On this July 1st, 2015, one hundred and fifty two years since the emancipation proclamation, I am pleased, very pleased, to join you along with Marie Louise at this location to celebrate the observance of our emancipation day; one of the most important days in our history.
My fellow Sint Maarteners,
Last year I spoke to you about Sint Maarten's Journey from Plantation to Nation, in 2013 I spoke to you about the promise of Emancipation and in 2012 I spoke to you about Emancipation, as A Triumph of Humanity to Cherish and Preserve. Today, considering the day's theme, I will like to continue my emancipation day talk with you on this critically important day for us as a people on the topic: The Voice of our Emancipators, A Higher Calling.
Critically important because, as I stated in my 2012 emancipation day address, the July 1st, 1863 emancipation day:
"........ marked the triumph of the indomitable will of the enslaved men and women of Sint Maarten to be free. ....."
It is therefore my hope that "...........every Emancipation Day .... will be celebrated as the day when the people of Sint Maarten officially became one people. ...... because it marked the triumph of humanity on Sint Maarten ......... A triumph of humanity which must be cherished and preserved by all with the same vigor and unrelenting courage as our forefathers."
The triumph of the first official emancipation day on July 1st, 1863 then and now is a manifestation of the voice of emancipation. The voice of our emancipators is our inner voice as individuals and as a people that calls us, challenges us to do the things we are required to do as well as to reach for the things we are capable of doing. It is simply put the voice, the higher calling that reminds us that as a people we must channel our freedom to be the best that we can be as a nation.
The voice of emancipation rang loud in the hearts and souls of our forefathers because they knew that their imposed circumstance was no reflection of who they were and what they could be. As a result they were unrelenting in their struggle to be free from the brutal system of slavery based on the difference in color of their skin. Today we stand here on the historic grounds of the former sentry plantation in remembrance of the immeasurable suffering and sacrifices of our forefathers and in celebration of their victory in heeding to their inner voice to be free people. As we reflect on the response of our forefathers to their inner voices, we must move to inspect our own situation and respond to our higher calling today.
That brings us to the question: What are the things that we like our forefathers are required to do to better the life of all Sint Maarteners? This I believe is a pertinent question because a better life for all Sint Maarteners requires that we perfect our response to our voice of emancipation.
In my 2013 talk with you I stated that, while we have made significant strides forward since 1863, we cannot afford to be complacent. And that remains true today: "Because there is, where it concerns for example combatting exploitation, in view of certain employment conditions and practices, room for perfecting the promise of freedom from exploitation. And likewise our practices in race relations too often do not match that which we profess, putting excessive strain on the realization of the emancipation promise of equality. Moreover, while Sint Maarten is known for its enormous opportunities many of our youth face challenges in education, on the labor market and on the housing market limiting their chances of sharing in the promise of opportunity.
These circumstances as well developments in our region and beyond provide ample reasons for us not to be complacent. They imply that where our forefathers fought for emancipation we must fight to defend and build on it.
These threats can only be overcome through our response to our higher calling. That is the calling that tells us in the words of Martin Luther King that: "Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be." That is to recognize our interdependence as a people. To give content to this higher calling we must accept our moral responsibility towards each other. We must move to equip our people to answer their voice of emancipation more optimally. That is, we must move to further equip our people with the tools to realize their educational and economic freedom.
Bob Marley emphasized this in his redemption song with the iconic words: "Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery; None but ourselves can free our minds" This my fellow Sint Maarteners is necessary because freedom of the mind is the basis for all progress. To achieve that we must continue to strive for a more free and better future founded in an educated population, in better job opportunities, in a healthy society and in perfecting human relations.
My fellow Sint Maarteners,
As I stand here, it is my hope that our individual and collective reflections on the meaning of our emancipation day, will inspire each of us to respond to our higher calling. And in doing so act to provide our people with the requisite tools for a better life in keeping with the potential of emancipation. We owe this to our forefathers, ourselves, our fellow residents and future generations.
As you project on complying with your higher emancipation day calling I congratulate all of you on and wish you a most wonderful 152st Emancipation Day celebration.
Thank you, God Bless you and May God Bless Sint Maarten and Protect its coast.