Yesterday we celebrated Emancipation day. Trinidad and Tobago was the first independent country to declare a national holiday to commemorate the abolition of slavery in the British Empire.

The British like other colonial powers had allowed the widespread practice of slavery to take place before it was finally abolished throughout the British Empire by the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833, which came into effect on August 1st 1834.

This was followed by a period of apprenticeship with freedom eventually coming in 1838. Slaves between 1834 and 1838 were emancipated but not free. Physically freedom was attained. As we reflect over the years and contemplate where we are as of 1st August 2022. The legendary Bob Marley’s lyrics from his iconic “Redemption Song” comes to mind — Emancipate yourself from mental slavery none but yourself can free your mind — rings true.

In almost every endeavour it may appear as if we as a country continue to be the author of our demise — in a manner of speaking — are we truly free?

Where are we as a country and society? Can we on sober reflection and contemplation stand up and say we have embraced the opportunity provided to us as free people?

We appear to be more enamoured by other influences other than our own. We continue to be held back by fear. Fear of what pray tell? It’s as if the ghosts of the whips and chains, the sheer brutality of slavery and apprenticeship remain a dark grey cloud over our heads.

We are still on the plantation. For all the progress made. We continue to settle for average. Don’t draw attention to yourself. Fit in. Don’t rock the boat. The end result of this enslavement to fear is that we underestimate our potential.

Aiming to dominate rather than compete scares the living daylight out of most of us. We dilute our greatness and dampen down our passion for excellence and success. Time and again I tell or remind our youth and young people, in particular, to keep believing, stay focused, and stay disciplined your best is still to come. The most valuable assets as human beings we have are our mindset, persistence, creativity and courage. We barely tap into our reservoir of mental capacity. We hold back and are afraid to go all in.

Yet we celebrate Emancipation day every year. What are we celebrating? How have we emancipated ourselves from mental slavery?

This isn’t to suggest that there aren’t Trinbagonians achieving excellence and fulfilling their potential. Those individuals will say that they have achieved against the odds or have had to leave their beloved Trinidad and Tobago to make it. Why is this so? Is it only a perception? Is it a distortion of the truth?

Sunday 31st July — every daily newspaper carried on their front and back page headlines — Gold for Paul! The nation was euphoric—celebratory messages rained down for Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games Kierin champion Nicholas Paul. Also to be commended is Kwesi Browne who made the final placing 6th place finish.

Not for the first time in our country’s 60 years of Independence—the laudable exploits on an international sports stage lifted the spirits of the citizens. There were calls for more corporate support for our sportsmen and women. In celebrating sporting success it’s important to appreciate that the podium is the end result of the entire process. A process that requires setting big goals and going all in to achieve. Our sportsmen and women in seeking to fulfil their potential have emancipated themselves from mental slavery. No matter the limits, challenges, obstacles, failures, injuries and mistakes. They pick themselves up and keep trying. They don’t quit. They don’t give up. The challenge continues to be that sport in Trinidad and Tobago is still not free of the cultural chains of being placed low down the list of societal priorities. The lasting legacy of Colonialism and Slavery.


Author: Brian Lewis