the Governor's Speeches

Back to Speeches Indexjul 01, 2019

Reflections on Sint Maarten’s Emancipation Movement A Tribute To Our Forefathers by His Excellency drs. E.B. Holiday Governor of Sint Maarten Delivered on the Occasion of the Observance of the 156th anniversary of Emancipation Day

My Fellow Sint Maarteners,

Good morning,
Marie- Louise and I are honored to join and greet you on this Emancipation Day, at this historic location, in honor of the names of our forefathers.

Reflecting on the reenactment of the “Diamond 26 Escape” which we just witnessed, I thought on the words of Martin Luther King Jr. About 100 years after emancipation in Sint Maarten and the United states Martin Luther King Jr. said and I quote: “Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, I’m Free at Last.” unquote.

But quickly thereafter the words of Nelson Mandela came to me. Some 130 years after emancipation in Sint Maarten, Nelson Mandela wrote and I quote: “I have walked that long road to freedom. …. But I can only rest for a moment, …… for my long walk is not ended.” Unquote.

On this July 1st fore day morning we gather to celebrate and reflect on the 156th Emancipation Day, thanks to the triumph of the Emancipation Movement of our forefathers. An emancipation triumph which, through the resulting freedoms, had a profound impact on perceptions, notions, and traditions and as a result reshaped our cultural, social, political and economic order. A reshaped order that formed the basis for a more unified Sint Maarten, based on the universal principles and rights of liberty, equality and justice. 

To reflect on emancipation is thus our reflection on the “Emancipation Movement” of strong, courageous and determined men and women. It is our reflection on our forefathers, your families and my families, whose stories of struggle, triumph and societal impact, too often go untold or too often are marginalized. To correct that, we must identify, name, tell the stories of and as a result connect with the men and women of Sint Maarten’s Emancipation Movement.

Through our oral and written history, we know that our forefathers never accepted their forced bondage. We know that they did everything possible to secure their freedom at the risk of grave consequences. They planned, they refused to work, they negotiated, they fought, they paid, they ran away and they died to seize their freedom.

The sacrifices they made in their struggles for freedom are exemplified in “One Tete Loke”, one of our Emancipation Movement heroes. Like her, many of our forefathers ran away into the hills or across the seas. With the abolition of slavery in the British islands as of 1834 and in the French Islands as of 1848 the number of escapes from plantations increased further, first to for example Anguilla and St. Kitts and latter to French Saint Martin.

On May 29, 1848, just one day after the abolition of slavery on the French side, 26 of our courageous forefathers who were enslaved on the Diamond Estate, decided to run for freedom across the border to the French side. This fore day morning reenactment of the “Diamond 26 Escape” places us back at the heart of the struggles of the Emancipation Movement. The historic Diamond 26 Escape helped to trigger widespread protests and as a result a breakdown of the system of slavery on Sint Maarten. It is for example documented that men and women of several estates of Dutch Cul-De-Sac refused to work and took to the streets in protest, as a result of the Diamond 26 Escape.

This history of resistance always causes me to reflect on the lives, courage and resilience of my Cul-De-Sac ancestors who lived around 1848. My ancestors such as Adella, my oldest known ancestor born around 1790, Couba Richardson, Francis Scott, Maddelaine Shiddling, Present Richardson, Walter Scott, William Gerot and Amanda Cocks, to name a few. All of whom were born before emancipation in the North and the South of our island.

My Fellow Sint Maarteners,

The Diamond 26 Escape, by triggering widespread protest, played a significant role in the emancipation proclamation of July 1st, 1863, which we celebrate today.

These historic reflections remind us that our forefathers had the will to be free, as well as the determination, courage and the acumen to secure it. It tells us that there was no mood among our enslaved forefathers to wait for their freedom or to accept the injustices they lived through. It tells us that they took the initiative and seized every opportunity to secure their freedom and to build a better future.
As we stand on these historic grounds and reflect on the legacy of emancipation we are reminded, that we – collectively – are indebted to our forefathers to protect and continue to build on their legacy. To fulfill our collective obligation, we must continue to build Sint Maarten based on the dignity and values of the individual, and on the entitlement of all individuals to the fundamental rights and freedoms; that is we must continue to build our nation to secure jobs for our youth, eliminate poverty, and eradicate all forms of exploitation and oppression; that is we must focus on what we have in common as opposed to on our differences; that is we must work together if Sint Maarten is to prosper; that is we must unite as one people for our common cause: Sint Maarten.

My fellow Sint Maarteners,
In conclusion, the best way to honor our forefathers is to actively fulfill our collective obligation. And to remind us of our collective responsibility let us memorialize and always remember, this historic diamond hill, as a beacon for freedom and a better future for all.
With that reflection on our collective obligation and responsibility as a result of Sint Maarten’s Emancipation Movement, I hereby, also on behalf of Marie Louise, wish you a most wonderful and memorable 156th Emancipation Day celebration.

Thank you,
God Bless you, and
May God Bless Sint Maarten and Protect its coast.