PM: Reflect on slavery’s trauma

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. FILE PHOTO – Photo courtesy Office of the Prime Minister

THE Prime Minister is calling on Africans in the country to use Emancipation Day – observed with a public holiday on Monday – to reflect on the trauma and deep psychological wounds caused and left by slavery.

In his Emancipation Day message, he said these wounds are reflected in the down-side of the African communities and are expressions of the legacy of slavery, with feelings of detachment and estrangement, and misguided youths, alienated with little sense of a future, irritable, and quick in outbursts of anger.

He said the country is facing the reality of calls being made for national attention to a new wave of irrational violence and for further examination of TT’s security systems, Judiciary, education system and family life, “all of which impact significantly upon the African community experience today.”

He said that with violence being considered a national public health emergency, he expects the team of policy-makers now investigating, and who in their conclusions and recommendations, will excite community discussions, among all groups across the country, from the bottom up.

“This wave of violence should not be seen as centred only among the African community, because the irrationality, as reported, appears to be the reflexes and impulsiveness of various pockets across the society.”

Dr Rowley said some observers have suggested the new wave of crime and violence is a consequence of the covid19 experience, a release of pent-up energy. If so, he said, this adds to the multi-generational trauma that the African community experienced.

“There has to be an acknowledgement that we are a people who have been made to suffer for centuries, because of the colour of our skin,” he said.

What is required is an overall understanding of the African condition, he advised.

There must be conscious reminders that Africans are great people, the PM said, who gave world civilisation some of its greatest kingdoms and empires when Europe was still in its Dark Ages.

“As Africans, as citizens, we need to ask questions of ourselves. Today, Emancipation Day is a good day. Go beyond the celebrations to reflect on the wave of violence in our communities.

“Think of the African family, ask yourself whether we are good listeners to our children; for example, are we telling them that success comes from discipline, effort, patience, thrift, temperance and inner peace; that sharing is caring, and that there are opportunities in crises and lessons in adversity?”

Rowley advised: “never forget your history. Seek to heal, remembering that only the strong forgive, never the weak. Most important, as Africans, we have to go forward, remembering that this is a multi-cultural land, with a narrative of inclusiveness and equality for all, with national watchwords of Discipline, Production and Tolerance.”