Government of Sint Eustatius π—™π—’π—¦π—§π—˜π—₯π—œπ—‘π—š π—§π—›π—˜ π——π—œπ—”π—Ÿπ—’π—šπ—¨π—˜, π—₯π—˜π— π—˜π— π—•π—˜π—₯π—œπ—‘π—š 𝗒𝗨π—₯ π—–π—¨π—Ÿπ—§π—¨π—₯π—˜

Government of Sint Eustatius

π„π¦πšπ§πœπ’π©πšπ­π’π¨π§ πƒπšπ² π€πππ«πžπ¬π¬ 𝟐𝟎𝟐𝟐
πΊπ‘œπ‘£π‘’π‘Ÿπ‘›π‘šπ‘’π‘›π‘‘ πΆπ‘œπ‘šπ‘šπ‘–π‘ π‘ π‘–π‘œπ‘›π‘’π‘Ÿ, π΄π‘™π‘–π‘‘π‘Ž πΉπ‘Ÿπ‘Žπ‘›π‘π‘–π‘ 
Friday July 1st, 2022, St. Eustatius
π—§π—›π—˜π— π—˜: π—™π—’π—¦π—§π—˜π—₯π—œπ—‘π—š π—§π—›π—˜ π——π—œπ—”π—Ÿπ—’π—šπ—¨π—˜, π—₯π—˜π— π—˜π— π—•π—˜π—₯π—œπ—‘π—š 𝗒𝗨π—₯ π—–π—¨π—Ÿπ—§π—¨π—₯π—˜
(π‘ƒπ‘Ÿπ‘œπ‘‘π‘œπ‘π‘œπ‘™ π‘’π‘ π‘‘π‘Žπ‘π‘™π‘–π‘ β„Žπ‘’π‘‘)
I stand here before you today as a proud daughter of this wonderful land we all call home, the Golden Rock.
I am bursting with pride because 367 years after the first slave arrived in Statia, 159 years after the abolition of slavery, and five years after the Island Council of St. Eustatius adopted the motion, we observe Emancipation Day today as an official public holiday for the very first time in our history.
What a proud moment it is indeed!
What a reason for every Statian – from the Quill to Little Mountain, from Venus to White Wall – to celebrate!
We celebrate this historic moment in memory of Thomas Dupersoy, Prince, Joseph, Valentine, Abraham and Oscar, without whose courage and sacrifice we would not be standing here today as a free people. They gave their lives in the fight for our freedom.
We celebrate this watershed achievement in the name of Miriam Schmidt, the founders of the Roots Foundation and others who for many years fought to give significance and meaning to the abolition of slavery and emancipation. They did not make it to the promised land, but we, the generation that followed, continue their battle until we all as a people get there.
And we celebrate today for all the enslaved, our ancestors, who were forced from the pleasures and comfort of their homes in Africa, bought and sold like merchandise to increase the wealth of complete strangers. Their bodies were beaten and chained, their sanity challenged, but their spirit and soul could never be sold.
They must hold a sanctuary in our hearts and be honoured and held sacred in our souls.
Therefore, even as we celebrate this important milestone in our emancipation journey, we must do so with a pinch of circumspection and an ounce of reflection.
Let us reflect on where we are and how we got there.
Let us reflect on where we need to go and the road we must follow to get there.
For the journey is far from over, our work is far from done, our liberation is far from complete.
But we are well on our way. And it is by fostering the dialogue on slavery and emancipation, that we will end what the Martinican political philosopher and intellectual, Franz Fanon, called the constant effort to run away from our own individuality, to utterly destroy our own presence.
In his 1952 book, Black Skin, White Masks, Fanon urges us to assert our own dignity through fighting back against oppression and discovering the sense of self-worth.
It is this sense of self-worth that must drive us, as Fanon says, to transform the world that defines us, free ourselves of the notion that we must continue to be disempowered.
And it is by asserting our dignity that we will stop relying on some alternative sense of a Black cultural history and move beyond thinking of ourselves as slaves.
According to Fanon, the key is not to revive some mythical past, but to create a new future.
The question we must answer is, how do we create this new future for ourselves and generations to come?
Let us begin by addressing the issue of healing, and by perpetuating the possibility of love with all of its imperfections and its perversions.
Yes, we have every reason to be angry about one of the greatest atrocities ever committed against a single race.
But how can we create our new future if, as black people, we cannot respect each other?
How can we move beyond thinking of ourselves as slaves, if we cannot see each other as brothers and sisters walking together in one effort, one love and unity?
How can we find the rhythm of hope if we dismiss as hopeless our efforts to create new pathways towards personal, cultural, relational and institutional transformation?
And critically, how can we build our own cultural history if we do not confront head-on, the issue of slavery and the damage it has caused?
On June 27th, as Government Commissioner, I had the privilege of forming part of a Dutch Caribbean delegation that participated in a roundtable discussion on Dutch Slavery Past in the Second Chamber of the Central Government. The islands spoke with one voice and addressed various aspects of Dutch Slavery Past each making recommendations for the way forward. Collectively we agreed that the Dialogue on Slavery and Emancipation must continue never ever to be disregarded as unimportant. We agreed that these conversations must involve the descendants of the slave owners as well as the descendants of African slaves.
Let us all agree that the dialogue that we seek to foster must revolve around:
β€’ An official apology from the Dutch State for slavery
β€’ Acceptance of this apology by all of us, descendants of the enslaved people, and by our government
β€’ Structural financial support for all organizations that have made slavery and its crippling effects a part of their work. These include the St. Eustatius Center for Archaeological Research, Monuments Council, Committee Fostering the Dialogue on Slavery and Emancipation, St. Eustatius Historical Foundation, Science Institute and Carnival Foundation
β€’ Institutional strengthening and capacity building of government cultural institutions
β€’ Training (capacity building) for organizations that are deeply involved with cultural heritage
β€’ Support for the Committee Fostering the Dialogue on Emancipation and Slavery
β€’ Investments in the overall improvement of the facilities of local institutions to adequately and safely house, display and preserve artifacts and collections linked to slavery past.
β€’ Return of all Statia artifacts/collections stored in various institutions in the Netherlands, USA and the wider world.
β€’ Foster new opportunities that are linked to cultural heritage for sustainable economic growth and development.
β€’ And subsidising the work of the science institution which will be tasked to collaborate with schools to develop a cultural heritage curriculum. This curriculum must tell of slavery past. It is time our children begin to read and learn about our own heroes and cultural heritage (tangible and intangible).
These, we can all agree, are critical issues for discussion and areas for which we can find common ground.
Our new vision must be to come together and march together in progress.
For, until we begin to see ourselves as people who matter in the world …
Until we eradicate our passivity and reclaim our empowerment …
Until we begin to work hand in hand to secure our success then, as Lyndon Johnson, the 36th president of the United States said, emancipation will be a proclamation but not a fact.
It has taken 159 years for us to get here and to celebrate this moment. We cannot afford to wait 159 more before we attain the emancipation we thoroughly deserve. Happy Happy July Day!
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