Emancipation Day Saint Martin

Emancipation Day Saint Martin


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



 “St. Martiners claimed their Emancipation island-wide in 1848, from

French and Dutch enslavement. We know that the Ponum was danced under

and around the Flamboyant tree to celebrate freedom as our people sang

the ‘Brim’ song. In fact, July 1, 2012, marks the symbolic 164th

anniversary of Emancipation for the entire island,” said Sekou.



Books by Lasana M. Sekou

37 Poems / Brotherhood of the Spurs / Big Up St. Martin  / Born Here Love Songs Make You Cry

Mothernation: Poems from 1984 to 1987  /  National Symbols of St. Martin / Quimbé: Poetics of Sound

The Salt Reaper: Poems from the Flats

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Emancipation Day Saint Martin

164 years Ago (July 1) 1848-2012


For July 1

               By Lasana M. Sekou

This is the day here

This time

For renewed confrontation

For reconstruction

We are the people

Descended from the Diamond 26

The Freedom Fighters

Who will effect

Better days

And lighted ways

To batter down the borders

The neo-colonial initiatives

To unite this land

St. Maarten/St. Martin

To transform these fields today

For the conquest of tomorrow

(© Born Here, House of Nehesi, 1986: 3)

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Emancipation Day will be an Official Holiday St. Maarten Parliament approves Emancipation Day legislation

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The July Tree

A royal flowering fit for Emancipation Day 2012


GREAT BAY, St. Martin (June 26, 2012)—From Great Bay to Grand Case, from Lowlands to Lamajo, the Royal Poinciana or Flamboyant appears strikingly lush for its 2012 Caribbean season (May-September). Probably due to favorable rainfall earlier this year, the mostly orange-red flowers and bright green foliage appear like jubilant fat bells weighing down the Flamboyant branches, a fitting homage from nature for the first modern official observation of July 1 as Emancipation Day in St. Martin (South).

The Flamboyant is popularly considered as the “National Tree” on both parts of the island of St. Martin. It is historically and culturally linked to folktales, toys, the Ponum dance, Emancipation—when St. Martiners picked and joyfully waved the flowering leaves in the air—and other aspects of the festive culture.  On the “Friendly Island” the Poinciana is also known as the “July Tree,” for the month when its flowers bloom at their colorful peak.

“The July Tree is one of the symbols, like the Brown Pelican, The Great Salt Pond, Simpson Bay Lagoon, Marigot Market gatherings, the Frontier Monument, St. Martin Day, guavaberry, and our multilingual aptitude and resourcefulness among others, that historically and culturally stands for the unity and identity of the St. Martin people, the people of the whole island—whether officially acknowledged as such or not,” said author Lasana M. Sekou.

In the book National Symbols of St. Martin (pages 40-47), “the notion of the Flamboyant as the National Tree, or more accurately at this stage of the territorial status as the nation’s tree, is linked directly to the actions of St. Martiners that claimed their Emancipation island-wide in 1848, from French and Dutch enslavement,” said Sekou. “We know that the Ponum was danced under and around the Flamboyant tree to celebrate freedom as our people sang the ‘Brim’ song. In fact, July 1, 2012, marks the symbolic 164th anniversary of Emancipation for the entire island,” said Sekou

As one of the most beautiful trees in the world, the Flamboyant has its own history of course. Among the great Caribbean artists influenced by the Flamboyant or that  have immortalized it in their paintings are Wilfredo Lam, Simeon Michel, Roland Richardson, and Luis Cajiga.

The Poinciana is cultivated widely as an ornamental and full shade tree in tropical and subtropical regions. It has a rare yellow flower variety in addition to the highly prized orange, vivid red, and vermilion color varieties. It is also a tough tree that is drought and salt tolerant.

Elsewhere in the Caribbean and Central America the tree is known as the “Flame of the Forest” or “Llama del Bosque.” In parts of India it is called Gulmohar and “crown of the Lord Krishna.”

In China and Vietnam the Flamboyant or “Phoenix’s Tail” competes as the official “city tree” for more than one city. But in its native Madagascar, the Poinciana is not the national tree at all (that distinction goes to another myth-laden African wonder from the plant kingdom, the baobob tree).

