We are at that time of the year when we celebrate the freedom which our forebears fought and suffered for and passed on to us. This freedom-a mixture of their blood from the wounds inflicted by the cruel slave whip, the death of those succombed to the pressures of the plantation prison life, the rivers of sweat poured out from their bodies in the heat of the tropical sun while manufacturing sugar for their masters' coffee, the tears that watered the ground on which they laboured day and night, the prayers which ascended to heaven, seeking relief from the physical and mental torture, and the hope for a better life. That hope kept them toiling through the oppressive hours, days, weeks, months, years, and centuries. Heŕe is a legacy to celebrate and I would like to share what I understand when we talk about this freedom.
One way of expressing what we mean by freedom is to reflect on the characteristics of its identity. I venture to say that freedom in the broadest sense means giving equal opportunity to every one for liberty and the pufsuit of happiness. Nelson Msndella's definiyion freedom comes close to my understanding of freedom when he said "to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."
Thr apostle Paul admonishes us in 1 Corinthians 8:9 to "be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak." President Barack Obama captures the idea that feedom has responsibilities when he said," Our responsibility as citizens is to address the inequalities and injustices that linger and we must secure our birthright freedoms for all people."
The right to freedom includes freedom of speech and expression, freedom to assemble, freedom of association, freedom of movement, freedom to reside, the right to practice to any profession or occupation, the right against exploitation, forced labour and human trafficking. As we reflect on these elements of freedom, lut us remember thst we have "freedom from" the unproductive constraints of society, "freedom to" to do what we want to do within the limits of the law without trampling on another's freedom and thirdly, "freedom to be" thst is freefom to become what we were meant to be when God made us.
Throughout the cenyuties men and women have been fighting in various ways to preserve that freedom which we inherited and which at the time of writing has a British cloud hanging over its head. Let us make sure that we have the appropriate tools and effective strategies to prevent it from breaking over our heads.
For the next four Wheatakes, I will share my reflections on the contributions four BVIslanders made to our education freedom. Today's citizens should respect the conttibutions our forebears made for us to have access to the educational opportunities which are available to us. We have a duty to enlighten their minds with the hope that such enlightenment would open their hearts to serve humankind altruistically and enthusiastically.
- Dr. Charles H. Wheatley