SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - His Excellency drs. Eugene B. Holiday, Governor of Sint Maarten delivered on the occasion of the observance of the 157th anniversary of Emancipation Day July 1, 2020, at the Freedom Fighters Roundabout in Philipsburg, Sint Maarten the following address:
My Brothers and Sisters,
We stand here thanks to the indomitable will of our forefathers to emancipate themselves; and to free us to be the best that we can be!
Marie- Louise and I are therefore honored and pleased to be here to observe the one hundred and fifty-seventh anniversary of Emancipation Day. I am truly honored by the privilege to stand here and reaffirm the emancipation ideals of liberty, equality, and justice for all people. It is in that spirit and given the theme for today that I have named my reflections for today: “Carrying the torch of the Sacred Legacies of Emancipation”
My brothers and sisters,
On July 1st, 1863, one hundred and fifty-seven years ago, the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect abolishing slavery and declaring the affranchised population of Sint Maarten free persons. The Emancipation Proclamation marked the triumph of the indomitable will of the enslaved men and women of Sint Maarten to be free. A triumph which forever redefined our collective destiny as one Sint Maarten people.
My brothers and sisters,
The 1863 emancipation proclamation which we celebrate today is therefore a critical moment in the history of our island. It brought an official end to the unethical enslavement of Sint Maarten’s black population and laid the foundation for the civil liberties which we all enjoy today as one Sint Maarten people. By opening the path to civil liberties, emancipation created the opportunity for a better life for all Sint Maarteners regardless of race, color, gender, or creed.
That my brothers and sisters is the sacred legacy of emancipation handed down to all Sint Maarteners. Handed down by giants of emancipation like One-Tété Lohkay and other freedom fighters like her. Giants who lived by the adage that there is no success without sacrifice.
As we celebrate emancipation at the foot of this freedom fighter monument, we are reminded that our freedom is not free, it was earned by the struggles, sacrifices and blood of our forefathers. We - like the generations before us - therefore owe it to them and to future generation of Sint Maarteners to carry the torch of emancipation. We must in that regard build on the positive contributions of our early nation builders, such as Lionel Bernard Scot, Melford Hazel, Claude Wathey and Jose Lake Sr., to name a few.
As we celebrate emancipation, we are also reminded that freedom is also not guaranteed. History, from biblical to modern times, has thought us through recurrent wars, slavery, racism, genocide, natural disasters, and economic inequities, that our freedom is never secure.
Today’s commemoration is therefore at the same time a moment of reflection. A moment to reflect on the challenges we face as a people. It is a moment to reflect on national and global threats to our emancipation ideals. Threats such as:
- increasing poverty;
- racial biases;
- drug and human trafficking;
- the effects of climate change; and
- most recently COVID-19
These issues all have the potential to undermine our gains since emancipation. This is evident from the social and economic consequences of hurricane IRMA. And as I speak, we are confronted with the hard realities of the impact of the invisible threat of the corona virus.
In the past 3-plus months we joined the global community practicing key protective measure such as, social distancing from family, friends and colleagues, washing our hands, wearing masks, and restricting international travel. Some of these measures have drastically changed and affected the way we interact and our ability to make a living as country. As we celebrate this year’s emancipation, we are reminded by COVID-19 of the value of our freedom and the opportunities it provides. By impacting our social and economic liberties and opportunities, Covid-19 reminded us of the value of the sacred legacies of emancipation.
My brothers and sisters,
Freedom and the opportunities it provides, are neither free, nor guaranteed. It is therefore our obligation to carry the torch of emancipation to protect and preserve the sacred legacy of emancipation. We ought, against the backdrop of COVID-19, to be proud of the commitment and courage of our men and women who risk their own health to save, protect and sustain our lives. I am therefore grateful for their sacrifices and applaud our health care professionals, our law enforcement officers, first responders, military forces, grocery workers and other frontline employees for carrying the torch in the fight against COVID-19. In doing so they remind us that we all have an obligation and the potential to protect and preserve the wellbeing of our country.
On this Emancipation Day let us therefore draw inspiration from the courage and sacrifice of our frontline workers and unite as a Sint Maarten people to revitalize, reshape and expand the socio-economic capacity and opportunities of our island. At difficult times like these each of us must ask ourselves the question: What can I do to carry the torch of the legacy of emancipation? That is what can I do to create opportunities to further the progress of our Sint Maarten Community.
Whatever your individual answer we are reminded by the legacy of emancipation, that we owe it to our forefathers, to ourselves, and to future generation of Sint Maarteners to join forces to place Sint Maarten on a sustainable social, economic, environmental and financial path of progress. As torch bearers of emancipation, we collectively owe it to our community to contribute to the strengthening of our human capital development, to the development of a green economy, and to further the digital transformation of our economy. These actions are necessary to address the challenges and seize the opportunities of the twenty first century.
My fellow Sint Maarteners, brothers and sisters,
Emancipation through its legacies for all people of Sint Maarten is as such a day to celebrate, reflect, and remember with appreciation and gratitude. It is thus my hope that this and all future observances of Emancipation Day, will serve as a source of greater consciousness and unity of purpose. As a source to remind us that our sacred emancipation legacies of liberty, equality and justice requires continuous care and protection to reap the benefits of opportunity and progress.
My Fellow Sint Maarteners, it is with that ideal for our Emancipation Day that I congratulate all of you on and wish you a most Happy Emancipation Day Celebration.
Thank you, God Bless you and May God Bless Sint Maarten and protect its coast.