September 17, 2019

The Editor speaks: Emancipation Day

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Colin Wilson

Yesterday (Sunday) I was present at St George’s Anglican Church where Jamaica’s Independence Day (actually tomorrow Tue 6) was celebrated.

Tagged with it was .

One can hardly “celebrate”Emancipation Day to its fullest because, although it is observed in many former European colonies in the Caribbean and areas of the United States commemorate the emancipation of enslaved people of African descent, it didn’t actually end slavery.

According to Wikipedia:

“The Slavery Abolition Act 1833, which abolished slavery throughout the British Empire (with the exceptions “of the Territories in the Possession of the East India Company”, the “Island of Ceylon” and “the Island of Saint Helena”; the exceptions were eliminated in 1843), came into force the following year, on 1 August 1834.

“Only slaves below the age of six were freed. Enslaved people older than six years of age were redesignated as “apprentices” and required to work, 40 hours per week without pay, as part of compensation payment to their former owners. Full emancipation was finally achieved at midnight on 31 July 1838.”

Even the date to commemorate Emancipation Day is not universal. Although August 1st is the most widely accepted date some countries observe the day on the first Monday in August.

In South Africa the day is commemorated on December 1st.

In the USA, where it is commemorated, states differ widely.

Florida – May 20.

Georgia – the Saturday closest to May 29.

District of Columbia – Although Emancipation Day occurs on April 16, by law when April 16 falls during a weekend, Emancipation Day is observed on the nearest weekday.

Mississippi – May 8.

Texas – June 19

Kentucky – Aug 8

US Territories

Puerto Rico – March 22

US Virgin Islands – July 3

In Great Britain slavery existed and was recognized from before the Roman occupation until the 12th century, when chattel slavery disappeared, at least for a time, after the Norman Conquest. Former slaves merged into the larger body of serfs in Britain and no longer were recognized separately in law or custom.

From the 17th century into the 19th century, transportation to the colonies as a criminal or an indentured servant served as punishment for both genuine and petty crimes, or for simply being poor and viewed as an ‘undesirable’, in England and Ireland facilitated by the Transportation Act of 1718 [3]. Tens of thousands of children and vulnerable adults were kidnapped from Britain and transported by sail ship to the emerging lands of America, as a source of expendable labour for the numerous plantations of the colonies.[4] During the same period, workhouses employed people whose poverty left them no other alternative than to work under forced labour conditions.[citation needed]

British merchants were among the largest participants in the Atlantic slave trade. And British owners living within the home British isles, as well as within its colonies, owned African slaves. Ship owners transported enslaved West Africans, as well as British natives, to the New World to be sold into slave labour. The ships brought commodities back to Britain then exported goods to Africa. Some brought slaves to Britain, where they were kept in bondage.

Taken from Wikipedia.

Emancipation Day is not observed or even mentioned in Great Britain, whilst I was there. I moved to Cayman in 1981. Perhaps it is in the History Books handed out in the schools there. It wasn’t when I was at school.

If you believe slavery has now ended think again. It has changed its name and forms but it continues to exist.

Whether they are women forced into prostitution, men forced to work in agriculture or construction, children in sweatshops or girls forced to marry older men, their lives are controlled by their exploiters, they no longer have a free choice and they have to do as they’re told. They are in slavery.

On the anti-slavery website it states –

There are estimated 40.3 million people in modern slavery around the world.

10 million children

24.9 million people in forced labour

15.4 million people in forced marriage

4.8 million people in forced sexual exploitation

Today slavery is less about people literally owning other people – although that still exists – but more about being exploited and completely controlled by someone else, without being able to leave.

Someone is in slavery if they are:

forced to work – through coercion, or mental or physical threat;

owned or controlled by an ’employer’, through mental or physical abuse or the threat of abuse;

dehumanised, treated as a commodity or bought and sold as ‘property’;

physically constrained or have restrictions placed on their freedom of movement

I hope that by commemorating Emancipation Day it will highlight what is going on now in our world. let us all wake up to what is really happening.

Slavery, in any form, MUST be stamped out. It is a BLOT on the whole world. Let Emancipation Day really commemorate the end of slavery EVERYWHERE AND FOREVER!!!

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