GUYANA: EMANCIPATION DAY 2020 – Messages from various organizations

PEOPLE’S NATIONAL CONGRESS REFORM

On the first of August 1838, descendants of Africans in Guyana regained their freedom after two centuries of enslavement. Every August, therefore, it is fitting that the entire Guyanese nation should participate in the public celebration to commemorate not only the bloody sacrifices of the Africans who struggled, suffered and were slaughtered for the sake of the freedom we all enjoy today but also the birth of the nation itself which was the consequence of Emancipation.

In fact, Emancipation is Guyana’s most important national celebration. It marks the start of the most significant demographic change through the coming of various ethnic groups – mainly the Portuguese, East Indians and Chinese; the transformation of the coastal landscape through the creation of free villages; the diversification of the economy into the production of food crops, gold-mining and logging; and, eventually, the liberation of society through the popular movements for labour organisation, constitutional reform and political mobilisation.

In celebrating Emancipation, we celebrate the diversity of the Guyanese nation and the rich cultural heritage of all our people. Emancipation was not for few, but for all. It is true that the African fore parents of the Guyanese people fought for freedom 257 years ago in the Berbice Revolt led by Kofi; 197 years ago in the Demerara Revolt inspired by Kwamina; 186 years ago in the Essequibo Revolt led by Damon; and in so many other places at many other times. Today, Guyanese of all races are the beneficiaries and heirs of our nation’s first freedom fighters.

After Emancipation, the free people established village communities which became the crucible of what became recognised as African-Guyanese culture which rested securely on the foundation of freedom and was manifested in their adherence to the church – almost every African was a Christian and almost every village had at least one church; the family home – regardless how poor, everyone was a member of a family and had a home in which to live; the school – in which they were enabled to achieve near universal literacy; and the farm – the provision grounds which made Guyana a major exporter of vegetables to the Eastern Caribbean by early in the 20th Century.

This was the Emancipation Covenant for which the fore parents of the African-Guyanese fought – freedom; faith; family; education and labour. Emancipation was about liberation, not just from enslavement on the plantation, but from all forms of restrictions that prevented them from enjoying a dignified life. They understood that Emancipation was not a single event that occurred on August 1. It was the start of a continuous process in which the emancipated must continuously emancipate themselves.

Emancipation, after all, was not a finite event that ended 182 years ago. Rather, it was the start of a long, continuous process which must aim at affording a higher quality of life to Guyanese of every race.
Happy Emancipation Day!

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PEOPLE’S PROGRESSIVE PARTY

This year marks the 186th anniversary of the formal abolition of slavery in British colonies and the Peoples’ Progressive Party (PPP) takes this opportunity to salute our Afro-Guyanese brothers and sisters across the country and in the Diaspora on the occasion of Emancipation Day 2020.

This anniversary provides yet another opportune moment to reflect on the sacrifices made by our African ancestors who were brought to these shores in chains and against their will. Stripped of their humanity and dignity and forced to toil long hours, to say that our African ancestors suffered at the hands of the sugar planters would be a gross understatement. During that genocidal period, many were tortured and brutally killed for standing up for their rights. In the long march to freedom, many battles were fought, including the Berbice Slave rebellion led by our National Hero, Cuffy. In the end, the resilient spirit of resistance, demonstrated by our African ancestors, prevailed and freedom was attained in August 1838.

Their unwavering courage while experiencing the cruelties of slavery, not only led to their freedom but remains a beacon of hope for freedom-loving people in Guyana and around the world. Freed and successful in forging a society, having purchased a number of villages, there were attempts by the sugar planters to sabotage the slaves’ newly won freedom. However, their determination for success and peace resulted in their triumph once again.

Our African ancestors and their descendants have and continue to make invaluable contributions to the development of Guyana. The foundations of our society and economy were firmly laid by them through hard work and commitment to their homeland. We recognize that due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the traditionally rich cultural expositions held throughout our country to celebrate Emancipation Day will be curtailed. While unavoidable, the spirit of what this occasion symbolizes cannot be subdued.

The PPP remains proud of the fact that it remains the largest multi-ethnic political party and will continue to welcome all Guyanese into its ranks from all races and ethnicities – who, like our fore-parents, share our vision of a society grounded on justice and the principle of racial equality, and one where governance caters for each and every citizen regardless of race, colour or creed. Once again, Happy Emancipation Day greetings to all Guyanese, in particular our Afro-Guyanese brothers and sisters.

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PROTECTED AREAS COMMISSION

The Protected Areas Commission (PAC) would like to wish all Guyanese, particularly our brothers and sisters of African descent, a happy Emancipation Day.
As we celebrate the 182nd anniversary of the abolition of slavery we are reminded that the freedom we have today is as a result of the struggles – the long fight of our African ancestors. After gaining their freedom they worked toward creating and developing their own communities and villages.