To find out how the “flame tree” got the name Poinciana, let’s head back to the Caribbean. “This species was previously placed in the genus Poinciana, named for Phillippe de Longvilliers de Poincy, the 17th century governor of Saint Christophe (Saint Kitts), who is credited with introducing the plant to the Americas.” (

In the Federation of St. Kitts-Nevis, parts of which can be seen on a clear day from the Cole Bay hill road in St. Martin, the Poinciana is at times called the “Shack Shack Tree” and its flower is, officially, the National Flower. The tree now belongs to the genus Delonix.

Back in St. Martin, where building developments are causing unmitigated stress on land, wetlands, and vegetation, and on animal and marine life, there has been a visible and admirable growth in the appearance of Royal Flamboyant trees over the last 15 years, in private yards and along public roads. Here’s another reason to have a flamboyant on one’s property: As a legume tree, it packs a wallop of “nitrogen-fixating and soil-improving properties.” (

Happy July 1, St. Martin.

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A Walk through History

The story of St. Maarten begins far to the south, in a region of the Amazon jungle known as the Orinoco river basin. It was from here that the island’s first inhabitants–the Arawaks–migrated about a thousand years ago. They island-hopped north through the Caribbean, living peacefully off the bounty of the surrounding sea. The Arawaks who came to St. Maarten called their new home “Sualouiga,” or “Land of Salt,” naming it after the island’s abundant salt pans.

The tranquility of the Arawaks would not last for long. They were followed by another Amazonian group, the Caribs. A warrior people, the Caribs steadily pushed the Arawaks off St. Maarten and took the island for themselves–only to lose it in turn to the Europeans. Christopher Columbus sighted the island on November 11, 1493, the holy day of St. Martin of Tours. He claimed it for Spain the same day, and it is from this day that the island bears its name. Obsessed with the greater conquests of Mexico and South America, the Spanish ignored St. Maarten. It was virtually forgotten by Europeans until the 1620s, when Dutch settlers began extracting salt from St. Maarten’s ponds and exporting it back to the Netherlands.

The island’s commercial possibilities soon caught the attention of the Spanish, who drove off the Dutch in 1633 and erected a fort to assert their authority. Known as the Old Spanish Fort, this bastion still stands at Point Blanche. In 1644, a Dutch fleet under the command of Peter Stuyvesant attempted unsuccessfully to retake the island. Stuyvesant, who later became governor of New Amsterdam (present-day New York), lost a leg to a Spanish cannonball during the fighting. Although Stuyvesant was buried in New York, his leg rests in a cemetery in Curaçao.

Events in Europe soon affected the island’s destiny.

Saint Martin men planning an escape in 1848 under a tamon tree (tamarind).

With the end of the Eighty Years’ War between Spain and the Netherlands, the Spanish no longer needed a base in the Caribbean. They left St. Maarten, and the island was soon claimed by both the French (who sailed over from St. Kitts) and the Dutch (from St. Eustatius). After some skirmishes, the two powers signed a treaty in 1648 which divided the island between them. Although its historical truth is somewhat less than ironclad, local legend claims that a Dutchman and Frenchman stood back to back and walked in opposite directions around the shoreline, drawing the boundary from the spot where they met. As for why the French ended up with more land, the story notes the Dutchman’s progress was slowed by the large quantity of Geneve that he required for the walk.

The neighbours did not coexist peacefully at first, and the territory changed hands sixteen times between 1648 and 1816. Nonetheless, the Dutch side of the island soon became an important trading center for salt, cotton, and tobacco. Wealth also arrived with the establishment of sugar plantations, worked by slave labor. When slavery was abolished in the mid-19th century, the plantations closed down and St. Maarten’s prosperity ended. For the next one hundred years, the island sank into an economic depression.

The situation began to change in 1939, when all import and export taxes were rescinded and the island became a free port. Princess Juliana International Airport opened in 1943, and four years later the island’s first hotel, the Sea View, welcomed its first guests. In the next few decades, St. Maarten boomed as an international trading and tourism center. Today, Dutch St. Maarten has nearly 3,000 hotel rooms and is visited by hundreds of thousands of people each year.

Source: geographia

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Emancipation Day Message July 1st, 2012

By the Leader of the United Peoples (UP) Party Theo Heyliger

Written by United Peoples (UP) Party



2 July 2012

—This is our country’s first official observation of July 1 as Emancipation Day, a national holiday for all. Our country Parliament approved the legislation recognizing our ancestry and the period leading to our emancipation as a people. The entire island was emancipated in 1848 from enslavement by the Dutch and French European powers, marking this July 1st as the 164th joint anniversary of North and South.

