Arrindell on Emancipation Day: “Freedom has no color or creed”POSTED: 05/23/12 1:24 PM
St. Maarten – Former Minister of Education, Culture, Sports and Youth Affairs, Rhoda Arrindell, in what would have been her presentation about Emancipation Day legislation to parliament on Monday, said that before emancipation, “We had no identity of our own. Emancipation, therefore, represents the birth of our identity. Only then did we become official residents of this New World which our blood, sweat and tears built.”
Arrindell said that all historical records show that July 1, 1863 was an official holiday on St. Martin.
“There was no need to maintain a sustained campaign to make it so. The celebrations continued for a week. But there was no attempt to make it a national holiday until more contemporary times. This requires legislation,” she said.
The public debate about the draft legislation in the parliament has been put off twice, the first time in deference to MP Hyacinth Richardson, whose mother was being put to rest on the same day, and the second time was Monday, due to the swearing in of the new government.
The former minister said, “We have reached this point today, thanks to the initiative and efforts of the people of our beloved St. Martin, particularly cultural workers who have been sensitizing the population to the need to make July 1 a public holiday – not just another holiday – but a day set aside for reflection, celebration and rededication to the cause of freedom; a day to commemorate the resounding victory of our ancestors over an institution that exploited, oppressed, dehumanized, degraded, and even demonized them for centuries.”
She continued: “The call for July 1, Emancipation Day, to become a national public holiday on St. Martin did not begin with Rhoda; it did not start in the 90s as some Members of Parliament suggested during the recent Central Committee hearing of this proposed legislation. We can trace the genesis of this call, in contemporary times, to what I would rather describe as the Newsday group – activists associated with the influential newspaper published by Jose Lake Jr. through the 80s and part of the 90s.
“It was on the pages of Newsday of Friday, July 1, 1983, in commemoration of the 120th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, that the most modern call to make July 1 a public holiday crystallized,” Arrindell stressed.
In her view, “Emancipation Day is the foundation upon which to build our national identity. And … we cannot speak of nation building if we ignore establishing a true national identity. That identity must be grounded in our history and culture.”
The former Minister emphasized that “Emancipation Day is for every resident of our beloved island, no matter where you came from, no matter what your religious, or political affiliations may be, and regardless of your ethnic background.” “Freedom,” she said, “has no color or creed. It knows no gender or nationality. It has no age or race; it respects no boundaries or ideologies.”
That is why she believes “all the different groups on the island – the Indian community; the Chinese community; the Haitian and Dominicano communities, all the immigrant and non-immigrant groups – (should) find meaningful ways to celebrate this unique holiday with the rest of us.”