PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — In commemoration of Emancipation Day, 2017, Minister of Education Culture, Youth & Sports, Minister Sylveria Jacobs had the following to share with the people of St. Maarten. The title of her speech is “Breaking the Silence.”
Today we remember, and by remembering – we honor, our ancestors who lived through one of the most horrific events ever recorded in history.
A period of hundreds of years in which colonial powers ruled the waves, enriching themselves on the backs of persons whom they enslaved.
This period of history is often glossed over and whispered about in order not to cast blame and embarrassment on the descendants of enslavers nor to remind the descendants of the enslaved to spare them shame and pain… and though today we commemorate this day with dignified services, speeches, cultural manifestations and festivities…. The silence continues!!!
The discomfort and underlying fear of our civilized society endures in this silence, and is another form of enslavement which is perpetuated by us all… one of the Enslavement of the Mind.
The old adage “She who rocks the cradle, shapes the world” has been used interchangeably with “He who pays, decides!” – “Wie betaalt, bepaalt!”
So even while physically freed from slavery, we were bound to an education system, a governmental system, a societal system grounded in colonial norms and values – the same ones that were used to enslave.
So when the conversation started a few weeks ago about decolonizing our Education System, I felt pressed to say, we can’t just start there, we must evaluate all our Systems and systematically decide what we find useful for us at this time and space in our lives in preparation for our destiny.
We have to decide, not what will be easier to execute, but what is best for our people, our self-esteem, and our vision for this land.
What Silences continue to enslave our minds, our thoughts, our words, our actions, our attitudes, our values, our destiny?
What truths are being suppressed due to “Who pays!” or “Who gains!”
While today in 2017, We have become more accepting of our own shades, hues, personality traits, ways of dress and styles of hair, judgment continues to be rendered on these same aspects in our daily lives robbing many of their human rights – Break the Silence!
Before we can truly become free (independent) we must rid ourselves of the colonial ways, thinking and habits that stifle us. We must decolonize our classrooms and educational systems and the material that is taught. This ties into honoring Family Legacy as we have started to teach our children about Joseph Lake Sr. and Jr., Lasana Sekou, Ruby Bute, Camille Baly, Roberto Celestino Arrindell, Roland Richardson, Chester, Isidore York and Neville York, Clara Reyes, Nicole de Weever, Charles Borromeo Hodge, Calypso Kings Bobo and Brat and so many other local cultural icons whom have helped to shape our country and its people.
Every single day history is being made, new icons are growing, art is being made, recorded, painted, sung, performed… and records are being broken. Literature is coming forth from our young and seasoned and their voices must be heard. In this way, we are promoting the “Breaking of the Silence” of a community which was taught to have manners, to be seen and not heard, and where Respect meant – To Agree!!!
We must break the silence on the taboos of our community; Break the silence and rid ourselves of the preconceived notions we’ve been taught. Agree to disagree when necessary, but honestly debate the issues that continue to haunt and stagnate us and definitively decide our way forward.
Our former colonizers, masquerade as equal partners and are still invading our minds and habits, through our thinking, the clothes we wear, the manner in which our hair is considered ‘presentable’, the materials taught within our classrooms, and the policies executed daily.
Not only do we have to ensure that we are free from enslavement, but like our good brother Bob Marley once said we must “free yourself from mental slavery”. Mental slavery and fear of free speech hampers the possibilities of living our truth. Our ancestors were enslaved, but their minds were free to envision themselves living in a free world.
Today, July 1st, 2017, as we celebrate this 154th Emancipation Day, let us remember the atrocities faced by our ancestors and honor their bravery, while utilizing their living and dying examples to also decolonize our thinking, our systems, and Break the Silence! Break the silence on our skin, our hair, our language, our perception of ourselves and others. Break the Silence in education, in society about our identity, our nationality, our culture, our economy, our lack of care for the environment, the stigma of abuse, mental health and sexuality and so much more.