While our brethren in the North became free, our ancestors in the South did not sit by, but protested and led own revolution to gain freedom. July 1st 1863 is the official date marking when slaves from the Dutch side were proclaimed free, 149 years ago. Our nation has been on a path of constitutional emancipation.

In 1983, Sint Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius broke free from being a colony of Curacao; becoming the Territory of the Windward Islands. Additional change came in 1985/1986 when each Windward Island became an Island Territory on their own right with direct representation in the Parliament of the Netherlands Antilles.

Constitutional emancipation did not stop there. Referendums in the 1990s (related to the future of the Netherlands Antilles) and 2000 (related to the future of Sint Maarten) has brought us to October 10, 2010 when as a nation we became country Sint Maarten with our own national Parliament, the highest legislative body of the people.

Our journey as a people does not stop with Country Sint Maarten in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Our constitutional emancipation has one more step to take, and that of total independence.

Emancipation is a process about our future and the growth of our country. As a people we must be committed towards the continued successful sustainable development of our country. Our ancestors took the necessary steps to gain their freedoms; and with that we have created a country to be proud of, but building a nation does not stop, but is an on-going process that will be carried forward by our children and their children’s children.

Hail the Brave Ancestors! Surrender not one day of Freedom won. Happy Emancipation Day to the people of Sint Maarten. May God bless you all and our nation.—


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#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Yvette’s cookbook is a 2011 bestseller

GREAT BAY, St. Martin (July 31, 2011)—It’s official. It’s a bestseller! From Yvette’s Kitchen To Your Table – A Treasury of St. Martin’s Traditional & Contemporary Cuisine by Yvette Hyman has sold out, according to House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP). In a record seven weeks after its June 2011 release here, less than 80 copies of the cookbook are left in bookstores and with the author’s family representatives charged with distribution, said Jacqueline Sample, HNP president. The decision on whether to reprint a new batch of From Yvette’s Kitchen  … lies with the family of the late award-winning chef, said the publisher.“We are very thankful to the people of St. Martin for embracing Yvette’s cookbook. The visitors to our island also bought many copies of this beautifully designed book of the nation’s cuisine,” said Sample.From Yvette’s Kitchen  is made up of 13 chapters, including Appetizers, Soups, Poultry, Fish and Shellfish, Meat, Salads, Dumplings, Rice and Fungi, Breads, and Desserts.

The 312-page full color book includes recipes for Souse, the ever-popular Johnny cake, and Conch Yvette’s. Lamb stew, coconut tart, guavaberry, and soursop drink are also among the over 200 recipes à la Yvette in this Treasury of St. Martin’s Traditional & Contemporary Cuisine, said Sample.“We hope that this cookbook’s success also adds to the indicator of the performance and importance of books published in the Caribbean,” said Sample.The other HNP book that sold out in such a short time was the 1989 poetry collection Golden Voices of S’maatin. That first title by Ruby Bute had sold out in about three months and has since been reprinted, said Sample.

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Pelican Heart—An Anthology of Poems by Lasana M. Sekou

Edited by Emio Jorge Rodriguez

Passion for the Nation is what comes out of Sekou’s poems at a first glance and at a deeper reading. The book is a selection gathered from eleven of Sekou’s poetry collections between 1978 and 2010. Rodríguez is an independent Cuban academic, writer, and essayist. He has been a researcher at Casa de las Américas’s Literary Research Center and founded the literary journal Anales del Caribe (1981-2000). María Teresa Ortega translated the poems from the original English to Spanish. A critical introduction, detailed footnotes, and a useful glossary by Rodríguez are also found in the book of 428 pages. The collection has been launched at conferences in Barbados, Cuba, and Mexico.

Rodriguez’s introduction to Pelican Heart refers to Dr. Howard Fergus’s Love Labor Liberation in Lasana Sekou, which is the critical commentary to Sekou’s work that identifies three cardinal points in his poetics.

