Emancipation Day parade returns

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

A group of dancers performs during the Kambule Procession in Port of Spain on Monday. – Jeff K. Mayers

It was not the usual crowd that would fill the streets on the morning of August 1 but the hundreds that turned out for the return of the Kambule Procession were happy that it happened.

The event that happens every year on August 1 was stifled by the covid19 pandemic. As with most things in TT and around the globe, Emancipation Day celebrations happened virtually over the last two years.

The executive chair of the Emancipation Support Committee (ESCTT) Zakiya Uzoma-Wadada said this year’s crowd was not the same as it had been in previous years.

She attributed this to the number of organised or community groups at this year’s event.

“As I said before, because of the limited resources available to us, at the time, we weren’t able to provide the normal support to all of the different groups and help them to come into Port of Spain.

“But we will improve next year,” she said.

Uzoma-Wadada said the individual section was very large but less drumming and organised groups.

Participants in the first Kambule Procession in two years make their way along Independence Square during Emancipation Day celebrations in Port of Spain on Monday. – Jeff K. Mayers

“But we know we are coming back from two years and it is just a start again,” she added.

The day’s overall events were wonderful, left people happy and many were glad for an opportunity for them to express and enjoy themselves, she said.

She added that people feel motivated and energised to continue.

The formal part of the Kambule procession began at around 8.30 am on Monday. The procession itself began after 9.30 am and saw the crowd move along Brain Lara Promenade, onto Piccadilly Street, onto Duke Street, onto Frederick Street and then to the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain. There was also a heavy police presence at the event.

Tourism, Culture and the Arts minister Randall Mitchell said the numbers were encouraging given the waning pandemic.

He said he was privileged and honoured to walk in the procession.

“It is an annual tradition and I think about our ancestors. I think about the struggles they went through during the walk. There is a large part of our historic antecedents, a large part of our tradition within the walk.”

Mitchell said, being minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts was truly a privilege although many people looked at the perks and salary but it was an honour, for him, to walk in the tradition of the forbearers.

A drummer performs during the Emancipation procession along Frederick Street, Port of Spain. – AYANNA KINSALE

For director of the Caribbean Freedom project Shabaka Kambon, when asked if the smaller numbers had to do with a waning consciousness, he said the smaller numbers did not indicate that, at all.

“After two years of the pandemic, people are still wearing their masks. There is still a lot of concern about coming into crowds, particularly with older folks who want to come down to the parade.”

He added that some people also were not sure if the procession was on or not.

“The size of the crowd here tells us that that consciousness is still strong despite the pandemic, despite the fears that linger about illness and new diseases like monkey pox but people are still prepared to come out. I think that is a wonderful thing,” he said.

Many of people dressed in African-inspired clothing gently chipped through the streets to sounds of drums or to music by TT’s calypsonians like Ella Andall, the late Lutalo “Brother Resistance” Masimba and the late Sandra “Singing Sandra” DesVignes-Millington.

While many were happy to back out and enjoy an Emancipation Day in the streets of Port of Spain as TT has done for many years, one Morvant resident, who wished not to be identified, said there was something missing from the day’s celebrations.

He said, “It feels like we are holding on to it. We are just holding on to what it supposed to be but it is missing a lot.”