New York-Commemoration of Emancipation Day floundered with a series of missteps, including last minute changes of location and sluggish funding. Despite the setbacks, the programme attracted scores of well wishers. The event organised by the Trinidad and Tobago Consulate, and the Committee for the Commemoration of Emancipation Day (under the aegis of the T&T Interfaith Council in NY), was held in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, on Saturday, in keeping with the consulate’s community focussed programming. It featured an elaborate opening ritual honouring the ancestors, a medley of drumming, dance, poetry, and a dramatic play.
Consul General Rudrawatee Nan Ramgoolam who called recent allegations against her, “baseless,” and “without merit,” after several employees protested unfair dismissals, and former foreign minister Paula Goopie-Scoon charged that a “poisonous” work environment was created, as she called for an official enquiry, delivered the keynote address. Ramgoolam referred to emancipation as “an authentic expression of the human spirit.” In a speech marked by enthusiastic applause, she encouraged Afro Trinidadians to examine their history, and the greatness of the African civilisation of yesteryear. “Our brothers and sisters of African descent have contributed immensely to nurturing of our nation and to its growth and development,” she said, adding that, “we must not allow this rich heritage to wither away on the wasteland and neglect and apathy.”
She later cautioned that emancipation must come with responsibility for growth and prosperity, and responsibility for the welfare and well being of our countrymen and compatriots. “Emancipation,” she said, means, “greater emphasis on self help and self reliance, and emphasis on equity and meritocracy.” She ended with a plea for co-operation, unity, and an end of bigotry and ignorance among T&T nationals. The late afternoon event was also attended by prominent religious and spiritual leaders from the Spiritual Baptist and Orisa movements in Brooklyn. Several representatives from the Queens based Hindu community were also present.