The Emancipation Journey, Remembering A Stance for Liberty and Respect
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The Emancipation Journey, Remembering A Stance for Liberty and Respect

His Excellency Governor Eugene Holiday (file photo) His Excellency Governor Eugene Holiday (file photo)

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - His Excellency Governor E.B. Holiday delivered on the occasion of the observance of the 155th anniversary of Emancipation Day on July 1 that took place at the Captain Hodge Wharf and Emilio Wilson Estate the following address:

My Fellow Sint Maarteners,

Brothers and sisters, Good morning

Marie- Louise and I are honored to join you beside the waters of Great Bay to celebrate the observance of our Emancipation Day. Today, July 1st, 2018, one hundred and fifty-five years since the emancipation proclamation, is a critically important day in our nation’s history. 

Critically important because, as I stated in my 2012 Emancipation Day address, the July 1st, 1863 Emancipation Day:

“…….. marked the triumph of the indomitable will of the enslaved men and women of Sint Maarten to be free. ….. It marked the triumph of humanity on Sint Maarten ……... A triumph of humanity which must be ….. preserved ….. with the same vigor and unrelenting courage as our forefathers.”

Considering today’s theme, I have named my emancipation talk with you: The Emancipation Journey, Remembering A Stance for Liberty and Respect”.

The Atlantic Waters to the north-east and these Caribbean waters of Great Bay remember our forefathers’ courage, they remember our ancestors’ resistance to being enslaved, they remember our forefathers’ ultimate sacrifices, they remember our forefathers’ stance for freedom, honor and respect. We are as a result forever connected to the Atlantic and Caribbean waters.

Every morning I wake up to the sound of the waters of the Atlantic Ocean flowing by to meet the Caribbean Sea. That flow is symbolic for the passage of our ancestors from Africa, across the Atlantic and into the Caribbean. That continuous flow symbolizes the emancipation journey.

Today July 1st is the commemoration of the unrelenting desire and struggle of our forefathers to be free, free from the atrocious and brutal system that enslaved them. They struggled to be free, free, so that today, we are free.

Emancipation is therefore a day to celebrate, to remember, with appreciation, honor and respect. To do so we are reminded this morning of the role of water in emancipation. That is why we stand here this morning at our Great Bay shore.

  • We stand here at this water to remember
  • We stand here to reflect and show respect
  • We stand here to celebrate and to appreciate
  • We stand here to pay homage for their passage
  • We stand here to bear witness in our forefathers’ honor

My fellow Sint Maarteners, Bothers and Sisters,

We stand here, because the emancipation we celebrate today would not have been possible, had our enslaved forefathers not stood for liberty through fight.  And when fight failed through flight.

Yes, fight and/or flight, even when it meant the ultimate sacrifice. The water remembers that emancipation journey. The water remembers:

  • - The water remembers, the appalling conditions our captive forefathers endured during the Atlantic crossing;
  • - The water remembers, the beating, mourning and groaning in the belly of the slave ships;
  • - The water remembers, the resistance, the fights on board to escape from bondage into freedom
  • - The water remembers, the desperate flight over board into the perilous waters of the Atlantic and Caribbean
  • - The water remembers, the cries: better dead than live in bondage; and ultimately
  • - The water remembers, the escape routes to freedom to neighboring islands.

The triumph of freedom through the first official Emancipation Day, on July 1st, 1863, then and now, is a manifestation of the drumbeat for emancipation. The drumbeat for 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 and what they could be. They knew, it was no reflection of their rich African heritage. They were, because they knew, unrelenting in their struggle to be free. Unrelenting like the water washing unto the shore, leaving us their descendants a great heritage; a heritage of freedom, strength and resilience.

My fellow Sint Maarteners, July 1, 1863, marked the triumph of Humanity on Sint Maarten, a triumph towards a more free, equal and just Sint Maarten for all its people. In doing so it gave birth to a free, strong and resilient people.

It is thus my hope, grounded in my belief in the people of Sint Maarten, that this and all future observances of Emancipation Day, ought to serve as a source of greater consciousness and understanding.

As a source to remind us that our emancipation journey, like the continuous flow of the Atlantic into Caribbean, is not finished. Not finished because, while Sint Maarten is known for its enormous opportunities, there are concerns of questionable labor market practices, of racial biases, of discrimination and of other dehumanizing behavior in our society and around the world.

As a result, we have the obligation, on this 155th Emancipation Day anniversary, to honor the legacy of our forefathers and, at the same time, to act as agents to perfect the promise of emancipation. We owe it to our forefathers, to ourselves, and to future generations, to create free, fair and just conditions for all citizens to realize their full potential.

It is in that regard imperative to teach awareness of how critical freedom, and thus the message of the emancipation journey, is for all people. An effective way to do so, is the use of emancipation monuments that provide education about the journey of emancipation. Monuments which bear witness of the universal values and honors the ideals of liberty, equality and justice.  And in doing so, offer hope to all people that they, no matter the circumstances, can overcome.

In that regard I believe that we must, as we are doing today, continue as a community to invest in the further deepening and broadening of the knowledge of the significance of Emancipation Day:

  1. We must do so, by preserving the symbols of the legacy of the strength and resilience of our forefathers;
  2. We must do so, by restoring and re-erecting the statue of One-Tete-Loke;
  3. We must do so, by dedicating, as I have suggested before, a liberty monument (including a visitors’ center) at the Diamond Estate site as a beacon of freedom, in remembrance of the Diamond Hill Estate Slave Run.

This to ensure that the emancipation journey, that the Emancipation Day message will be remembered, appreciated, honored and respected as a symbol of liberty, equality, Justice and hope by all.

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 Happy Emancipation Day Celebration.

Thank you, God Bless you and May God Bless Sint Maarten and protect its coast.

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