FORT LAUDERDALE – Caribbean Emancipation Day is Aug. 1 and the Greater Caribbean American Cultural Coalition, under the auspices of State Rep. Hazelle Rogers and the Caribbean Consular Corps, has put together a three-part program spanning two counties in celebration.
The program will run two days and center on distinguished educator and intellectual Hilary M. Beckles, who will give the keynote address at the African American Research Library and Cultural Center in Fort Lauderdale.
Beckles is principal and pro-vice chancellor of the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies in Barbados and an internationally reputed historian. He is vice president of the International Task Force for the UNESCO Slave Route Project and a consultant for the UNESCO Cities for Peace Global Programme. He will lecture on “Britain’s Black Debt: Reparations for Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide.”
The observance will also include a children’s feature and presentation of a Caribbean Griot Award to Beckles, a “Queh-Queh” celebration at the Multitudes Contemporary Gallery in Miami and a show highlighting Afro-Guyanese and Afro-Trinidadian culture.
Queh-queh, which has an African origin, is generally defined as a pre-wedding celebration that dates back to slavery times but it is often observed on other occasions.
Beckles describes Caribbean Emancipation Day as an event, a movement, an ongoing process in history. He notes that slavery continued for some 300 years and today’s widespread illiteracy and chronic diseases in the Caribbean are among its legacies.
“About 70 percent, almost one-third of Jamaica, could not read when the island gained independence,” Beckles said. “How can the people govern themselves if they can’t read?”
For many years, under the direction of Babacar M’Bow, then international programs and exhibit coordinator for the Broward County Public Libraries, South Florida held several lecture programs focused on commemorating the emancipation which came Aug. 1st 1834. When M'Bow left the library and moved to open a studio/gallery in Little Haiti named Multitudes, the event was on a hiatus for several years, according to Heather Russell, graduate director of African and African Diaspora Studies at Florida International University and one of the organizers.
Last year,. Rogers and the consul-general of Trinidad and Tobago, Anil Ramnanan, hosted a day-long event which featured a children's educational component and a panel discussion led by Professor Carole Boyce-Davie, M'Bow and Russell.
“At this time, the idea to expand the scope of the program for this year was discussed and Rep. Rogers asked if I would be centrally involved. Our committee reflects collaborations between Rep. Rogers, the Greater American Caribbean Cultural Coalition, the Caribbean Consular Corps and other community partners,” Russell said.
Russell had read earlier versions of Beckles book on reparations and has been following the debate closely, she said.
“Since then, I had followed the debate closely and after the publication of Britain's Black Debt: Reparations for Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide I felt very strongly that Sir Hilary's work was vital to be heard, examined and its propositions adopted by the South Florida Caribbean Diaspora community, who had in many ways been cut off from the debate,” Russell said. “I suggested to the Emancipation Committee that Sir Hilary, if he agreed, be the keynote for our lecture component; the committee was unanimously enthusiastic.”
The three-part observance has the general theme “South Florida Caribbean Community comes together to Commemorate Caribbean Emancipation.”
The program will start with a session from 10 a.m. to p.m. Thursday, Aug. 1, titled, “Teach the Children the Truth…” It will be held at Atonement Episcopal Church, 4401 W. Oakland Park Blvd., Lauderdale Lakes.
Beckles’ lecture and discussions on his book will be from 6 to 9 p.m. also Thursday at the African American Research Library and Cultural Center, 2650 Sistrunk Blvd., Fort Lauderdale.
The final event, from 7 to 11 p.m. Friday Aug.2, will feature a “Queh-Queh” celebration highlighting Afro-Guyanese culture, is being organized by the Guyana consulate, state Rep. Hazelle Rogers, the Caribbean Consular Corps and the Greater Caribbean American Cultural Coalition.
It will take place at the German American Society of Greater Hollywood. 6401 Washington Street, Hollywood.
All events are free and open to the public.