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A journey still with many rivers to cross

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Are we there yet?: have we truly moved forward to self-empowerment since slavery?

Are we there yet? This is a question frequently asked by persons on a journey to a place not yet known to them.

In 1834, England declared that all enslaved persons throughout the British Empire were to be set free of slavery. August 1 was to be their emancipation day.

Ah, at long last, the elusive freedom was finally here. All will be well and fine now, right?

Well, it is nearly 200 years later, so let’s ask ourselves, “Are we there yet?”

Do we, as a black majority, own most of the businesses and prime commercial and residential real estate in Bermuda?

Do we, as a black majority, own our own financial institutions that serve to empower us to move from renters to homeowners and from employees to business owners?

Do we, as a black majority, own our own chain of grocery stores that employs Bermudians and supply us with fresh local goods and produce?

Are we there yet?

Let’s bring it a little closer to home, with personal and community responsibility.

Barack Obama, the President of the United States, recently stated that “there are many ways to be black”. Did we fully grasp what he was trying to say at that time?

Many of us believe that our way of being black is the only way to be black.

Far too many of us think that if someone is of a different shade of skin than us, act different from us, like different things from us, then they do not fit into the mould we define as being “black”.

Some lighter-skinned blacks think darker-skinned blacks are too loud, too angry or simply too black.

Some darker-skinned blacks think lighter-skinned blacks are too soft, too passive or simply too light to be considered black.

Essentially, we divide or despise ourselves according to skin tone.

Are we there yet?

There are those among us who happen to have alternative sexual preferences. Subsequently, some of us think that someone’s sexual orientation makes them less black or less subjected to racism, when we ourselves shun them as less than black.

We have become addicted to materialism and consumerism, and spend a vast percentage of our disposable income on the latest vehicles, smartphones or fashions — all while neglecting to put funds towards our children’s education or towards our own retirement.

We consume all sorts of bright-packaged, sugar-laced products that are of little to no health benefit, subjecting our bodies to life-threatening diseases such as diabetes, heart attack and stroke.

We elect, re-elect or rotate political representatives every four to five years and then complain when we see no progress. Yet, as a community we operate in silos and have no strategic alliances between key organisations that are the true movers and shakers: churches, community clubs, schools, unions.

We take our bodies, tithes and offerings to church, yet many of our preachers are too busy justifying their own prosperity and worldly goods to be found in the streets among the poor and the needy.

We put on African print clothing and proudly call ourselves Afro-Caribbean, African-Americans, Afro-Latinos, yet the majority of us would never take an extended trip to Africa.

So, again, the question must be asked: are we there yet?

It is now 200 years after emancipation and we still face economical, structural and institutional racism worldwide. We still are being slaughtered by the police in the streets of the United States and Brazil.

So, in many regards, we are still very much enslaved by powers outside of our control.

However, by the same token, a large proportion of why we are not where we are supposed to be comes down to decisions we make individually and collectively. How many more emancipation days will we mark with a day of festivities and then return to the same life choices that render us as less than our potential?

Millions of our forebears were brutally forced on to ships that took them from our beloved motherland, Africa.

What will our answer be to them when they ask us: “Are we there yet?”

Emancipation documents