Gibbs says slavery abolition should be commemorated in all districts | THE DAILY HERALD

MARIGOT–President Daniel Gibbs, speaking at the 170th anniversary of the abolition of slavery on Monday, said the commemoration in the future should take place in each district on annual basis, as slavery affected the whole of the French side.

In a break with tradition, the commemoration was held for the first time in the rural village of Colombier instead of at the Agrément roundabout. There are St. Martiners who say the statue of Lady Liberty on the roundabout does not represent any significant figure, slave or abolitionist; therefore, holding the ceremony there is meaningless in their eyes.

Gibbs thanked historian Daniella Jeffry and the Territorial Archives for their research which determined the true date of slavery abolition in St. Martin to be May 28. “All that remains now is to obtain the final ministerial decree which will set May 28 as the official date of commemoration in St. Martin,” he said.

“Slavery was definitively abolished on the initiative of Victor Schoelcher by the Second Republic on April 27, 1848. That year marked the beginning of a very long period of oblivion: it took decades for us to finally break the silence and face this abomination of our history.

“Of course, there is still a long way to go before the very memory of slavery fully finds its place in our national history, but I am proud that our country was the first country in the world, in 2001, to enshrine in law the recognition of the slave trade and slavery as a crime against humanity.

“The struggle against slavery continues, because it is not a past struggle; on the contrary, it is a struggle of the present. Yesterday’s tragedies and the struggles of our ancestors demand the greatest respect and vigilance from us; they impose a daily struggle against discrimination. Especially when these discriminations, in these times of crisis and loss of reference points, are so damaging to French society.

“The fight against slavery is also topical because, according to the United Nations (UN), some 40 million people in the world still remain victims of it.”
Guest speaker Daniella Jeffry gave an informative presentation on events that unfolded prior to abolition, particularly between 1838 and 1848.

However, the morning was largely dominated by music, cultural dances and theatrical skits performed by schoolchildren of the after-school activities programmes on the theme of slavery. The percussion group “Anitié” performed a captivating set of West African rhythms and chants to start off the proceedings from 8:30 to 9:20am.

The official opening and drumming segment by Hélier Coquillas took place at the Arrow Root Rock Monument at 9:00am where wreaths were laid and a moment of meditation for the ancestors held. That was followed by a march in traditional local costume as the dignitaries walked back to the upper part of the village for the main ceremony.
The Grain D’Or dancers performed several presentations for the audience. Natisha Hanson sang “Oh, Sweet St. Martin Land” and “Oh Freedom.”

Official speeches were given by President Daniel Gibbs, Sous-Préfète Régine Pam and Daniella Jeffry. The official ceremony closed with the cutting of the ribbon for the inauguration of a cultural space for the village.

Additional songs came from Jihany Gibbs and Sidonie Miller and a percussion demonstration “Sarafina” performed by the Junior Territorial Council members. The event closed with a traditional breakfast served by the Nature Valley Association of Colombier in the newly inaugurated cultural space.

The event was attended by the Vice-Presidents and members of the Territorial Council, President of the Economic Advisory Council Georges Gumbs, and representatives of cultural associations.

Source: The Daily Herald