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Barbados Prime Minister calls for focus on positive legacies of slavery

BARBADOS – Barbadians should not dwell on the negative legacies with which they are faced as a result of the unique nature of Caribbean slavery. Instead, they should bury their differences and reflect on the important lessons learned during one of the most shameful episodes in human history.

This call was made by Prime Minister David Thompson as he addressed the Emancipation Day Rally at the Bay Street Esplanade last Friday, August 1st.

Mr. Thompson listed the negative legacies as: mental slavery manifested in low self-esteem; distrust manifested in political divisions; and the tendency to blame everything on slavery. However, he stressed that there were positive legacies such as the love of freedom, which should be focused on.

“It is natural that a society that was built on the foundations of slavery would have as one of its most important values, the quest for freedom. Barbadians and other Caribbean people in general, are internationally renowned for their willingness to fight for their freedom wherever and whenever it is threatened,” he said.

The impulse to be creative was another positive legacy highlighted by the Prime Minister. “The ‘Crop Over’ Festival is an excellent example of how an oppressed people created ways of expressing their humanity and love of life even under the most oppressive conditions,” he stated.

Noting that there should be no restraint on the country’s cultural expression, he pledged his Government’s full support to the National Cultural Foundation, the Pan-African Commission and all those organizations which were committed to “the assertion of our unique Caribbean Civilisation”.

Mr. Thompson pointed out that Government was committed to doing all that was possible to remove the remaining stigma from the huge African component of Barbados’ cultural heritage.

“We plan to do so through education, training and organisation. We look to organisations, under the umbrella of the National Cultural Foundation, to assist with the assertion of an authentic Barbadian culture, in the broadest sense of the word,” he revealed.

He added that Government was also committed to removing the “enduring shackles of poverty that can compromise our cultural expression” and therefore considered economic enfranchisement as one of the last hurdles on the way out of slavery.

Prime Minister Thompson paid tribute to the late Ikael Tafari, whom he described as an internationally respected sociologist, prophet and Pan-African soldier who died fighting against the negative legacies of slavery.

“The greatest tribute we can pay to him is to pledge today to continue the struggle for freedom and recognition as a people who have historically made a significant contribution to world civilisation. We are a resilient people, and we have the talent and determination to do so again and find our rightful place in the world,” he opined.

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