(Extracts from Remarks delivered by Eintou Springer at the Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism Emancipation Celebration, July 28th, 2010)
"The collective memory of a people is the basis of their common identity, the lens through which they see the world. This is the view of the Emancipation Support Committee and it is of critical importance in our society where our history remains largely untaught and where it is taught it is distorted and, in these days, sanitised. The knowledge of our history is of critical importance in helping us decide how we go forward as a people. The mythological bird, the Sankofa, reminds us that in going forward we need to look back. It is an important step that this ministry has been renamed "Arts and Multiculturalism" for this year as the Emancipation Support Committee gives special pride of place to commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Black Power Revolution.
We remember that the banners blazed unapologetically "Africans and Indians unite". It is hoped that this renaming will do some of several things such as give national respect, support and recognition of the work that the Emancipation Support Committee has taken unto itself on behalf of the entire society. We lament the fact that the blood of our young black men fertilises once again the ground already sodden with centuries of their blood. This time, however, the carnage is self-inflicted. The decimation of centuries has now turned inward. The jails and the increased policing can do but so much.
Do we have the eyes to recognise in our young, angry youth an ancestor whose unburied bones, whose improperly interred spirit is not at rest? Can we recognise that our children, still living, eking out an existence in the direst poverty and in filthy schools with a curriculum that does not recognise their self-hood have nothing to claim? If their social and psychic situations proclaim them nothing, if the bombardment of the new technologies and the popular medias feed the very violence in which our society was conceived and nurtured, what can we realistically expect? If they have nothing to claim, what do they have to defend?
Where are the icons, the places for nurturance of the collective memory? Where are the monuments to the great panmen, should they not form a place of pilgrimage up the hill? Where are the monuments to George Padmore, Henry Sylvester Williams, Kwame Toure, Mzumbo Lazare, Elma Francois and we can go on... Who knows the name Joe Talmanana and what it represents in the saga of the survival of the culturally retained practices of the Africans from which our Carnival, now virtually lost to them, has evolved. It is time for the society to confront the history and come to terms with it.
It is time to have a cultural policy for this country that would underlie how we perceive our education system, our economic policy, our notions of development and our value systems. We have at our disposal the possibilities of collective memory; for even as the Europeans razed, their erasure was not complete. The image of the Sankofa beckons.