Tokyo Sexwale, Al Sharpton, A.N.R. Robinson and Jack Warner
Event Date: July 29, 2007
Posted: August 06, 2007
The United National Congress Alliance held their Emancipation
Celebrations on Sunday night, 29th July, 2007, featuring special
guests civil rights activist Al Sharpton, and South African
politician and freedom fighter Tokyo Sexwale who spent 13 years in
jail alongside Nelson Mandela under the Apartheid regime.
In Sexwale's delegation were freedom fighter and chairman of the
Association of Ex-Prisoners of Robben Island, David Mois and the
brother of the King of Swaziland, Prince Thumbumuzi Dlamini. In the
audience were former President of Trinidad and Tobago, A.N.R.
Robinson, as well as UNC personalities Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Tim
Goopesingh, Oma Panday and Wade Mark. Thousands of people, many
dressed in African garb, gathered at the Center of Excellence in
Macoya for this event titled "A Gift to the Nation".
The south-based Eniyawa Orisha Group sang several Orisha songs to
start the programme, following which Jack Warner welcomed the
dignitaries and the general audience and introduced the main guest,
the Reverend Al Sharpton, saying that he was a man that fights for
the poor and oppressed and dispossessed, regardless of colour of
skin or race.
Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Oma Panday and Basdeo Panday
Delivering the opening address, UNC Political Leader Basdeo Panday
said that although in history various peoples have been slaves, what
distinguished African slavery was that it was not merely economic,
but that it was also racist. Further, he said, "... you cannot
separate the struggle against slavery from the struggle against
racism and discrimination." Mentioning that there were conflicts
worldwide, he said that the root cause of those conflicts was the
inability to manage diversity. He called on the audience to
celebrate diversity and to show the world that in spite of our small
size we are capable of showing the world how people of different
races, colours and creed can live together in peace and harmony.
The Master of Ceremonies, Winston Maynard, introduced the speaker
many had come to see, civil rights activist, Reverend Al Sharpton.
Reverend Sharpton told the large crowd that they must realize that
Emancipation was not something that was just put on the calendar but
that it was achieved only through the struggles of those who were
enslaved. Sharpton challenged the audience to not merely celebrate
something that happened in the mid-19th century, but to continue the
process of Emancipation in the 21st century. He criticized
self-hating and self-destructive behaviors, saying that in spite of
those who have fought to uphold and protect the dignity of women,
"...we make our music calling our women hoes and bitches."
Sharpton added that many Black people act as if they are here
because someone made a first class reservation for them but said,
"We are here in this hemisphere because we were kidnapped against
our will and enslaved to build empires." He said that the struggle
was for real emancipation, real freedom for everyone but that
nothing is achieved without struggle and cited the United States as
an example where they did not decide to give civil rights, but it
was fought for.
Addressing the audience, many of whom had come out especially to see
him, Sharpton said, "The people of Trinidad and Tobago are stronger
than they think they are. You are a nation that can feed its
children and raise generations to come. You are not a nation of drug
pushers and kidnappers."
Al Sharpton is presented with a copy of Nelson Mandela's latest book
"A Prisoner in the Garden"
Addressing the question contained in his lecture topic "What do
Black People Want?" Sharpton said, "We want to continue the legacy
of those emancipated; we must return to the dignity of our families
and our children, aspiring to be lawyers and economists and
statesmen and stateswomen and thinkers and philosophers, not living
their lives trapped in some cycle of being some dope-head, or some
killers or some kidnappers." He told the receptive crowd that right
is stronger than wrong and recounted his experience marching in the
'Free Mandela' campaign, being called terrorists and communists and
in the end seeing Mandela freed from prison, going from prisoner to
president of South Africa.
Sharpton finished his address by calling for unity and reconnection,
"We must reconnect Trinidad and Tobago to South Africa to Mozambique
to the United States to Nigeria..." Through this he said, "God will
breathe the breath of liberation and we will rise, never to fall
again." In response to this, like many other parts of his speech, Al
Sharpton received rapturous applause from the audience.
South African politician and freedom fighter Tokyo Sexwale, who
spent 13 years in jail with Nelson Madela under apartheid and who is
currently vying for the leadership of the African National Congress
in South Africa addressed the audience next. He highlighted that
South Africa unsuccessfully vied to host the 2006 World Cup, and
decided to try again even though some African countries were not
prepared to vote for them. He thanked Jack Warner for his support
that allowed them to win the bid to host the 2010 World Cup, thus
becoming the first African country to host a World Cup. He also
thanked all persons who contribute to the anti-Apartheid struggle
and presented to Al Sharpton the key to Nelson Mandela's
apartheid-era jail cell as well as a copy of Mandela's latest book
"A Prisoner in the Garden".
Bro. Valentino, popularly referred to as the "people's Calypsonian",
performed his famous resistance song "Stay up Zimbabwe", while
Singing Sandra sang her classic "Voices of the Ghetto" as UNC
personality, Dorothy, danced in front of the stage. Also performing
was Jamaican reggae act Brayhan Art. However, it was Winston "Gypsy"
Peters who seemed to enjoy himself most on stage. Assured by UNC
political leader Basdeo Panday that this is one place he will never
be booed, Gypsy sang "Little Black Boy" with much gusto, and showed
off his extempore skills by walking along the front row and
extemporaneously singing about some of the public personalities
seated there. He highlighted in song Jack Warner and Basdeo Panday
as examples to "little black boys".
As part of the evening's proceedings, nine individuals were honored
for their contributions: Len "Boogsie" Sharpe, Orisha leader
Clarence Forde, Columnist Keith Smith, Political Scientist Selwyn
Ryan, the late economist Lloyd Best, Talk Show host Ricardo
"Gladiator" Welch, Calypsonian Singing Sandra, coach Anton Corneal
and the late Rapso pioneer Lancelot Layne. The evening ended in
dramatic fashion with a high energy display by the Universal
African Dance and Drum Ensemble who delighted the audience with
their drumming and acrobatic moves.
UNC Alliance Emancipation Celebrations in pictures: