Caribbean community in Taiwan marked Emancipation Day

Andrea Bowman

Members of the Caribbean community in Taiwan jumped and cheered on a basketball court in Taipei last Sunday, at a fun sports competition to celebrate Emancipation Day in their region.

The basketball competition, held at an outdoor court on Tianmu West Road, was organized by the Caribbean embassies in Taiwan, and it drew the boisterous participation of sports enthusiasts and supporters from Taiwan’s five diplomatic allies in that region.

Emancipation Day is celebrated on Aug. 1 in the Caribbean to mark the abolition of slavery nearly 200 years ago on sugar plantations owned by European colonizers in the region, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ambassador to Taiwan Andrea Bowman said at the opening ceremony.

The transatlantic slave trade, which started in the 16th century, “sought to nullify the humanity of Africans transported from their homes … for use as cargo and property on the

plantations of the so-called New World,” she said.

The commemoration of their emancipation from 300 years of slavery continues to be celebrated because the efforts to wipe out such inhumanities must not be forgotten, said Bowman, who is dean of the diplomatic corps in Taiwan.

In the first round of the basketball competition, Belize came up against St. Vincent and the Grenadines, while St. Lucia played against St. Kitts and Nevis, in two 40-minute games.

The St. Vincent and the Grenadines team

The winners of that round — St. Lucia and SVG — faced off for the title, and the other two teams competed for third place in the tournament, which was officiated by two professional Taiwanese referees.

In keeping with the competition rules that each team must include at least one female player, Belize Ambassador to Taiwan Candice Pitts took to the court, and she sank seven baskets from inside the paint and one free throw, to score a total of 15 points in the competition.

Belize, however, still lost 14-9 in the third-place game to the SKN team, which included St. Kitts and Nevis Ambassador to Taiwan Donya Francis.

The hard-fought final between SVG and St. Lucia showcased the skills of mature and young players, including two Vincentian students who are currently in Taiwan on basketball scholarships.

Cheered on by robust fans, the two teams battled it out, with the players on both sides hitting threes and pulling off some outstanding steals.

When the final whistle blew, the Vincentians fans erupted in jubilant cheers, as their team had prevailed 41-19, winning the NT$15,000 first prize.

St. Lucia finished second, taking a prize of NT$10,000, while SKN in third place won NT$4,000, and Belize got NT$2,000.

Haiti, which was central to the 2020 Emancipation Day celebrations in Taiwan and also played a prominent role in the event in the past two years, did not participate in the basketball tournament this year because of “logistical challenges,” the organizers said.

According to St. Lucia Ambassador to Taiwan Robert Lewis, the event was not just a sports competition but also a symbol of togetherness and the strides made by the Caribbean people over the past 200 years.

The commemorative event was also attended by Cheng Li-Cheng (鄭力城), director general of the Taiwan foreign ministry’s Department of Latin American and Caribbean Affairs, and other Taiwanese supporters.

“On this occasion, we honor the very resilient and indomitable spirit of the Caribbean people,” Cheng said at the event. “This year, we gather to show solidarity for the values of freedom and democracy and respect for human rights.”

The Caribbean was first colonized in the 15th century, by Spain, and later by other European powers, including France and England, which instituted a system of slavery to meet high labor demand and minimize costs on the lucrative sugar plantations they had established in the region.

The transatlantic slave trade lasted for more than 200 years, from 1526 to the early 1800s. On August 1, 1834, some 750,000 slaves in the British colonies in the Caribbean were formally freed.