A GNA Feature by Hannah Asomaning
Accra, April 22, GNA - "We need to learn more about the slave trade, find out the roles of our ancestors in its perpetration, use it as a basis to understand our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora the more, and find out how to turn that tragedy into something more positive for our country, our continent and our people both here and in the Diaspora."
These were the words of Mr Jake Obetsebi Lamptey, Minister of Tourism and Modernization of the Capital City, when he launched this year's Emancipation Day celebration under a sub-theme: "Retracing Our Steps-The Path to Development" on April 14 in Accra.
HISTORY BEHIND EMANCIPATION DAY CELEBRATION
Emancipation Day is a historic commemoration of the abolition of slavery, in the British Crown Colonies in 1834 and the United States in 1865 and it is celebrated in Ghana every August 1. Emancipation started with the campaign against the slave trade at the end of the eighteenth century. The British took a lead when in 1787, an abolition society started to organize campaign, led principally by evangelical Christians.
The campaign succeeded in getting the slave trade abolished by law in 1807, effective from January 1, 1808. As the leading slave trade nation, at that point, Britain's outlawing of the trade for her citizens marked an important point in the campaign.
A great deal of tension, conflicts and actual wars arose with the campaign that led to final Emancipation. Final Emancipation then came after years of campaigning by committed groups of people in Europe and the New World, who for humanitarian, economic, political, or moral reasons, saw the need to end the institution.
Many societies spearheaded this campaign; among them were the British Anti-Slavery Society (1823) led by people like James Fowell Buxton and Zachary Macauley. An Act of abolition of slavery throughout the British colonies for promoting the industry of the manumitted slaves and for compensating the person hitherto entitled to the services of such slaves.
Persons in conformity with the law in the said colonies were on or before the first day of August 1834 discharged from all manner of slavery and were to be absolutely and forever manumitted and that the children thereafter to be born to any such persons and the offspring of such children shall in the manner be free from their birth.
For the British West Indies, which started the celebration of Emancipation Day, abolition came in the Emancipation Act passed by the British Parliament in 1833 to become effective on 1 August 1834.
Emancipation, however, did not come only as a result of the passage of favourable laws at the end of successful campaigns but also through civil war and direct revolt by the slaves and their taking over powers. Emancipation came through legislation in the mother countries as well.
IMPORTANCE OF EMANCIPATION DAY CELEBRATION
The recognition of August 1 is not meant to merely serve as a remembrance of the abolition of slavery. Emancipation Day should more consciously serve to create, develop a unique sense of unity, cooperation and understanding among Africans the world over as well as all people of conscience.
Slavery had a devastating effect on the development of Africa as a force to be reckoned with globally. The system divided the people of Africa, which seem to be permanent.
Mr Obetsebi-Lamptey said Emancipation Day and it celebration will afford Ghana the opportunity to further promote Ghana as a preferred tourism destination, especially for those in the Diaspora.
"The potential benefits of attracting tourist to this country for the celebration is bound to have multiplying effects in terms of investment and advocacy," he said.
RETRACING THE STEPS
Ghana occupies a very important place in the history of Pan Africanism, civil rights, the slave trade and slavery and citizens could always learn from things that happened in the past and improve on them to become what is best for them.
Freedom from slavery and colonialism will be meaningless without freedom of the mind and Africans need to retrace the steps of their forefathers to enable them to emancipate themselves totally from social, cultural and economic struggles.
Records have it that before the enslavement of the African, African civilization was supreme and was at the centre stage throughout the entire world. Africans were the first to create culture, religion, philosophy, science and medicine.
The Minister of Tourism said there was the need for the public to understand the celebration of Emancipation Day and to actively participate in it.
Over the years, an erroneous impression had been created of the celebration as an alien activity to be indulged in only by foreigners, especially the African-American community.
Some relics of slavery like slave castles and dungeons remain up to this day as constant reminders of the sordid past that should ginger the present generation to initiate actions for tomorrow. The castles seem to be telling this generation: "Rectify the wrongs of the past in order to put the future in proper perspective."
The heritage of Emancipation is the reclamation of the African historic personality, which ultimately must express itself in the creation of an African Paradigm of Power in the 21st century; otherwise Emancipation would clearly signify a continuation of Africa's role as an extension of European history.
Africa cannot develop or achieve complete economic and political independence without first returning to its own historical personality, because of these, Africa's enormous wealth goes unrealised, and Africa's sons and daughters, scattered all over, are the poorest people on earth.
It is imperative that Ghanaians come together on August 1 to give thanks to their great ancestors, who featured prominently in the emancipation process. They would remain the pace setters in their glowing spirit, determination, purpose and meaning of emancipation The celebration of Emancipation Day provides the opportunity to go back into history and find out more about activities most cruel in human history and how to change that cruelty into kindness for the African continent.
This writer can confidently say that Ghana takes pride in hosting this annual event to show solidarity with peoples of African descent throughout the Diaspora.
Let the blood, sweat and tears of the ancestors continue to inform the present lifestyles of Africans, both on the Continent and in the Diaspora, prepare them to meet the challenges ahead. Retracing steps is the only way that can propel Africans into a bright future.