My Emancipation Day wish

Dear Editor,

Wearing African apparel and celebrating the holiday has not been something I do for Emancipation Day. I am one of the few who see these holidays as political mamaguy days to make people of one race or another feel that they are appreciated by those in power.

On days like today I reflect on the people who have dedicated their lives to creating a better day for the less privileged. One such person is Trinidad and Tobago calypsonian Black Stalin. He has indicated, through song, that the celebrations cannot start while "my people keep fighting for an equal share of the cake". He further indicated that "Dorothy" could wait for the celebrations, but he could not celebrate because "oil money come, and oil money go, and poor people remain on the pavement and ghetto. When Mr Divider starts to divide the bread equally" then the celebration can start.

How can I celebrate Emancipation when young African men are seen is groups running towards cars with squeegee in hand instead of going to school or learning a trade? What future is there for them, how will they ever have a family and a home? Who cares for them? Giving them TT$5 and driving off feeling good about one's contribution to the poor may be self-satisfying, but such action encourages a quality of life that leads to a cycle of poverty, depression, and hopelessness.

It is the youth of African ancestry who are seen in the many pictures of bullet-riddled bodies lying in pools of blood. It is the youth of African ancestry who provide security for the big mass bands where the privileged celebrate in peace with their fully stocked bars and 'wee wee' trucks. It is mainly people of African ancestry that fill the low-paying jobs as security guards. After centuries of Emancipation and decades of independence the people of African ancestry still find great difficulty accessing credit at banks and other financial institutions.

When the people of African ancestry are treated at banks the way others are treated; when the Government they support gives them access to jobs in which they can get a job letter to open a bank account; when the youth are encouraged to access government contracts, skills training, and further education through social support at the home, then one can begin to think about celebrating Emancipation.

When the many other impoverished areas where people of African ancestry live are free of crime and are places of economic development then there can be Emancipation celebrations. Temporary feel-good moments are not the solution to decades of oppression.

The African man was singled out for discrimination and exploitation. That is a historical fact. The correction must come from singling out the African man for opportunities for a better life for his family and community. Until politicians find the courage to stand up for a people that continues to struggle for their piece of the cake, the celebrations can wait.

Steve Alvarez

Trinidad and Tobago

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