Before...” the theme for the July 1st 161st Annual Emancipation Day Celebration

June 28, 2024 4:29 pm

On July 1st 2024, the 161st Annual Emancipation Day celebration will take place at the Emilio Wilson Park in Cul de sac. Minister of Education, Culture, Youth & Sport, the Honorable Lyndon Lewis invites all interested citizens and persons residing on Sint Maarten to join in the celebration that is themed “Before…”. The Emancipation Day celebration will begin with an Ecumenical Church Service at 7:00 am at the back of the Emilio Wilson Park venue, followed by the cultural manifestation at 8:00 am.

"Before" captures the time before enslavement, “Before” also celebrates the arduous journey towards Emancipation and steps taken by the enslaved community of Sint Maarten to reclaim the victory towards their freedom. This year’s Emancipation Day celebrations will be hosted at the Emilio Wilson Estate Park. The quintessential land of Emilio Wilson himself, a man of dignity, erudite and up statesmanship. A man of the soil who was able to purchase the land upon which he worked from his employers, a feat of greatness. This achievement is essential to the African continuum in the Caribbean and around the world.

Emancipation Day was the first public holiday established by the Parliament of Sint Maarten since becoming a Country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Every year the Department of Culture hosts the Emancipation Day celebration at different venues throughout the island as a means to bring the community together as one people to reflect on the atrocities and inhumane conditions that our ancestors experienced. Emancipation Day is also a day to pay homage to the freedom fighters that fought for their human rights to be a free people throughout the period of enslavement until they achieved their goal.  

“Before…” will explore he intellectual strategy behind the resistance and rebellions and the continued strife towards freedom. It is through poetry, through song, through dance, through discourse, and the continued involvement of the Sint Maarten enslaved community to be victorious over a crime of humanity, the enslavement of one human being by another.  

The strong and resilient Sint Maarteners of that era were a people that were aware that the former enslaved persons on the Northern part of the island were free as of 1848 and many of them ran away from the deplorable conditions that they had been forced into. These actions by the enslaved persons seeking their freedom culminated in the Proclamation of the Abolishment of Slavery of 1863 as the European powers knew that the slave labor system could not continue as it did for so many years. Freedom for the enslaved ancestors was inevitable. There are many accounts of rebellion and resistance towards the oppressive slave system such as the Diamond 26 Run for Freedom and the expressions of the Ponum Dance and Song. Persons interested in joining the festivities for Emancipation Day are encouraged to follow a dress code of elegance in Red.