Focus placed on youth empowerment through unity

first_img2018 Emancipation celebrations By Lakhram BhagiratGuyana’s motto, “One People, One Nation, One Destiny”, was aptly manifested when thousands of Guyanese from various ethnicities donned dashikis and kaftans to join in the African Cultural Development Association’s (ACDA’s) annual Emancipation Day celebrations at the National Park.Emancipation Day signifies the official abolition of slavery on August 1, 1838, a day which signalled the beginning of a new era for the previously enslaved Africans. They started receiving payment for their labour, were able to pool their resources to purchase plantations, and were able to convert them into villages.President David Granger and Social Cohesion Minister Dr George Norton examining some artifacts on displayFor over two decades, ACDA has been putting on the annual celebration in the National Park, highlighting the struggles of the enslaved Africans as well as giving patrons the opportunity to indulge in traditional African cuisine.This year, the celebrations took a turn in a different direction, as it was quite evident that the youths played a bigger part. When Guyana Times took a walk through the National Park and spoke to several celebrants as well as exhibitors, the common theme was the focus on youth empowerment.Finance Minister Winston Jordan stirring the pot of cook-up rice in LindenYouth Purnel Alsopp was with his colleagues manning the Museum of African Heritage’s booth when this publication caught up with him. He said the mere fact that a celebration of this magnitude is being held yearly to honour the struggles of his ancestors makes him immensely proud. He noted that, as cliché as it sounds, Emancipation Day signals the start of another year of empowerment, and looking back.Minister of State Joseph Harmon, Member of Parliament Jermaine Figueira at the Linden Emancipation activities on Wednesday“It means freedom! Being able to separate yourselves from mental slavery and every other type of slavery that is prevalent to the African race. This celebration means camaraderie, consciousness, wake, and a movement we as young black people can be proud of,” Alsopp noted.The sweet sounds of the djembe wafted throughout the National Park, causing those around to vibe to the beats. In addition to the drumming, the sight of persons across all ethnicities decked out in their traditional African clothing was one to behold. The tourists also did not spare the opportunity to flaunt their colourful pieces of clothing.Former Education Minister Priya Manickchand greeting a fellow celebrantIt was a family affair for a lot of people, as they took the opportunity to bond over a pot of cook-up rice and a few conkies as well as a savory slice of cassava pone. Charity was there with her two children and nieces bonding. She said this is her maiden participation in the ACDA Emancipation celebrations, and that she is in awe of the extravagance.Several Administration and Opposition officials took the time to visit the various booths and interact with celebrants. Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo said the importance of Emancipation Day is widely understood, and that we should forge for a unified Guyana.“We’ve spoken extensively about the holocaust that African slaves had to undergo when they were brought here against their will, and the struggle was very intense. But that struggle made a huge difference, because it brought freedom not just for people of African origin, but for people all around the world; and so I am very happy to be here to celebrate the struggle and also the contribution of Afro-Guyanese to the development of our country. They’ve made a seminal development from slavery, as freed slaves and then as Guyanese; and so this is part of our achievement as Guyanese, and this is what we are here to celebrate,” Jagdeo said.Business Minister Dominica Gaskin said Emancipation Day is a time to reflect on what it means not only to African Guyanese, but “also humanity on the whole.”Joining her colleague was junior Natural Resources Minister Simona Broomes, who said she always looks forward to Emancipation Day. She said the day reminds her of the rich culture, history, and privilege of enjoying the freedom fought for by their ancestors.“It is a privilege to celebrate that I am not picking the cotton; rather, I am wearing the cotton. We all should be privileged to be here and celebrate, because had it not being for the good fight that was fought, we would not be here,” she said.Former Attorney General Anil Nandlall and former Education Minister Priya Manickchand took the time to remind Guyanese to honour the sacrifices of the then enslaved Africans, and contributions they have made towards building Guyana. Nandlall’s successor, Basil Williams, said that 180 years later, Guyana is on the threshold of further development, and urged the people to reflect and strive to achieve unity.Cook-up competitionCapitalising on the goodness of Emancipation Day, Chief Brand Products hosted its second Cook-up Rice