‘Emancipation isn’t over’
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President David Granger delivering the keynote address during Friday’s Emancipation-eve event
President David Granger delivering the keynote address during Friday’s Emancipation-eve event

– President Granger rates education an essential element of emancipation

By Tamica Garnett

EMANCIPATION for the African slaves was not an event but is in fact a process, and Afro-Guyanese must continue to renew that Emancipation covenant, seeing the annual celebration as a reminder that Afro-Guyanese must continue to work to maintain that freedom and right to respect.

Those were the thoughts of President David Granger as he delivered the keynote address, and fielded questions from a number of eager young persons during a virtual Emancipation Eve event organised by the International Decade for People of African Descent Assembly – Guyana on Friday.

Presenting on “Historic Moments and Turning Points in African Guyanese History”, the president emphasised that Emancipation for African slaves was the single most important turning point in African history, both because of what freedom meant for the slaves, and because it paved the way for all other historical occurrences in Guyana’s history, including the country’s eventual independence from British colonialism.

“There is no other event in African- Guyanese history that is more important than Emancipation. It was like coming out of prison; it was when this nation was born. It was more important than Independence,” President Granger said.

He highlighted that it was Emancipation that paved the way for “The Village Movement”, which was more than about Africans leaving the White-owned plantation, but about Africans developing an identity for themselves.

“The Village Movement wasn’t just a physical movement, but a reassembly of the family. Built on four pillars: 1) was the family, they wanted homes; 2) they wanted to build their own farms; 3) they wanted to build their own churches; and 4) they wanted to build schools,” he noted.
“The Village Movement” refers to the developments immediately after the end of slavery, whereby African slaves pooled their money and bought a number of plantations to create their own communities.

He emphasised that the pillars on which the villages were initially established still remain very much relevant to this day, and urged that Afro-Guyanese continue the tradition of the forefathers.

“In every village, I urge that we preserve those four pillars. When I go into a village and there’s no farming, schools, or churches, I get very worried because those pillars are necessary,” the President said, adding:

“Today, we have to empower our villages; we have to continue to strengthen our villages, because majority of Africans in Guyana still live in villages; in rural areas. We have to make those villages stronger; to encourage them to produce more foods, get into marketing, and to pay attention to the economic foundation of our villages.”
The President particularly emphasised the importance and necessity of education, and the need for Afro-Guyanese to continue to see education as their way out of any struggle.

“Education must be like at the time of Emancipation one of the four pillars and remain one of the four pillars of African Guyanese. Next to clothing and shelter, education is the single most important investment father and mothers could give to their children,” Granger asserted.

Just as their forefathers established the village movement so as to provide a better future for their children, Afro-Guyanese must continue to be conscious of the groundwork they lay now, to provide a better future for the generations to come.

Though steep in good intentions, the village movement faced its share of challenges even from its very inception, and diminished over the years as a result of these challenges. Many of the challenges were purposefully implemented to keep Africans oppressed.

“The village movement did suffer problems, many survived but that period wasn’t without its challenges. Taxation was only one of them. By end of 19 century many of the villages were in difficult circumstances,” Granger noted.

He further noted that “legislative encirclement” was also employed to keep the village movement oppressed. The village movement, Granger noted, was one among a series of undertakings that successively followed emancipation, and which shaped the Guyanese landscape into what it is today. Following Emancipation and the village movement, Granger said there were the labour, cultural and political movement.

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