Asante King sounds warning –’Freedom to wallow in poverty is not emancipation’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

King Tutu II with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and his wife Sharon Rowley during the Emancipation Day procession in Port of Spain. – Angelo Marcelle

THE Asante King has warned people, especially those of African descent, that there can be no true emancipation with poverty, crime and violence.

He was speaking at the nation’s guest of honour at Emancipation Day celebrations on Tuesday afternoon at the Lidj Yasu Omowale Emancipation Village at the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port of Spain.

His Majesty Otumfuo Osei Tutu II – the 16th monarch of the Asante Kingdom in Ghana – began his address began by mourning the many lives lost to the trans-Atlantic slave trade between West Africa and the Americas including the Caribbean.

He also hailed those who advocated African pride such as Marcus Garvey and Trinidad-born CLR James, the latter King Tutu II said, had inspired Ghanaian independence leader Kwame Nkrumah and South African freedom fighter and former president Nelson Mandela.

But he questioned the current status of African people and asked, “what is true emancipation?” He asked if people of African descent now enjoy real freedom if they are still dependent on others, still face bigotry and even as sportsmen and women, still suffer taunts on the sports field.

“Freedom to wallow in poverty cannot be true emancipation,” he declared, also lamenting accompanying racial discrimination and injustice.

The king had two suggestions.

Firstly, that African leaders pursue a new universal declaration that racial discrimination be deemed a crime against humanity.

Secondly, that governments educate youngsters about the great empires of the past.

He urged people to solemnly reflect on their lives and for each to ask what were they building for their country, community, family and self.

Noting that ancestors had been torn away from Africa to work in strange lands for others, he said, “Today you have the freedom to build a nation for yourself. What could be more glorious than this?”

He urged a re-education towards a redemption from the scars of the past. He urged a united approach towards sourcing materials at the traditional O’level which would tell the true African story to upcoming generations of young people.

The Asantehene revealed a new trans-Atlantic debt trade where youngsters were leaving Africa on perilous journeys to former slave-trade destinations.

He lamented that in TT and other Caribbean countries, there is needless violence, often fuelled by the drug trade. He reckoned this reflected a degree of despair which he warned could set back affected nations.

Offering hope, Tutu II said, “As King of a mighty warrior kingdom, I can assure you that the African spirit does not cower under adversity. If it were not so, we would have been wiped out from the face of the Earth long before our time.”

He said no one should steal the pride or falsify the heritage of Africans.

“We should, beloved Trinidadians, resist the temptation to be defined by drugs and needless violence, by slothfulness and wanton indiscipline.”

He named icons of African descent including boxer Muhammed Ali, footballer Pele and sprinter Usain Bolt in Sport; Bob Marley, Nat King Cole and Miriam Makeba in Music; and TT-born activist George Padmore, Barack Obama and Colin Powell in the field of Politics.

Saying TT and Ghana now share one destiny, he said both countries must work, think and plan together, and pool their resources.

Noting the new advances in artificial intelligence, he asked, “Where are we in the race?” Saying the Asante forest was being depleted of trees, he said new opportunities now exist in the green economy.

Without calling names, he then opined, “We have every reason to believe Trinidad and Tobago is in safe hands and heading in the right direction.”