Greetings, and a happy Emancipation Day to all.
One hundred and eighty-four years after slavery was abolished by Britain, 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. Despite these human rights abuses and documented crimes against humanity, we are thriving!
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. 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. It is a moral imperative that European institutions that are still benefiting from the legacy of slavery apologise and atone for those unconscionable harms.
The day for this apology has come and the descendants of enslaved Africans must rise to the challenge and make an apology a reality.
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.
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.
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.
Again, the time to affirm the humanity and sacredness of our ancestors is now! And recent acts of atonement from national and global institutions are indications that calling for an apology for enslaved African people — millions of our ancestors who were snatched by enslavers from their families and tribes, chained, shipped, whipped, and tortured for more than four hundred years — is long overdue. One hundred and eighty-four years overdue!
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 the 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!
Pope Francis, as head of the Catholic Church modelled this practice of apologising for past wrongs for 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.’’
Happy Emancipation Day! The struggle for justice continues! I urge each one of us to do our part in affirming and honouring the humanity and dignity of our African ancestors.
Ambassador Arley N Salimbi Gill
Chair, Grenada National Reparations Commission