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Emancipation Day celebrated for the first time in 62 years

Arts and Culture 13 May, 2024 Follow News

Culture Icons Jeralow Rankine Kendal Connor Winston Lightbody Edney McLean break free!

Ingrid Ebanks, Virginia Rankin, Marcie Hydes, Carlene Carter, Eziethamae Bodden MBE, Alanna Warwick-Smith and Rose May Ebanks

Rose May Ebanks

Marie Martin Primary School Children singing

By Christopher Tobutt

On the morning of May 3, 1835, a momentous event unfolded in the Cayman Islands. Captain Anthony Pack stood on a low wall overlooking Hog Sty Bay and read a proclamation that would forever change the course of Caymanian history. The Governor of Jamaica, Lord Sligo, was present to emphasize the message: “You who have been slaves and lately acting as apprentices, are by this decision made absolutely and unconditionally free.” With those words, Cayman’s formerly enslaved population became one of the first truly liberated black communities in the Caribbean”

While the rest of the region still suffered under an apprenticeship scheme described as “slavery by another name,” Caymanians were already free.

On 6 May 2024 Emancipation Day was celebrated again,  for the first time in 62 years, with a grand and spectacular display of all facets of Cayman Culture, on Seafarers Way, overlooking Hog Sty Bay. There were wonderful displays from each district, and ladies and gentleman dressed in traditional-style beautiful Caymanian clothes.

“I’m from Beautiful West Bay,” said Rose May Ebanks.  “I’m doing the Cayman Silver Thatch Platting making hats, making bags, making purses and whatever I can make. I learnt it from my mother, Rosalyn Ebanks.” 

Carlene Carter , Marcieann Hydes, Virginia Rankin where also there, and Ms. Rankin was doing some traditional needlework – making fine and many-coloured rugs from scraps of cloth. In the old days, Caymanians didn’t waste a thing. Alanna Warwick-Smith was there, too showing cultural artifacts and books: “It’s important that we all take an active role in preserving and nurturing our Caymanian culture,” she said. 

“It’s a West Bay district display of our heritage which is very important because we need to display our heritage and make it thrive, because we are proud to be Caymanian,” said Eziethamae Bodden, MBE.

Kendal Connor of East End said: “We are displaying all artifacts, and there are broken chains there, from slavery, and we have Mr. Jeralow Rankine and Allan Ebanks displaying and all the old-time displays of the calabans – and  we have the candies you used to get in the olden days ….and the we have a Water Glass – in the olden days you used to go fishing and you would put it over the side of the boat to see the fish to see if it was a good spot to fish.”

“I am so happy I want to sing,” said Heritage Minister Isaac Rankine …. “this is the first time that Emancipation Day has been recognised in 62 years. It is truly a historic day for the Cayman Islands as we acknowledge and celebrate Emancipation Day as we embrace the heritage of our people.

“Today is a proper reminder of our fore-parents’ struggle, and their determination and their fight for freedom from enslavement that has paved the way for the lives we lead today. So let us honor their resilience and fortitude with a celebration that truly reflects and highlights the richness of our heritage”

Tourism Minister Kenneth Bryan said the holiday was supposed to be a celebration of a time when humankind realized how important it is not to enslave another human being.

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