Today is the day that has been designated to commemorate the freedom of our African brothers and sisters who endured unspeakable treatment during slavery. What is however worth commemoration is the fact that despite being enslaved way over a century, they were able to commandeer their freedom.
In recognition of this development, we at Kaieteur News are eager to join the rest of our nation in observing this remarkable achievement, which has allowed for August 1 to be duly named Emancipation Day.
Below are some messages to commemorate this auspicious day:
PEOPLE’S NATIONAL CONGRESS REFORM
The People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) joins the Guyanese people in celebrating the 180th Anniversary of the Emancipation of enslaved Africans. The Party regards this event as the most significant in the foundation of our nation and the formation of our society. It was the first step in our country’s long march towards social equality, economic independence and political freedom.
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.
Emancipation is Guyana’s most important national celebration. It marks the start of the most significant demographic change through the coming of the Portuguese, East Indians, West Africans and Chinese and the transformation of the coastal landscape through the creation of free villages and the diversification of the economy into the production of food crops, gold-mining and logging. It led, also, to the liberation of society through the popular movements for educational development, labour organisation 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 foreparents of the Guyanese people fought for freedom 255 years ago in the Berbice Revolt led by Kofi; 195 years ago in the Demerara Revolt inspired by Kwamina; 184 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.
Emancipation, after all, was not a finite event that occurred 180 years ago. It was the commencement of a continuing process, which must aim at providing a ”good life to all Guyanese.” Happy Emancipation!
PEOPLE’S PROGRESSIVE PARTY
The Peoples’ Progressive Party (PPP) once again takes this opportunity to salute our Afro-Guyanese brothers and sisters across the country and in the Diaspora on the occasion of Emancipation Day.
This historic 180th anniversary provides yet another opportune moment to reflect on the sacrifices made by our African ancestors who were brought to these shores in chains in order to provide free labour to the sugar planters.
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 process, 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.
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 independence. However, their determination for success and peace resulted in their triumph.
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.
As our Party once again recognizes the tremendous sacrifices and the selfless contributions African ancestors made to our modern society, it wishes to reiterate the importance of the principle of racial equality, and a governance mechanism where each and every citizen regardless of race, colour or creed, be given an equal opportunity to contribute to advancement of our society.
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 foreparents, share the vision of a society where the good life is enjoyed, not by a privileged few, but by the society as a whole.
Once again, happy Emancipation greetings to all Guyanese, in particular our Afro-Guyanese brothers and sisters.
GUYANA AGRICULTURAL AND GENERAL WORKERS UNION
The final “full freedom” of Emancipation was won after decades of death, suffering, slavery and exploitation from 1763 through 1823 to 1834 and finally 1838.
The spirit of yearning for freedom – that liberty of mind, body and soul from ownership by others never deserted the African slaves and the indentured contracted workers who followed them after full Emancipation in 1838. Numerous were the uprisings, rebellions, protests, riots and strikes. Emancipation never came willingly or cheaply from the colonialists.
Against those sentiments, GAWU salutes the memory of those was struggled and sacrificed for freedom and the descendants of our African forefathers who today have hopefully inherited their spirit of justice and true freedom from those who dared to stand up against the brutal, enslaving colonial system.
It is now popular to repeat that, ”had there been no Emancipation there would have been no Arrival”. However, it is still a valid observation of our shared history. Both slaves “apprentices” and indentured labourers were integrally linked to the plantation. Sugar, historically cannot be separated from today’s demography we know as Guyanese society.
It is perhaps a curious but understandable fact of Guyana’s socio-economic history that sugar brought us together, often forged bonds of collective struggle against the plantocracy and for independence.
GAWU feels that this Emancipation 2018 period should reinforce in us all the lessons of the post-1838 history. In unity, strength is most sustained. Today, sugar workers are at a low ebb facing painful trials and tribulations of unemployment as government flounders to fashion a valid structured lasting plan to rescue an historic industry. Closure has affected thousands – both sugar workers and other members of the working-class. As with the forced apprentices in 1838 today’s sugar workers face a bleak, hopeless future unless, economic sense prevails and the workers’ representatives are listened to with serious intent.
The descendants of Emancipation must all share in equal opportunity as our natural and human resources become available to development for all. No group should be favoured or discriminated against because of political expediency. It is such approaches will help preserve and give enduring meaning to achievements like emancipation and independence.
GAWU urges reflection at this time. Emancipation, Arrival and today’s Challenges are issues that hold lessons for us and guide us in our pursuit and future endeavours. Let us heed them on Emancipation Day and onwards.
A pleasant Emancipation Observance 2018 from GAWU.
ETHNIC RELATIONS COMMISSION
The Chairman, Commissioners and staff of the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) do join with the rest of Guyana in the celebration of the 184th Commemoration of the declaration of the abolition of slavery. A historical landmark that has changed the landscape of our nation forever, initiating the unfolding of modern Guyana, casting off the fetters of over two hundred years of chattel slavery to then commence the even greater struggle of spiritual, mental and economic bondage. Emancipation heralded the coming of other Guyanese, enriching the landscape and compelling the need for answers from a new depth of clarification and fortitude towards an inevitable collective destiny beyond contentions, fears and fragmenting dogmas. Emancipation is the stage that challenges all Guyana to evolve continuously. The years of slavery were the eternal twilight that slipped into the darkest night of struggle, sacrifice and consuming hopelessness, to awake from that long night to the promise of a new dawn with Emancipation. Through the eyes of the ERC, Emancipation is our human movement. A process of cultural and mental awakening that must envelope us all, as we contemplate ground covered; acknowledge causes and errors made, and finally, truly emancipate ourselves and commit a most significant positive posterity to the present and future Guyana. The ERC extends best wishes to all Guyanese on the occasion of Emancipation.
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