For example, many areas along the East Coast were developed and transformed into residential villages and in some cases farmlands – this is how the Africans survived the post slavery years. Being free from bondage also gave Africans a sense of dignity as they were no longer subjected to the inhumane conditions of slavery. Surviving slavery can only be achieved by the physically and mentally strong.

African Guyanese have also developed themselves, becoming teachers, scholars, degree holders, chefs, nurses, doctors, lawyers, scientists, politicians, religious leaders, and even presidents among other things, contributing to the development of our country.

Even as we celebrate the many achievements of Africans, meaningful recollection is important to ensure that the mistakes of the past are never made again, even as some may dub it, “modern day slavery” or “mental slavery”. Remaining emancipated is indeed an uphill task in today’s world – however we must continue to strive to achieve such. There is indeed much to celebrate but also much to reflect on.

We at PAC greet you in the spirit of freedom brought by emancipation and would like to remind all Guyanese that we are now free to take ownership, take responsibility for, and help to take care of our national protected areas – our natural heritage
A happy and safe Emancipation Day to all Guyanese.

GUYANA TRADES UNION CONGRESS

The Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) extends Emancipation Greetings to all Guyanese. As we mark the 182nd anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation lest we forget freedom gained must be guarded and protected. Emancipation marks an achievement borne out of centuries of struggle to be treated as human beings, to enjoy dignity, freedoms and human rights.

This is the time when we focus on the forced journey of Africans from their homeland to new homes, their contributions to Guyana and where they are now. What does the future hold for Africans? United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in 2008, addressing issues of the slave trade and slavery noted: “This unparalleled global tragedy claimed untold millions of lives over four centuries, and left a terrible legacy that continues to dehumanise and oppress people around the world to this day.”

Physical freedom from chattel slavery is by no measure the finality of the struggle of a people but merely a stepping stone to the attainment of full civil, economic, social, cultural and political rights. Much remains to be done to achieve a nation all can be proud of; a nation borne out of sacrifice and common need for belongingness and participating in its bounties.

GTUC is not unaware in this political season, where an election remains inconclusive, tensions amongst us are high. These are borne out of fear of marginalisation and discrimination, hindering the felt need for security, unleashing and realising our full potentials. Collectively we must work to confront these with the aim at arriving at solutions and safeguarding our welfare.

GTUC reiterates its call to our Government, Opposition, private sector, civil society, religious organisations, et al to give meaning to “inclusionary democracy” which is prescribed as the principal objective of our political system and outlined in Article 13 of the Guyana Constitution. Labour calls for implementation through just policy making, programmes and laws. This must be addressed as a matter of urgency, for we are all here, even though through different experiences, and must work or perish together.

Labour remains convinced “One People One Nation One Destiny” is achievable. Workers will continue the fight for same irrespective of class, creed, political persuasion or other diversity, as we are reminded that whatever affects the African man will affect the Indian, Amerindian, Portuguese and all others.
A luta Continua!

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ETHNIC RELATIONS COMMISSION

The Ethnic Relations Commission, (ERC), extends Emancipation greetings to all Guyanese on the 182nd anniversary marking the end of slavery. The ERC notes that with each commemoration of Emancipation, the Afro-Guyanese community must add a new memory and understanding of their own experience in the social world we share with our fellow humans.

Learning experiences are and will not always be pleasant, but the ancestral ‘will’ to transcend have always enabled us to endure and to meet the challenges cast before us without losing the virtues of our nature. We must not shrink from any confrontation, nor be embittered into losing faith in ourselves when challenged to endure. Our ancestors found resolve and courage in the pits of misery, that slavery from inception, through its rebellions to the abolition of chattel slavery to the struggle to find self as we were remade as colonials, arguably the most extreme extension of slavery.

Individually we were and are severed from Africa, but collectively Africa resides in our soul and guides us. We are the primary foundations upon which Guyana was built, taking nothing away from the contributions of others, yet it must not be diluted that slavery gave the planters access to the talents, rain forest clearing and drainage ideas as well as hygiene applications from the subjugated. After emancipation it was recognised that both planters and Africans ate basically localised African foods.

Those slave ancestors not only carried out plantation duties but also shaped their plantation lives as best to that of their historical memory. In commemorating Emancipation 2020, we must invite our neighbours to learn and appreciate as we appreciate their contributions, of our earned entitlement to living space, freedoms and integrity in this our homeland, to whom we have paid our toll from its foundation. Nevertheless, the Guyanese nation continues to thrive on a unique diversity arising from past occurrences of struggle and sacrifice. Happy Emancipation anniversary to all!

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Comments

  • Desiree Jaikaran  On August 1, 2020 at 4:26 pm

    They say freedom for all Gyanese…. I don’t believe that .. Those are only words.Indo Guyanese are not free. They do not have any voice in Guyana.

  • w  On August 1, 2020 at 4:47 pm

    and……………………………….AWAY WE GO…………………….AGAIN!!!!!

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