Celebrating Freedom: Caribbean People commemorate Emancipation.

For the last quarter century, during the last week of July and the first of August annually, celebrations and commemorative events have been hosted in recognition of the Emancipation from slavery, which was proclaimed in the Caribbean in 1834 and fully enforced from August 1, 1838. These contemporary events are held throughout the region in many of the islands, such as the US Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Anguila, Antigua, Dominica, Barbados, Grenada, St. Vincent, Montserrat, and Trinidad and Tobago. The South American mainland Caribbean nation of Guyana also bear witness to the emancipation festivities.

The 2011 Emancipation festivities a particularly significant in the context of the declaration of 2011 as ” The Year of People African Descent” by the United Nations. This declaration was made in recognition of the millions of people worldwide, whose ancestors came from the African continent, and especially in recognition of the horrors experienced during the near 400 years of slavery and the continued discrimination and racial abuse faced since. In making this declaration it is the hope that efforts to end discrimination on the of race would be redoubled.

The last half of the 19th century saw the coming in to being of emancipation celebrations akin to those of today. In many of the islands at the time, freedom from the shackles of slavery was celebrated in that first week of August. Many of these celebrations eventually became subsumed by the various Carnivals that emerged then and are still held to this day around this time of the year. An example of this is the Cambulay that was held on August 1 in Trinidad but was suppressed in the famous Riots of 1881. The procession, masking, music, and other performance forms associated with this events eventually becoming incorporated into the pre-lenten Carnival. However, the Carnivals of places such as Barbados, Antigua, and Grenada continue to be hosted during the last week of July and the first of August, close to the August 1st proclamation of freedom.

In 1985, Trinidad and Tobago became the first country to declare a public holiday annually in recognition of this historically significant event in the history of the “people of African descent” and indeed, the history of the world. The acceptance of this holiday by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago came after the ground was laid by the Emancipation Support Committee in the years prior. The committee was then spearheaded by the late Lancelot Layne and included leading members such as, Ella Andell, the late Brian Honore – Commentor, John Cupid, in addition to some of the members that hold the fort today.

The commemorative activities initiated by this early committee included processional visits to historic areas and sites, significant to the experiences of the enslaved and their descendants in Trinidad and Tobago. Some of these included: Lopinot, Aranguez, the Lavantille and Picton Hill area, and the Gonzalez/Belmont community which was a former slave village. Sites of cemeteries for the slaves; trees on which hangings and beating were carried out, were pointed out to participants in these processions, which served an educational function in addition to the celebratory. These emancipation commemorative activities have developed to include an extended Emancipation village in which performances and speeches featuring local and foreign guests (especially from African countries) are delivered, and it culminates with a procession on August 1.

Similar types of celebratory events and activities are hosted in other parts of the Caribbean region. In Jamaica the day is recognized as a national public holiday. An Emancipation Park was opened in Kingston in 2002,
and festivities are held in many different parts of the country. For instance in Spanish Town, St. Catherine there is a reenactment of the reading of the Emancipation Declaration. This town was the seat of Parliament for the colonial government when the abolition of slavery was proclaimed in 1838. Other towns, such as Morant Bay, St. Thomas, host celebrations that feature cultural forms such as mento, and kumina among other cultural activities. In 2011, the community in St. Anns hosts activities that culminate on July 31 with festivities entitled “Let the drums talk”.

In Guyana the occasion of the emancipation anniversary is observed throughout the country and is marked by road and cycle races, the distribution of hampers to the poor and elderly, and essay writing competitions. Additionally, church services are held in some areas and there are performances of dance and song. Groups from neighboring Brazil and Suriname are invited to participate and contribute to the events, particularly in some of the border towns. And, processions are held in which the participants adorn themselves in West African print and march along to the strains of African music.

Reimagining Jazz in Africa.

It’s no secret that the distant roots of American jazz lay in Africa. But how did Afro-America’s revolutionary sound reshape African music? On this Hip Deep edition, we examine how African artists found a modern, global voice using jazz as inspiration. Author Carol Muller tells the story of Abdullah Ibrahim, whose prolific career was launched with “Duke Ellington Presents the Dollar Brand Trio” followed by “Anatomy of a South African Village Suite.” We dig into the political significance of the U.S. State Department tours of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, and how their visit to Africa underscored the greater fight for social justice for blacks around the world. Senegalese music scholar Timothy Mangin explains West Africa’s attraction to American big band music. Finally, jazz and African music scholar Ingrid Monson tells the story of jazz in Ethiopia and Nigeria, and how this American tradition sculpted the sounds of such luminaries as Mulatu Astatke and Fela Kuti.

Reimagining Jazz in Africa: Cape Town Cosmopolitans and Beyond by Afropop Worldwide

Haiti’s Fiesta Season

Commentary: From mid July to mid August the fiesta season in Haiti will be in full swing
Published on July 11, 2011 in Caribbean News Now!.

By Jean H Charles
Jean H Charles MSW, JD is Executive Director of AINDOH Inc a non profit organization dedicated to building a kinder and gentle Caribbean zone for all. He can be reached at: jeanhcharles@aol

President Joseph Michel Martelly, in a tete a tete with the Haitian media moguls recently, has urged the press to swing their brush onto the better side of Haiti for the sake of his worldwide campaign of letting the world know that Haiti is now open for business.

It is a difficult request when the electricity blackout that used to be sporadic is now at regular interval. While there is water in the vicinity, none is coming into my house. There is a big pothole in the street that is now six months old. The garbage receptacle, too high for the regular users, is surrounded by detritus. These are small inconveniences considering that half a million people are still under tents and, no offense to the internal nomads, the fate of 5 million in rural Haiti who are living at less than one dollar a day is even worse! …read more.

Festival of Fire

Commentary: Santiago’s Festival of Fire: Cubans hug up their Caribbean culture
Published on July 14, 2011 in Caribbean News Now!

By Norman Girvan
Norman Girvan is Professorial Research Fellow at the UWI Graduate Institute of International Relations at the University of the West Indies in St Augustine, Trinidad

Santiago de Cuba’s Festival of Fire, held each year in the first week of July, is the Cuban version of CARIFESTA. Artistes come from all over the Caribbean, highlighting the popular and traditional culture of the region.

This year the Festival was dedicated to Trinidad and Tobago, which sent a 70-odd multi-cultural delegation of dancers, pan men, drummers and other performers headed by Culture Minister Winston ‘Gypsy’ Peters.

Performances were held in Santiago’s Teatro Heredia and at public spaces throughout the city, all free to the population, and mostly enthusiastically attended. Judging by what I experienced during this and other visits, culture is to Cubans what shopping is to Americans. …read more