Though the Covid-19 pandemic means that this year’s August Emancipation Festival has been scaled back dramatically, the observance is every bit as important as usual, and we hope residents will find creative ways to celebrate.

On Aug. 1, 1834, slavery was legally abolished across the British empire. Today, this momentous event is certainly cause for celebration. But it is also a time to mourn and honour enslaved ancestors and to soberly reflect on the tragedy of slavery and what it means for the modern era.

To understand how slavery-related injustices continue to this day, one need only consider the recent killing of George Floyd in the United States and the deep-seated issues spotlighted by Black Lives Matter and other social movements here and abroad.

Here, we hope that everyone will find meaningful ways to observe the emancipation season. Though the pandemic precludes the usual concerts, marches and parades, the government is working with organisers to plan a programme of virtual and socially distanced events focused on culture. We hope all community members will participate in some of them.

Additionally, the coming holiday is a good time for residents to reconnect with family members and friends and learn more about their own stories.  Helping to reclaim the territory’s history can be as simple as interviewing an elderly relative and recording their memories for posterity. Other pandemic-friendly ideas include visits to historical sites, educational activities for children, or simply spending time with family.

In the midst of the festivities, however, we urge everyone to resist the temptation to throw caution to the wind.

Though government has said there is only one active Covid-19 case here — which came with one of the recent arrivals, who is quarantined — this does not mean the territory is otherwise free of the disease.

The usual precautions, then, should be followed. When attending events both public and private, residents must continue to wear masks, practise social distancing, limit crowd sizes and follow other recommended safety measures.

The community has sacrificed too much to allow itself to backslide into a Covid-19 resurgence as has happened in so many other places around the world.

With these considerations in mind, we wish everyone a safe, meaningful and joyful August Emancipation Festival.


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