“Take off on July 1, until we’re all free.” That is the appeal of the campaign to make 1 July, the day the abolition of slavery in Suriname is celebrated and commemorated, an official day off. Last year, a citizens’ initiative signed by more than 60,000 people was presented to the House of Representatives in a campaign initiated by radio station FunX, the Netherlands Get Better Foundation, and The Black Archives.

    That citizens’ initiative could not count on a majority in parliament and that is why activists now do not want to wait but “take action themselves”. People who support the campaign can download a letter in which they inform their employer that they are taking time off, and ask to make 1 July a day off.

    Also read this NRCcomment from last year: The abolition of slavery is ideally suited for a third national holiday

    “The effects of the colonial past still permeate the present and are the cause of today’s inequality in society,” the organizers write. In 2019, Tony’s Chocolonely was one of the first companies in the Netherlands to give employees a day off on 1 July, “because we didn’t want to wait for the government”. This year, several dozen employers, including Greenpeace and COC Netherlands, are following suit. Because the Netherlands has no legally required days off, employers and employees mutually agree, often in a collective labor agreement, whether employees are collectively free on a certain day.

    On July 1, 1863, the Netherlands abolished slavery in Suriname by law. Keti Koti (which means ‘broken chains’ in Sranantongo) is a holiday that is originally Surinamese. After the abolition law, enslaved people had to continue to work on the plantations and workhouses for another ten years, until 1873. In 2023, the campaign organizers will therefore celebrate the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery. “We are increasing the pressure to make July 1 a national holiday and commemoration day in 2023,” the activists said.

    Also read this opinion piece by Karwan Fatah-Black: National commemoration of slavery calls for debate