The journey toward true emancipation
ARINTHIA S. KOMOLAFE
Published: Aug 06, 2013
The United Kingdom passed an act abolishing slavery throughout the British Empire 180 years ago. The act effectively ended slavery on August 1, 1834; however, due to the apprenticeship program, full freedom never came until 1838, during which time slave masters were required to teach slaves how to work and survive for themselves. This period was intended to ensure a smooth transition for the freed slaves allowing them to adapt to a life of independence. The magnitude of this event explains the fact that Emancipation Day is widely commemorated throughout the Caribbean annually.
Confronting the shackles on our minds
The phrase “emancipate yourself from mental slavery” was coined by pan-Africanist Marcus Mosiah Garvey and later popularized by Jamaican artist Bob Marley in his rendition of the track “Redemption Song”. Through his words, Garvey articulates the notion that human beings are responsible for freeing their own minds from mental bondage despite having been physically freed by their oppressors. Implicitly, his words admonish us to think for ourselves, take stock of our own reality and draw conclusions on how we can best achieve positive, fruitful and productive results.
In today’s society, the media plays a major role in shaping our thought process through music, dance, film, the Internet and other news outlets. Regrettably, the convenience offered by the media and technology appears to have stifled the exercise of our beautiful and indomitable minds resulting in the average human being unwilling to think for himself or herself. In the workplace, some have become comfortable and complacent in deferring to their bosses to think on their behalf. Congregants in religious establishments have in some cases also abdicated their prerogative to think or study to their leaders while the populace seems to be content with the responsibility for government policy and national development being vested solely in our political leaders with little or no input from the people most impacted by the same.
The path to full liberty
The freedom from physical shackles is but a first step towards true emancipation. Indeed, true emancipation is nothing more than an illusion without the emancipation of our minds; and mental liberty will only come with a paradigm shift in our thinking. The famous quote that “knowledge is power” holds much message in our quest because the acquisition of knowledge enables us to discern for ourselves and sets us on the path for true emancipation. Further, love for ourselves and clear understanding of our true calling and purpose in life positions us for a fulfilling destiny and an opportunity to achieve set goals through focus, ambition and determination.
It is true that of all the things that men can acquire in this world, there is no guarantee that they will not lose them at some point in time. However, knowledge attained stays with one forever and despite life’s ups and downs and the challenges and losses that we may face, the same knowledge that we attained to achieve some lost possessions can be retrieved once more by applying our knowledge through lessons learned in life either formally or informally. This reality is embodied in the following words of Henry Ford: “If money is your hope for independence, you will never have it. The only real security that a man will have in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience and ability.”
Adopted philosophies and boundaries
The passage of the Abolition of Slavery Act paved the way for our physical freedom, a first step in the process of revealing to us that we were not less than our masters, but that we deserved equality. Truly, this is one of the major desires of mankind – equality in all that we do. About 120 years after the abolition of slavery, the journey toward majority rule in The Bahamas commenced. This journey filled with all of its struggles took several decades but ultimately set the foundation for both political and economic freedom. This journey continued until the Bahamian people experienced the rebirth of our nation with the attainment of political independence in 1973. Alas, economic freedom still evades us albeit we continue our voyage as a people towards this goal.
As we celebrate the 180th anniversary of the passage of the aforesaid act, one cannot help but wonder whether we the Bahamian people are enslaved to another’s mind-set. Garvey had rightly postulated that “the man who is not able to develop and use his mind is bound to be the slave of the other man who uses his mind”. The next chapter of our history must be written with greater participation of every one of us using the gift of our minds to pull ourselves from a dependent society to trailblazing and independent powerhouses.
The positioning of Bahamians
The next era in our existence requires a sense of pride in being a Bahamian.
Entrenched in this pride is appreciating all things Bahamian and understanding that we are capable of ruling ourselves in all forms and on all levels – that we ourselves are the masters and rulers of our own destiny.
The term ‘Bahamians First’ must not only be a proclamation, but also a fact and should be evidenced in our policies and programs without destroying the essence of capitalism. This is bearing in mind that there is no other place on earth where Bahamians can be kings and queens other than in The Bahamas. In this sense, we as the people of this land and our leaders must work together to renew the minds and shape the destiny and future of successive generations of Bahamians.
The concessions granted to investors should promote economic development and the empowerment of Bahamians. As Bahamians begin to stretch their minds and broaden their thinking, the government must roll out the red carpet to accommodate our ideas and dreams. The government and private sector in partnership will determine the content of our scorecard on economic empowerment over the next 40 years. The Bahamian people have built these walls with their sweat and tears with minimal ownership thereof; the time to possess has come.
One common purpose
The clarion call to begin the process to free our minds is a general one. However, while we all must play a part in this metamorphosis, our political leaders must be a driving force of this paradigm shift and new environment. The government must effectively communicate its plan to advance the economy, working with the private sector and other stakeholders. Our economic policies and national institutions must be conducive to the average Bahamian progressing and being all that he or she can be. Then and only then will more Bahamians be able to live the Bahamian Dream.
The major feats accomplished in our existence as a nation have been made possible due to the cooperation and working together of people of diverse races, backgrounds, political affiliations and social status. Political leaders have also been a part of our past struggles. Hence, the meeting of minds and unity of purpose is important to drive the emancipation from mental slavery and the achievement of economic empowerment for all Bahamians. In the final analysis, we share a common purpose for justice, equity, education, security and equal opportunity for our people. Our shared values are enough to unite us and make true emancipation a reality in our commonwealth. Happy Emancipation Day!
• Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments can be directed at firstname.lastname@example.org.