I would add as cardinal points: Belief or Driving Force of people in political processes, like his political commitment to make St. Martin independent, as the southern part of the Caribbean island is a territory of the Netherlands, while the northern part is a French Collectivité d’outre-mer; Excitement over his literary passions, which led him to found House of Nehesi Publishers at age 23; co-found the book festival of St. Martin, organized with Conscious Lyrics Foundation and to expand his culture considerably; Enthusiasm, which springs out of his eyes and words when you listen to his poetry being performed or when you speak to Sekou in person.—Sara Florian

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The Frock & Other Poems  

By Laurelle “Yaya” Richards

The use of the nation’s mother language, “the way we speak naturally on both parts of our island, is the sweetness to the ear and the heart of Miss Yaya’s spoken word, storytelling, and talks about St. Martin’s folkways,” said Jacqueline Sample, president of House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP).  Richards had completed working on The Frock with HNP at the time of her death at age 55, on May 26, 2010 – about four months before the book was published. The plan to launch the book on the UNESCO-declared day in 2011 came out of meetings between the culture department, the publisher, and Yaya’s family representatives Priscille Figaro, Adrienne Richards, and Laurellye Benjamin.

“We need to recognize our artists like Yaya who are working so hard for our people and our identity,” said Dormoy. “It’s an honor to be involved with this book as part of Yaya’s legacy that can live on, and to launch The Frock in connection with the International Mother Language Day,” said Dormoy.

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National Symbols of St. Martin—A Primer

By Lasana M. Sekou

The hard cover book, a primer about St. Martin’s culture, historical personalities and natural environment, is listed on the US government department’s Bureau of Administration website. “We think this is a good thing to share with the St. Martin people,” said Sekou. “In fact, House of Nehesi is firstly thankful to the St. Martin people for continuing to read, enjoy and study this book. “Having National Symbols listed as recommended reading in the IPS section of the US State Department adds to the venues where folks abroad can be put in touch with original material about St. Martin and the St. Martin people.” The material from the book continues to be used for popular events such as carnival, for research by scholars, as teaching material in schools, and for presentations by government and tourism departments, churches and civic groups.

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The Salt Reaper: Poems from the Flats

By Lasana M. Sekou

The Salt Reaper, Sekou’s most recent offering, is made up of 18 poems from the decade of the nineties and about 40 new poems from the current decade. An informative introduction by Hollis ‘Chalkdust’ Liverpool and some intriguing photographic illustration are included in this text. They serve to cushion the provocative and intense voice that issues from these pages and lend perspective to the call for nationhood.

Sekou’s multi-creole vocals are subtle, but ever-present (‘becausein’) and his words insist on orality—they sing the nation off the page and into being. He has followed the example set by Brathwaite and writes with visual text that leaps off the page

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Book of Sins

By Nidaa Khoury

Khoury’s poetry is fired by belief in the human and the spiritual at a time when many of us feel unreal and often spiritually hollow.—Yair Huri, Ben-Gurion University 

Written in water and ink, in between the shed blood. Nidaa Khoury’s poems take us to the bosom of an ancient woman  . . . an archetype revived. The secret she whispers is ‘smaller than words.’—Karin Karakasli, author, Turkey

Nidaa Khoury was born in Fassouta, Upper Galilee, in 1959. Khoury is the author of seven books published in Arabic and several other languages, including The Barefoot River, which appeared in Arabic and Hebrew and The Bitter Crown, censored in Jordan. The Palestinian poet is studied in Israeli universities and widely reviewed by the Arab press. The founder of the Association of Survival, an NGO for minorities in Israel, Khoury has participated in over 30 international literary and human rights conferences and festivals. Khoury is the subject of the award-winning film, Nidaa Through Silence.

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My First Coup d’Etat

And Other True Stories from the Lost Decades of Africa

By John Dramani Mahama

Though the colonies of sub-Saharan Africa began to claim independence in the late 1950s and ’60s, autocratic and capricious leadership soon caused initial hope to fade, and Africa descended into its “lost decades,” a period of stagnation and despondency from which much of the continent has yet to recover. Mahama, vice president of the Republic of Ghana, grew up alongside his nascent country and experienced this roller-coaster of fortunes. In this memoir, Mahama, the son of a member of parliament, recounts how affairs of state became real in his young mind on the day in 1966 when no one came to collect him from boarding school—the government had been overthrown, his father arrested, and his house confiscated.

In fluid, unpretentious style, Mahama unspools Ghana’s recent history via entertaining and enlightening personal anecdotes: spying on his uncle impersonating a deity in order to cajole offerings of soup from the villagers hints at the power of religion; discussions with his schoolmates about confronting a bully form the nucleus of his political awakening. As he writes: “The key to Africa’s survival has always been . . . in the story of its people, the paradoxical simplicity and complexity of our lives.” The book draws to a close as the author’s professional life begins. —Publishers Weekly

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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posted 28 June 2012




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