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One of my Facebook ‘friends’ provocatively stated the following: “enslaved minds in African head-dress; playing dress up is no remedy for enslaved thoughts…” She was referring to the annual Emancipation Day celebrations in Trinidad and Tobago which has developed into an event with a number of dimensions. Organised by the Emancipation Support Committee, the commemoration of Caribbean freedom from legalized racial violence has a number of dimensions, including talks and community outreach. But culminates on 1 August in a celebratory march which ends up at the Emancipation Village.

 The people gather many of them in such beautiful African designs and fabrics. Quite a spectacle of the African aesthetic.

One imagines, that many of the people who attend Emancipation celebrations, also dress in African wear or shirt jacs for much of the year. For others, it is an occasion to wear beautiful clothes, to consciously adopt a style that connects one with ancestors as well as with contemporary African culture. We all want to belong and to know from whence we came and to feel proud about that. And there is the thing, some afro-Caribbean people do not feel proud of their connection to the African continent and are annoyed by the reminder. Others think that this ‘dressing up’ is simple-minded, empty symbolism. And so every year, the idea of Afro-trinis ‘dressing up’ is an occasion for discussion, even though derisory in some quarters. 

Yet still, the larger  point is that in Trinidad, there is a time of the year when people  pause, some people for sure, not all, and remember, really remember  Caribbean history and pay tribute to the ideals of freedom, human dignity, rights and justice for all.

Here in Barbados, someone said to me Happy Crop Over. And I replied, Happy Emancipation. He looked momentarily baffled, caught out, clueless until he recalled….ah yes….

Something feels  amiss with this conflation of Emancipation with wining back, jonesing and wukking up.

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