As the territory celebrates the August Emancipation Festival with pageantry, parades and performances, residents should take time to remember the reason for the season. On Aug. 1, 1834, the Emancipation Proclamation was read at Road Town’s Sunday Morning Well, in churches, and in other locations around the islands.

Territorywide, thousands of freed slaves rejoiced, and must have looked forward to a brighter future. But the subsequent growth and development of the Virgin Islands did not come without struggle. Indeed, the last 176 years of this territory’s history are a testament to the spirit of those former slaves and their descendants, on whose shoulders was built the prosperity that the VI enjoys today.

In remembering these forbearers, residents should ask whether today’s VI lives up to their legacy. The territory is certainly better off than many of its neighbours, but there is still much work to be done. Inequalities and injustices continue to occur here, and many go largely unnoticed. The VI, then, should work to ensure that any social ills infringing on the equal rights guaranteed by law are brought to light and rectified.

This season is a time to reflect on such matters and to commit to taking these lessons to heart well beyond the holidays. This year’s Festival, themed “A Colourful Cultural Jamboree,” promises to be filled with festivities. We are happy to note that many residents seem to be getting on board to participate.

For example, there have been more entries for this year’s August Monday Parade than there were last year, with more than 20 troupes and 40 entries already signed up. And we are glad that the Miss BVI Pageant will carry on as usual despite early organisational difficulties, thanks in part to a group of brave young ladies who agreed to come on board at the eleventh hour.

We hope that Festival-goers will show up in droves to support the myriad events slated for the coming days. After all, there promises to be something for everyone. But we also hope that residents will make every effort to remember the true meaning of the celebrations. We wish the territory a safe, happy and meaningful August Emancipation Festival.

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