If you hear dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the wood, keep going. If there’s shouting after you, keep going. Don’t ever stop. Keep going. If you want to taste freedom, keep going.

—Harriet Tubman, Abolitionist

On August 1, 1834, the Slavery Abolition Act of the British Parliament came into effect, outlawing the owning, buying and selling of human beings as property in its colonies.

On August 1, 1834, over 800,000 people of African descent were free from oppression.

On August 1, 1834, people of African descent were given their lives back after over 200 years of enduring slavery.

After the Slavery Abolition Act came into force, Black people no could not legally be sold, beaten, tortured, or forced to work under horrible conditions in British colonies and territories. This didn’t end all slavery practices worldwide, but it set an important precedent. People of African descent were able to work, be with their family and have self-determination. Our ancestors fought for this freedom—our freedom. They did what they could with what they had. We thank our ancestors for all their sacrifices; we are forever grateful.

Slavery existed in Canada and is a part of our history that must be recognized. The celebration of emancipation is important for the Black community because it represents freedom. It reminds us that no matter where we come from and what we look like we deserve to be treated fairly and with respect. We all deserve love; we deserve to be happy and we deserve equality.

Although Black slavery was abolished, anti-Black discrimination continued, and racism still has deadly consequences today. Just like our ancestors fought for us, we also need to fight for freedom and equality of our kids, grandkids and great grandkids. The ongoing harm of systemic racism and the wellbeing of future generations call us to work for justice today.

Prayer to mark Emancipation Day

May God give us strength to continue the fight that our ancestors started,
May we continue to move forward and not backwards,
May we continue to love one another just as God continues to love us
May we forgive one another just as God continues to forgive us
And may God continue to open our hearts and the direct us to the right path.
Amen.

Written by Mary Kyei, member of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Saskatoon, Sask.