Transformation and liberation
“Emancipate your mind from mental slavery, none but ourselves, can free our own minds”
Enjoying a swim at Police Beach at about 7am on August 1, Emancipation Day, I reflected on Bob Marley’s words quoted above. The North Lagoon, translucent blue and stretching to the horizon, spoke to the potential that Robert Nesta Marley was calling up in all of us today.
Swimming offers a metaphor for liberation: in swimming, one decides how to work with the wonderful medium of water.
Emancipation formally was granted through legislation in the British Parliament, designating August 1, 1834 as the date the system of slavery in the British Empire would end. What is often missed is that this change grew out of decades of international grassroots campaigning. Noteworthy in this regard was Mary Prince, who became directly involved in London in the early 1830s.
Marley is speaking to the fact that even though those enslaved were subject to a seemingly all-powerful system, there was a successful transformation because sufficient numbers of people, both enslaved and otherwise, appreciated the power of their own minds.
During that swim, I glimpsed Dockyard in the distance and was reminded of the monthly “Empowerment Circle” at Westgate prison on July 25. During that gathering, one resident shared his view that Marley’s words spoke to the fact that, notwithstanding his lengthy imprisonment, he often can lose himself in his artwork. In Bermuda, when our ancestors considered the significance of that watershed 185 years ago, they came together to celebrate with a community picnic for a period of appreciation and recreation. Cup Match grew out of that early initiative.
Marley’s call looks beyond chattel slavery to the mental variety. He offers an insight that is most relevant for this 21st century. A personal experience that speaks to making steps to free (my) own mind comes out of the recent passing of former police chief inspector Gerald James.
In the early 1970s, in my early twenties, when I was a member of the Black Beret Cadre, then Sergeant James led a team of police, enacting a search warrant for illegal weapons at my family’s home. At the time, I reacted by using the occasion to promote polarisation with the police among the neighbours who had gathered. A decade later, in 1981, I was involved at the grassroots level in the island-wide strike.
By that time, I had emancipated my mind enough to join in promoting a collaborative spirit across the community during those challenging times. That collaboration included the police, a factor that ensured that the crisis ended peacefully.
Some years later, Gerald James and I ended up living in the same neighbourhood and we were able to discuss those transformative times in our island. We had undergone a reconciliation, one of the ways to free our own minds. Of course, liberation is always a work in progress. Cup Match weekend offers us an opportunity of that needed renewal.
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