UNC Alliance Emancipation Celebrations

Tokyo Sexwale, Al Sharpton, A.N.R. Robinson and Jack Warner
Tokyo Sexwale, Al Sharpton, A.N.R. Robinson and Jack Warner Reporters
Event Date: July 29, 2007
Posted: August 06, 2007

The United National Congress Alliance held their Emancipation Celebrations on Sunday night, 29th July, 2007, featuring special guests civil rights activist Al Sharpton, and South African politician and freedom fighter Tokyo Sexwale who spent 13 years in jail alongside Nelson Mandela under the Apartheid regime.

In Sexwale's delegation were freedom fighter and chairman of the Association of Ex-Prisoners of Robben Island, David Mois and the brother of the King of Swaziland, Prince Thumbumuzi Dlamini. In the audience were former President of Trinidad and Tobago, A.N.R. Robinson, as well as UNC personalities Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Tim Goopesingh, Oma Panday and Wade Mark. Thousands of people, many dressed in African garb, gathered at the Center of Excellence in Macoya for this event titled "A Gift to the Nation".

The south-based Eniyawa Orisha Group sang several Orisha songs to start the programme, following which Jack Warner welcomed the dignitaries and the general audience and introduced the main guest, the Reverend Al Sharpton, saying that he was a man that fights for the poor and oppressed and dispossessed, regardless of colour of skin or race.

Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Oma Panday and Basdeo Panday
Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Oma Panday and Basdeo Panday

Delivering the opening address, UNC Political Leader Basdeo Panday said that although in history various peoples have been slaves, what distinguished African slavery was that it was not merely economic, but that it was also racist. Further, he said, "... you cannot separate the struggle against slavery from the struggle against racism and discrimination." Mentioning that there were conflicts worldwide, he said that the root cause of those conflicts was the inability to manage diversity. He called on the audience to celebrate diversity and to show the world that in spite of our small size we are capable of showing the world how people of different races, colours and creed can live together in peace and harmony.

The Master of Ceremonies, Winston Maynard, introduced the speaker many had come to see, civil rights activist, Reverend Al Sharpton. Reverend Sharpton told the large crowd that they must realize that Emancipation was not something that was just put on the calendar but that it was achieved only through the struggles of those who were enslaved. Sharpton challenged the audience to not merely celebrate something that happened in the mid-19th century, but to continue the process of Emancipation in the 21st century. He criticized self-hating and self-destructive behaviors, saying that in spite of those who have fought to uphold and protect the dignity of women, "...we make our music calling our women hoes and bitches."

Sharpton added that many Black people act as if they are here because someone made a first class reservation for them but said, "We are here in this hemisphere because we were kidnapped against our will and enslaved to build empires." He said that the struggle was for real emancipation, real freedom for everyone but that nothing is achieved without struggle and cited the United States as an example where they did not decide to give civil rights, but it was fought for.

Addressing the audience, many of whom had come out especially to see him, Sharpton said, "The people of Trinidad and Tobago are stronger than they think they are. You are a nation that can feed its children and raise generations to come. You are not a nation of drug pushers and kidnappers."

Al Sharpton is presented with a copy of Nelson Mandela's latest book 'A Prisoner in the Garden'
Al Sharpton is presented with a copy of Nelson Mandela's latest book "A Prisoner in the Garden"

Addressing the question contained in his lecture topic "What do Black People Want?" Sharpton said, "We want to continue the legacy of those emancipated; we must return to the dignity of our families and our children, aspiring to be lawyers and economists and statesmen and stateswomen and thinkers and philosophers, not living their lives trapped in some cycle of being some dope-head, or some killers or some kidnappers." He told the receptive crowd that right is stronger than wrong and recounted his experience marching in the 'Free Mandela' campaign, being called terrorists and communists and in the end seeing Mandela freed from prison, going from prisoner to president of South Africa.

Sharpton finished his address by calling for unity and reconnection, "We must reconnect Trinidad and Tobago to South Africa to Mozambique to the United States to Nigeria..." Through this he said, "God will breathe the breath of liberation and we will rise, never to fall again." In response to this, like many other parts of his speech, Al Sharpton received rapturous applause from the audience.

South African politician and freedom fighter Tokyo Sexwale, who spent 13 years in jail with Nelson Madela under apartheid and who is currently vying for the leadership of the African National Congress in South Africa addressed the audience next. He highlighted that South Africa unsuccessfully vied to host the 2006 World Cup, and decided to try again even though some African countries were not prepared to vote for them. He thanked Jack Warner for his support that allowed them to win the bid to host the 2010 World Cup, thus becoming the first African country to host a World Cup. He also thanked all persons who contribute to the anti-Apartheid struggle and presented to Al Sharpton the key to Nelson Mandela's apartheid-era jail cell as well as a copy of Mandela's latest book "A Prisoner in the Garden".

Brother Valentino
Brother Valentino

Bro. Valentino, popularly referred to as the "people's Calypsonian", performed his famous resistance song "Stay up Zimbabwe", while Singing Sandra sang her classic "Voices of the Ghetto" as UNC personality, Dorothy, danced in front of the stage. Also performing was Jamaican reggae act Brayhan Art. However, it was Winston "Gypsy" Peters who seemed to enjoy himself most on stage. Assured by UNC political leader Basdeo Panday that this is one place he will never be booed, Gypsy sang "Little Black Boy" with much gusto, and showed off his extempore skills by walking along the front row and extemporaneously singing about some of the public personalities seated there. He highlighted in song Jack Warner and Basdeo Panday as examples to "little black boys".

As part of the evening's proceedings, nine individuals were honored for their contributions: Len "Boogsie" Sharpe, Orisha leader Clarence Forde, Columnist Keith Smith, Political Scientist Selwyn Ryan, the late economist Lloyd Best, Talk Show host Ricardo "Gladiator" Welch, Calypsonian Singing Sandra, coach Anton Corneal and the late Rapso pioneer Lancelot Layne. The evening ended in dramatic fashion with a high energy display by the Universal African Dance and Drum Ensemble who delighted the audience with their drumming and acrobatic moves.

UNC Alliance Emancipation Celebrations in pictures:

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