Emancipation Day is a day like no other; it evokes a range of conflicting feelings. On the one hand, there are the feelings of unbridled joy and rapturous celebration that freedom brings. Yet on the other, there are the feelings of deep hurt and of unspeakable pain, caused by reflecting on the appalling conditions from which freedom was had.

Both responses are appropriate: the human spirit is enlivened by freedom; it is destroyed by its absence.

The challenge of Emancipation Day is the challenge to be celebratory, yet contemplative, both at the same time. As an event, Emancipation Day commemorates the close of that which we must never forget—a most heinous chapter in the history of mankind. As a movement, Emancipation Day memorialises that which must never be closed: the call to rise to our fullest potential, and to free ourselves from all that inhibits us from doing so.

As we celebrate joyously the 185th anniversary of the abolition of African enslavement, let us advocate untiringly for an end to all forms of slavery in our country and in the world. Let our reverent remembrance of the struggles of our African brothers and sisters for their freedom, inspire us to an unfailing commitment to safeguard and to protect the liberty and dignity of all.

On behalf of Her Excellency Paula-Mae Weekes, O.R.T.T., and on my own behalf, I wish the national community a Happy and Reflective Emancipation Day 2019.