Commemoration of the 200th Anniversary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade

A dancer at the commemoration of the 200th Anniversary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade
A dancer at the commemoration of the 200th Anniversary
of the Abolition of the Slave Trade festivity Reporters
Event Date: March 25, 2007
Posted: March 29, 2007

The Emancipation Support Committee in collaboration with the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs commemorated the 200th Anniversary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade on Sunday 25th March, 2007, at Woodford Square, Port of Spain. Despite the sporadic rainfall, the event took off at about five minutes after four to a small crowd that continued to grow as the rain lessened.

The programme was initiated by a drum call inviting all present to come together to bear witness to the celebration followed by a libation to the ancestors by Pearl Eintou Springer and Ella Andall.

Also included in the tightly packed programme was a "Saraca" by the North West Laventille Cultural Movement, excerpts from "Wine of Astonishment", a dance by the Malick Folk Performing Company, "Fanga" by Plesantville Community Council and a very entertaining 'Celebration' by Ella Andall. The crowd were evidently moved by these performances, particularly the latter, and they arose from their chairs to express their pleasure.

Another part of the programme that grabbed the audience's attention was the dramatical performance by the students of the UWI Creative Arts Centre: an extract from "Guineas Other Suns". The students spoke few words but their body actions were sufficient in telling the story of the African experience from Continent to the Americas.

Speaking that evening were Senator the Honourable Joan Yuille-Williams, who spoke of the importance of the celebration; Dr. Michael Toussaint and Dr. Claudius Fergus of the University of the West Indies History Department both of whom gave historical explanations for why the slave trade was abolished; and Abidemi Smenkh-Ka-Ra who stressed the importance of African people knowing themselves. The main speaker of the evening was Khafra Kambon who traced the passage of the act and the factors that he believed were responsible for the passage of the Slave Trade Act at that time.

Making appearances were the Bobo Shantis and the Spiritual Baptists who gave thanks to the abolition struggle by offering prayers to those that went before and for the progenitors of Africans who were captured and brought to the West.

Also presenting thought-provoking poems were Muhammad Muwakil and Chike Pilgrim whose work gripped the audience.

There was a segment dedicated to Calypso which featured Brian London, Fred 'Composer' Mitchell, Emrold 'Brother Valentino' Phillip, Hollis 'Chalkdust' Liverpool, Kelvin 'Mighty Duke' Pope, Morel 'Luta' Peters, Leroy 'Black Stalin' Calliste, Weston 'Cro Cro' Rawlins and Sandra 'Singing Sandra' De Vignes. The MC for this segment was TUCO President, Michael 'Protector' Leggerton, who did not perform but still commanded the attention of the audience. The artistes were backed by the Roy Cape All Stars band.

The Rapso art form was given a space in the event in the segment 'Rapso Time' which featured the Network Rhythm Band with Lutalo 'Brother Resistance' Masimba and Sister Ava.

The audience was also treated to the melodious sounds of the Steelpan instrument by the National Steel Orchestra who performed earlier in the programme and the WITCO Desperadoes Steel Orchestra who closed the show at the Woodford Square.

After the activities ended at the Woodford Square, a procession to the Treasury Building ensued with lit candles and flambeaux. Persons walked the streets accompanied by a Pan-round-the-neck rhythm section and Moko Jumbies. After reaching the Treasury Building, the celebration ended with a vote of thanks by Khafra Kambon and a libation.

Overall, the event was well-attended and the audience was given quite a show filled with great performances from top-notch artistes and new performers on the scene who have demonstrated their worth. Much more about the passage of the Slave Trade Act still needs to be discussed, however, in order that people fully understand the reasons for its passing.

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