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Aug 1, 2019

Emancipation Day is Commemorated in Belize

“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery” – the popular song from Bob Marley is being used across the region today in English-speaking Caribbean as slavery to mark the abolition of slavery on August first, 1834. The day is celebrated as a national holiday in all former British colonies in the Caribbean except Belize. Today, at the Museum of Belize, the enSLAVEd exhibited was launched and a ceremony was held where several guest speakers spoke on the importance of today’s celebration. There were also musical performances and poetry featured during the activities.


Alexis Salazar

Alexis Salazar, Director, Museums of Belize

“Emancipation Day is observed as a holiday, in Belize it isn’t for some reason which is part of what MutaBaruka is talking about—what happened in Belize when we were such a strong country at the initiation of emancipation. Now what we are doing is commemorating it through the National Institute of Culture and History with certain speeches from MutaBaruka, from Ambassador Shyne Barrow, Felene from the National Library Service and O.J. Elrington on behalf of the Minister of Culture. It’s to create awareness of where we come from and certain things that remain in our society today based on Belize being a former colony that had enslaved people in it. So it is just to make people more aware of our history. It’s ironic; we are right adjacent to the very first emancipation night vigil where on the eve of Emancipation Day, the freed from our enslaved people came and congregated and had a mass at midnight. And it is then adjacent to a building that was built to keep people imprisoned. So it is ironical now, but history changes where we now have an actual enSLAVEd exhibit inside. We’ve been petitioned from the Ministry of Education to keep it up cause we are going to use it as a part of the Belizean Studies curriculum that is happening so our plan is to keep it as a permanent exhibit now. I was amazed by the turnout. We made the day free for all Belizeans to come in and from early this morning, we had Belizeans coming and looking at the enSLAVEd exhibit. We worked with the Ministry of Education so it is in line with the objective of their curriculum so we also did workshops with teachers who came in and we are going to use it then as a different approach to learning to come into the museum and come and have a class in here.”

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