THESE are exciting times for executive director of the Emancipation Support Committee (ESC), Zakiya Uzoma-Wadada. We're in the run-up to Emancipation Day, this year's celebrations are twice as momentous because this year marks the 20th anniversary of the ESC as an organisation. Wadada apologises ahead for the excitement and passion in her voice.
"I can't help it," she says with a laugh.
When the Express interviewed Wadada last week, she was busily putting together the final preparations for the big day.
"Some say that we should profit from the celebrations but if we were to do that, we would lose the true essence of Emancipation Day, which is what has happened over time with Carnival," says Wadada.
Now is not the time for profiting, but for reflecting on the journey and sacrifices made by our African ancestors, she says. It's reflecting and looking back on those darkest days of human history that we can get a sense of who we are and where we are going, adds Wadada.
"These are people whose lives were disrupted by the institution of enslavement. The people who became slaves were once kings, queens and contributing members of their society and communities. Then their lives were rudely interrupted by something so negative, something that reduced them as human beings. As far as the slave owners were concerned, they were no longer human, but just a piece of property to be disrespected and worked like a beast of burden," says Wadada.
For Emancipation Day 2012, Wadada is calling on everyone to never forget the sacrifices made by those men, women and children all those years ago, whose lives were ripped from under them. The men and women who came bound on those ships were someone's son, mother, wife and brother.
Wadada believes that Emancipation Day is still not given the priority it deserves. At a press conference last week, leader of the ESC Khafra Kambon said he and the committee were angered by the lack of monetary support for emancipation celebrations. Kambon said the festival was treated with disrespect and he insisted that the Emancipation commemoration should be a budgeted item.
Today there remain severals forms of enslavement. Echoing a phrase made popular by singer Bob Marley, Wadada urges people to emancipate themselves from mental slavery.
"Each of us needs to have a strong mind, remain true to our identity in this multiethnic society and not give ourselves up to what society wants us to be. Today, it seems that what is most important are material possessions and money, no one sees the need to be respectful and polite anymore. I am asking parents to instill appreciation and pride for our culture in their children and bring them up to be strong mentally," she says.