Ever since 1838 freed slaves across the country celebrated their emancipation in ways that only they could. Many had nostalgic memories of the land of their ancestors. There were those who had also just come to this the so-called New World so their memories of their homeland were still fresh.
All along the coast there were soirees but there was collective thinking; there were people among the partying group who decided that they were going to take control of their destiny so they bought plantations. It is amazing that in the absence of communication as we know it and the distance between plantations, that so many freed slaves could come up with the idea of buying the land on which they slaved.
There had to be forward planning because money was not at a premium so the people had to begin saving every pittance they collected and they did so with an aim. That land proved to be the salvation of many because it fed the buyers. It was the source of education for the descendants to the extent that in the annals of this country some of the best brains came out of the villages.
It is against that background that people of African ancestry should be ashamed of what is coming out of many villages today. There are people who feel that they have a right to other people’s property without due recognition of the fact that people can only gain something through labour.
The violence exhibited by some is not of the village where everyone combined and conspired to raise the children. Discipline was the hallmark and this was so right up to a few years ago when the ills of the city rapidly spread to the villages.
Today, there will be preparations of various sorts as the residents of the village seek to recall the travails of their ancestors and to rekindle the joys they must have felt at being freed from the bonds of slavery. There will be foods that the slaves brought with them from the so-called Dark Continent—perhaps dark because of the complexion of the people who inhabited it.
Communities will stage marches and candlelight parades; will sing and will beat the drums that came across the Middle Passage more than 500 years ago. They are going to pray, some to their ancestors, for better days and for prosperity. They are going to recall what was but they will not take stock of the things they did to encourage the current situation.
The older people were the custodians of the society. They were the teachers, the nurses and the nannies who instilled discipline in the upcoming generation. They were the people who failed to pass on the traditions of family life because they did not insist that the old ways continue.
Be that as it may this anniversary of the emancipation affords everyone a time of reflection. For one, it is a chance for every Guyanese to strive to be a better person that he was yesterday. In another few months the entire world would observe the United Nations designated Year of the Peoples of African ancestry.
The people of African ancestry are of many hues because of the association of the various races. Some may appear to be lily white while others may be as dark as the dead of night. They will all be observed in the same way that there are many in Guyana who should be commemorating the emancipation of the slaves.
In some villages church bells will peal at midnight because some of them owe their very existence to the freed slaves.
But of greater significance as people observe the anniversary of emancipation should be a programme of mentoring. An older person should take a younger one under his or her tutelage and teach that person the better ways of life. Indeed, this should cut both ways because there are young people who could teach an older one about good living. Education is what makes the difference.
If everyone should use this anniversary observance to reverse the negative trends that have visited the villages and Black communities then the ancestors , if they can see from the grave, would recognise that their travails were not in vain.
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