afrikan has lost his mind—power (Indian) versus powerlessness (Afrikan).

Now is the time for Afrikan-Trinbagonians to realize that our past is that of an Afrikan people, our present is that of an Afrikan and our future is that of an Afrikan people—and a powerful people at that.

Afrikans were brought violently and involuntarily from Mother Afrika to be enslaved in TnT and not the other way around. Ergo, their descendants are Afrikan-Trinbagonians, not for a day as on 1st August, but 24-7-365.

Now is the time for Afrikan-Trinbagonians to "look in de mirror" and see what they see—an Afrikan staring right back at them. Location, Location, Location!

As the erudite, renowned Afri-centric Afrikan-American scholar/researcher Dr. Marimba Ani correctly admonishes: "You're not an African because you're born in Africa. You're an African because Africa is born in you. It's your genes ... your DNA ... your entire biological make-up. Whether you like it or not, that's the way it is. However, if you were to embrace this truth with open arms ... my, my, my ... what a wonderful thing."

In the final analysis, until Afrikan-Trinbagonians begin to internalize their inherited Afrikanness 24-7-365 and celebrate Afrika Year then liberation and power will continue to "remain a fleeting illusion to be pursued but never attained."

Afrikan-Trinbagonians unite; we have nothing to loose but our minds.

Shem Hotep ("I go in peace").

Dr. Kwame Nantambu is a part-time lecturer at Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies and University of the West Indies.

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