Emancipation is defined as, “the act of setting free from slavery, servitude, and or restraint; deliverance from bondage or controlling influence; liberation.” Between 1833 and 1863 people of African descent across what was the old British empire, North and South America were released from the physical restraints of slavery and servitude. In less than 200 years the progeny of those emancipated people has been reclaiming their rights, identities and cultures in the presence of the many police and control systems that remain.
I’m reminded of the Bob Marley lyric, “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.” It is a continuous struggle to educate and illuminate those who deny the reality of the latent bigotry and racism which remains in our societies today. Barbados is no stranger to this struggle, as we recently saw with the public outcry for the removal of Lord Nelson’s statue from the nation’s capital. Symbolism though it is, the statue’s subsequent removal was a measure of success for ‘people power’.
In June 2021, the US Congress passed legislation to establish June 19, Juneteenth as a new Federal Holiday. Juneteenth was celebrated within the African American community ‘forever’ since 1865 as it is the day news of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Lincoln reached the enslaved of Texas; some two years after the Proclamation was made. It the day all the enslaved in the US finally were released from that bondage and servitude. This unprecedented acknowledgment is arguably the result of ‘people power’ too; consistent lobbying and perseverance by a dedicated group of people who were finally able to convince legislators of the significance of it all. It is undeniable that the influences of the Black Lives Matter movement, ongoing reparations discussions, and other movements for social justice have continued to make their case across the Caribbean, the Americas and beyond.
The curatorial team challenged the artists to examine those issues and themes from their perspective. Then we encouraged, reviewed, and supported the amazing genius and creativity of these 17 artists. It is an exciting and eclectic array of creative energy on exhibit at the Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts this summer. It represents a collective reflection of where Barbadian society has been, where we are today, and where we want to go in the future.
African American artist, author and curator, Dr. Samella Lewis, said it best, “Art is not a luxury as many people think – it is a necessity. It documents history – it helps educate people and stores knowledge for generations to come.”
Anderson M. Pilgrim – Lead Curator
Oneka Small – Curator
Shane Eastmond - Curator