competition. Participants competed in two categories; namely, vegetarian and obstacle rice, which is a combination of a variety of meats.Each participant was required to use the Chief Brand seasonings along with Lasco coconut milk powder in the preparation of their meal.Tami Khan, Chief Brand Representative, told this publication that the main criterion for judging is the taste, but added that points will be awarded for presentation and aroma. She said the winner would be taking home $100,000 along with bragging rights.In the end, Elvis Shepherd won the obstacles category, while Waveney Dorris took home the vegetarian prize.BerbiceIn Berbice, President David Granger underscored the importance of the Village Movement in the development of any community when he joined the Berbice Association of African Groups at Number 53 Village, Corentyne.Addressing the hundreds in attendance, the Head of State said the Village Movement plays a pivotal role in any community. He equated it to the family, education and employment. The Village Movement, he said, was created by Emancipation.He explained that the slaves pooled their money and were able to purchase a total of 6000 hectares of land.“This was a great Village Movement, but it was not exclusive to Africans. The Village Movement is important even today, because it is the cradle of the Nation,” Granger said.During his address, he rehashed a speech he delivered at Kildonan in August 2015 and echoed at Ithaca on the same day in 2016, and again last year at Fyrish, where he spoke of the four pillars needed to build a strong community: the church, the school, the home and work.At Kildonan, the importance of the school in community development was highlighted; and at Ithaca, the importance of work was focused on. Last year he spoke of the importance of the church. This year it was the Village Movement, as President Granger noted that even though it was the former slaves who pooled their money and bought villages, other ethnic groups moved into those villages.Granger said that after Emancipation, the Africans who were separated from their families returned to their villages. He noted that it was togetherness that ensured that the slaves won legal emancipation. He referred to Emancipation Day as being the most auspicious day on the Guyanese calendar of events.“It was a day of deliverance from the worst crime against humanity — two hundred years of enslavement and bondage. It was a day of departure from degradation and discrimination on the plantation, but it was also a day of determination, in which eighty thousand people decided that they will never be slaves again, and that they wanted better lives for themselves and their children,” Granger said.According to the Head of State, August 1, 1838 was also a day of demographic change in Guyana; for after that day, the country was never the same since… the people of the country came together.Granger said that, apart from the culture celebration, Guyanese now have to move from social emancipation to economic emancipation. According to Granger, in this age of information, ignorance is a choice. On that note, the President announced that bicycles were going to be given to twenty-five children on the Corentyne to assist them to get to and from school.LindenLindeners were treated to an array of African culture on Tuesday and Wednesday at the second annual ‘Freedom fest’, a programme hosted at the Wisroc playfield in Wismar, Linden in observance of Emancipation Day.The programme, which was hosted by Member of Parliament (MP) Jermaine Figueira in collaboration with the Right Start Foundation, commenced on Tuesday with a soiree, and continued into Wednesday with a showcase of African food, music, fashion, poetry and dance.Wednesday’s event saw the attendance of Minister of State Joseph Harmon and Minister of Finance Winston Jordan. It also featured performances by Jamaican artiste Dwayne Stephenson, the Linden Music Band, and Epic dynamic dancers, among others. The initiative was fairly supported by Lindeners, who came out in their numbers over the course of the 2 days.Minister Harmon said he was glad to be joining the people of Linden to celebrate. And Chairman of the Guyana Reparations Committee, Jonathan Adams, in his remarks, also addressed the issue of reparations and issues faced by Africans following emancipation.“We are saying as a people…are saying to those former European partners…’listen, you must help us develop’,” he said.He further called on all to join the support for reparations, and to make it part of their domestic and community and national agenda. Adams said this is where people of African descent are getting opportunity to create equality and equity.He added that the Reparations Committee is presently following up the Ancestral Land Commission and is putting together an Ancestral Lands Bill with the hope of taking it to President David Granger in an effort to achieve 18 percent of the land mass of Guyana for people of African descent. (Additional reporting by Andrew Carmichael and Utamu Belle)last_img read more