On Monday morning in the early hours of Emancipation Day 2019, Prime Minister Leona Romeo Marlin addressed the crowd gathered at the re-enactment of the “Diamond Estate 26 Run for Freedom”. The theme for this year’s Emancipation Day celebration was “64 000 we have a name” as a tribute to the 64 000 enslaved men, women and children that were liberated from slavery within the Dutch Kingdom on July 1st 1863. The event that started at 11 pm, was hosted by Minister of Education Culture Youth & Sport, Wycliff Smith and organized by the Department of Culture.
Prime Minister Romeo Marlin shared her personal reflection with the following address, “Firstly I want to thank you each of you for taking the time to come out this evening at this 11th hour to be here in the spirit of our ancestors as we re-enact the Diamond Estate 26 Run for freedom.
Standing here and observing the darkness, the bushes and the rough terrain that surrounds this environment puts me to think of what it would take to make the decision to run freedom.
Can you imagine how unbearable and inhumane the conditions must have been for our ancestors to brave these hills and seek the freedoms that we enjoy today and sometimes even take for granted?
How many of us are prepared to take that first step to begin to run and not look back not knowing if you’re going to make it or not. Our ancestors must be held in great esteem and must be revered for their courage, determination and will power to face these tremendous odds and still overcome.
This year our Emancipation celebration pays tribute to the 64 000 enslaved men, women, and children that were liberated from slavery within the Dutch Kingdom on July 1st 1863. While we pay tribute to those that were alive, we must also remember the thousands of unknown individuals that died years before. Their pain, blood, sweat, and tears that either were shed on the shores of the African continent, Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean seas or scattered throughout the many plantations of this hemisphere. On the eve of Emancipation Day, we simply cannot forget.
“64000 we have a name”, this is a great theme as we reflect on the journey that has brought us here in our history on Sint Maarten.
According to the oxford dictionary NAME is defined as - A word or set of words by which a person or thing is known, addressed, or referred to.
Just think for a minute if you have no name or your name is not registered officially, then technically you are unknown or you can be considered invisible. Therefore, by definition prior to July 1st 1863 our ancestors were unknown or even invisible to history.
In preparing for this address this evening, I reflected on my tenure as the Head of the Civil Registry Department and the privilege I had to view and work with the historical archives and records of Government. The Civil Registry to this day has in its possession the preserved records documenting the registration of the first enslaved persons on Sint Maarten, which by no coincidence began in 1863.
Allow me to share with you the name of the first free person registered at the Civil Registry. Titus Arrundel, 71 years born to Diane Raun and the first female registered is Pamelia Arrundel, 41 years born to Mary Arrundel. Take note of the pronunciation Arrundel, while the registry also has Arrindell, Arndell and we all know Arnell, which is another variation more frequent on the French side.
I have also encountered some very interesting first names, such as Present, New Year, Champagne, Hercules, Prince, Christmas, Quashiba and Quecoe. I can also share with you more common last names that are still with us today, Laveist, Carty, Gibbs, Flanders, Chittick, Labega, Balborda, Kingsale and Richardson. While there are, a few last names that have seemed to have expired overtime like Polidor and Cromoney. By mentioning these names, I hoped that I have brought you full circle with your reflection on the 64000 names and made it easier for you to connect to our ancestors. We have to be truly grateful for the sacrifice that they have made and commit to continuously protecting our freedoms. At no time should we take this for granted.
Before I conclude, I just want to revisit the importance of a name and implore to everyone especially our younger generation to refrain from the use of negative and derogatory name-calling, which is so prominent in the modern music. Imagine our ancestors, sacrificed life and limb to be recognized and today with the freedoms we enjoy we are quick to erode them with negative name-calling.
As we continue to liberate ourselves from the remnants of mental enslavement, we can definitely do better. As a country, we must embrace our differences and stop tearing down each other especially in the public domain. We must seek to love and respect each other in order to develop a positive environment promoting the uplifting and success of our people.
On that note, I wish you a wonderful Emancipation Day and GOD BLESS each of you.”
In Photo L-R – Prime Minister Leona Romeo Marlin delivering her Emancipation Day address with the Emancipation Choir in the background.