by Linda Straker
- This year marks 184 years after slavery was abolished by Britain in all its colonies
- Commission’s statement called for an apology to descendants of enslaved Africans
- 2022 Emancipation Day celebrations organised by Grenada Cultural Foundation
Arley Gill, Chairman of Grenada’s National Reparations Commission, said that it is a moral imperative that European institutions that are still benefitting from the legacy of slavery, apologise and atone for those unconscionable harms. “I believe we must demand that the descendants of those who profited from slavery must acknowledge the harms inflicted upon enslaved Africans and their descendants,” he said in a statement issued by the Commission in commemoration of 1 August, Emancipation Day.
This year marks 184 years after slavery was abolished by Britain in all its colonies. Gill said that descendants of enslaved Africans are still recovering from more than 400 years of unimaginable brutality, unthinkable cruelty and gross injustice meted out against our ancestors. “In spite of our great achievements, we should never let our ability to resist and rise above these grave injustices stand in the way of fighting for what we know is right and just.”
The statement called for an apology to the descendants of enslaved Africans. “A sincere apology from European nations, the Catholic Church, and associated corporations must recognise our ancestors’ full humanity. An apology forces these institutions that benefitted from the Transatlantic Slave Trade to finally correct a wrong that has lingered in our history and our collective memory for too long.”.
According to the statement, the refusal to apologise for slavery is a stain of injustice that continues to taint our humanity. “We can no longer continue to live with the knowledge that millions of human beings — our ancestors — African women, men, and children were considered by Europeans as chattel, objects, cargo, and mere property.”
Calling on the current generation of enslaved descendants to work towards achieving the apology, the statement said, “Our ancestors demand that we fight to ensure that they are finally seen as human beings. They demand that we fight for their dignity! They demand that we do the work that must be done in our lifetime to see them in the fullness of their humanity — as men, women, children, with names, with stories, and people with great traditions and vibrant cultures, human beings worthy of respect.”
“So, on this Emancipation Day — let us come together as descendants of a strong and resilient people and remind one another that being here today is a testament to our enslaved ancestors’ indomitable spirit, undaunted strength, and unwavering determination to survive. We must demand an apology from those who participated in the business of human trafficking and slavery. As descendants of enslaved people — we deserve this apology, but our ancestors deserve it more,” said the statement.
Highlighting the recent apology from Pope Francis, the statement said that, as head of the Catholic Church he modelled this practice of apologising for past wrongs to his European brothers and sisters — when he apologised to the Indigenous people of Canada, for the Catholic Church’s role in the brutalising of hundreds of Indigenous children.
“Let us make it our mission, our life’s work, to see the day when European leaders, the descendants of enslavers and slavery profiteers, can come to this soil and look us in the eye and say: “We are sorry! Slavery was a crime against humanity, and we are committed to repairing the harms done to your African ancestors,” the statement said.
In Grenada, the main activities for the 2022 Emancipation Day celebrations organised by the Grenada Cultural Foundation (GCF) are the laying of wreaths at the police barracks on Melville Street, a former site of preparation for auctioning of slaves. The reading of the proclamation announcing the abolition of slavery will be read at a former auctioning location, present-day St George’s Market.