Emancipation is a process, a journey. For us in Jamaica it began in 1834 with Apprenticeship, but the enslaved Africans knew that Apprenticeship was but a kind of freedom. It wasnt full freedom, so for this reason within four years Apprenticeship was discontinued. ‘Full free’, that was the requirement for freedom. Freedom is qualified, it always is, whenever we discuss the concept we must consider that wherever in the world freedom is manifested it is negotiated by significant variables. Colour, class, education level, address, etc. How much freedom we are able to access is very much dependent on the privilidges we have access to.
Freedom is complex, some years ago I attended a meeting in South Africa and eavesdropped on, participated in a discussion on the state of freedom in that country. At that time a number of young people took issues with the freedom that was won by Nelson Mandela at the end of Aparthied. In their minds South Africa had only achieved a ‘kind of’ freedom. Economic and social freedoms were still inaccessible to Black South Africans.
Certain kinds of freedoms are inaccessible to some people. In 1834 Jamaicans were given a kind of freedom, it wasnt what they wanted or anticipated, and so they rejected this form of freedom. Substantive freedom speaks to one’s ability to be in charge of his or her destiny. Buju Banton’s invocation “I wanna rule my destiny” speaks to that call. But how do we rule our destinies in the face of unbridled inequalities, and lack of respect? But more importantly in respect of lack of access to financial resources.
1n 1865 Jamaicans once again rejected the form of freedom they were handed. The rejection came at great personal sacrifice. The consequences of that rejection were devastating. Over the years we have articulated different expectations from our freedom. I think we have a far way to go to achieving freedom, our next struggle has to do with economic freedom. Perhaps we have been too late to this conversation about economic freedom, but it is perhaps the untouchable discussion that we needed to have from 1834, that we need to ensure that we understand. Political freedom is a kind of freedom and it needs to be bolstered by economic freedom. Without this freedom will be suspect and tenuous.
Freedom is a process, Emancipation began in 1834 but we have more to do towards achievement of full freedom