Trinidad & Tobago and Jamaica’s top diplomats in Toronto celebrated Shouters Day liberation last Sunday with members of the National Evangelical Spiritual Baptist Faith (NESBF) Canada at their Scarborough headquarters.
Recently appointed Jamaican Consul General Lloyd Wilks and his T & T counterpart, Dr. Vidhya Tota-Maharaj, attended the annual event.
“While I am not a Shouter, I respect your form of worship,” Wilks told the congregation. “I admire your strength and your sustained effort to retain what belongs to us.”
Spiritual Baptist/Shouters Liberation Day is an annual public holiday in Trinidad & Tobago that has been celebrated for the past 19 years on March 30. The holiday marks the repeal on that day in 1951 of the 1917 Shouter Prohibition Ordinance that outlawed the group’s activities.
The ban was imposed ostensibly because the Shouters celebrated too loudly. However, it was suspected that the real reason their activities were curtailed was because the colonizers were opposed to their Afro-centred practices.
Worshippers who defied the ban were beaten, arrested and jailed and they had to flee to the hills and forests to practice their religion without interference. After much lobbying, the bill to overturn the ban was passed 63 years ago.
Over the years, Shouters in T & T have been awarded plots of land and allowed to establish their own schools.
Dr. Tota-Maharaj said the Shouters community must be lauded for the strength and tenacity they have displayed in overcoming the challenges they faced in the first half of the 20th century.
“There was a time when they were not accorded the most basic right of worshipping without fear of persecution,” said Tota-Maharaj. “We must therefore use this time for reflection on the hardships endured and the bravery and fortitude of those who worked at having the prohibition ordinance revoked.”
Archbishop Dr. Deloris Seiveright founded the NESBF.
Raised in a spiritual family, she was a member of the Anglican Church and the Church of God before embracing the Spiritual Baptist faith.