The following article was first published on August 3 2012. It remains a relevant message as we celebrate emancipation day in 2018.
“As truly emancipated human beings, we are neither Afro-centric, Kalinago-centric, not Euro-centric – rather, we are humanity centred. We see ourselves first and foremost as beings seeking to fulfil our human potential by being of service to humanity. When we are emancipated we are spiritually alive and find it easy to extend love and forgiveness to all.”
This I stated in a presentation titled “Emancipation is always Personal”, on July 30th, 2009. That presentation was the second in a trilogy I delivered on Emancipation, at the Pontifica Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra (PUCAMIMA) during my sojourn in the Dominican Republic between 2005 and 2009. It is my hope that we will one day, step out of our racial and cultural cages so that we can truly emancipate ourselves to become the greater human beings that we have the potential to be.
In that article I went on to write in part:
Emancipation speaks to our potential to rise to a higher level of human togetherness. Emancipation is a celebration of what is great and wonderful about our humanity. As long as our lives remain racially pigeonholed, we have not yet arrived – our humanity is compromised, we are not yet free and there is not much to celebrate.
“True emancipation liberates us to be fully human and to present ourselves truthfully to others. It is the freedom to be true to our inner selves and to be free of the desire to pretend to be who we are not. It confers on us integrity and humility and it strengthens us to be able to lead more responsible lives…..It is about our right to pursue happiness and find fulfilment in our lives. Personal freedom is sometimes referred to as positive freedom. It is the freedom that comes from the mastery of self. It is always personal……
Personal freedom is best illustrated in the person of Nelson Mandela. Although physically incarcerated for all of 27 years, he maintained and grew the freedom of his mind under the most trying circumstances. Throughout his physical ordeal, he maintained his mastery of self – his ability to think clearly, his personal dignity, his respect for the dignity of others including his jailors, and his ability to see human goodness in all……He was taken into prison with his personal freedom and released from prison with an even higher level of personal freedom. Further, as his sense of personal freedom grew, his humility became more obvious to all. He is truly an emancipated human being who devoted his life to liberating and loving all South Africans whether black, coloured, Indian or white.
In life we can expect that our state of mind and our sense of freedom will be continuously challenged by others and by circumstances of our environment. We are challenged to be mentally strong as the forces that seek to take control of our minds and morph before us every day. We must grow and sustain a high state of personal freedom and alertness as co requisites in our pursuit of happiness.
Mental slavery imprisons our minds in a state of victim-hood. With emancipation, we accept full responsibility for our state of minds and for our lives. Hence, we are nobody’s victims. We can let go of the horrors of our oppressive past and we have the mental clarity to help create a better future for all. We are capable of being future-minded as is well illustrated in the life of Nelson Mandela.
There are those who will always be trying to make victims of us, but we must always remember that we only become victims when we let others take control of our minds.
Personal freedom is always there for the taking. We do not have to ask permission of anyone. Hence, we have the power to liberate ourselves. Personal freedom is never granted to us by others as Bob Marley’s Redemption Song reminds us: “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery; none but ourselves can free our minds.”
We have to discover and grow our inner strength in order to grasp the freedom that has always been ours and will always be there for the taking….we don’t have to be human cripples, mentally incapacitated into a state of helplessness and hopelessness. We don’t have to be mentally imprisoned by poverty, race, class, religion or culture.
We are challenged to settle only for full humanity and not just for our Africanness, or Kalinagoness, Dominicaness, or whatever. We have the opportunity to embrace humanity as our home – to make it our destination. Personal freedom will come only when we can rise to the highest level of our humanity and embrace all. It is only then that we will meet our devine responsibility to live out our true potential.
As a society, we have to begin to celebrate emancipation as the personal liberation of all our peoples. We have to move it out of the racial pigeonhole in which it is now trapped and give it the space to flourish towards the true development of all peoples regardless of race or ethnicity. It is our only path to greater societal development.
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