Today, we celebrate emancipation of the Black African slaves. Slavery and indentureship (akin to slavery) were the most reprehensible chapter of our modern history. Our fore parents toiled in the sugar and coconut estates to enrich the White owners and empires and build the country we call Guyana and wherever else our ancestors were taken. At one time, Indians and Africans were not considered as full humans. But they fought hard and overcame that inequality and abuse. They built the nation with bare hands in manual labour.
During slavery and Indian indentureship and the struggle for independence, our ancestors staged rebellions, rallies and protests. They were shot upon. They were beaten mercilessly. Several lost their limbs and or lives. They fought to assert their God given rights as equal human beings and to be treated with dignity. Slavery ended 182 years ago and indentureship some 82 years later – exactly one hundred years ago from today. Their freedom from slavery and indentureship was only the beginning of the struggle. They would fight for political representation that regretfully would be denied to them not by Whites but their own.
It is important to remember our ancestors and pay homage to them. Without their struggle, we won’t be here and what we are – politicians, doctors, lawyers, professionals, et al. Our enslaved ancestors shape our presence and sacrificed for us. We, our parents, grandparents and our children, are born free and can live our lives in freedom as members of the human race because of their sacrifices.
Blacks proudly gather as they should to recognize and celebrate the struggle of their ancestors to obtain freedom from chattel slavery. And like the Blacks, Indians also come together annually to remember the history of persecution and recognize the contributions of their ancestors on May 5. Ironically, this year, Guyanese of all ethnicities come together on August 1 to struggle against a different kind of slavery – to dehumanize and disenfranchise the nation, to ‘tief’ an election, and to oppose the start of another kind of enslavement related to rigging that we experienced between 1966 and 1992. We must not forget that struggle and those who gave their lives fighting for the restoration of voting rights in Guyana in much the same way John Lewis did for Black Americans.
Our freedom from slavery and indentureship was fought for very hard. It was not just handed over to us by the Whites. An emancipation and end to indentureship not only free us from enslaved labour, but they would over time prepare us for political representation. They provided the seeds for the ennobling opportunity to serve our people through elections, another right we fought hard for. It was not an opportunity to ‘tief’ elections to win office.
And the right to vote was also fought for very hard. In 1953, Indians, Africans and others were given the right to vote, but after the Whites gave us independence in 1966, the vote was quickly taken away by the PNC technocracy. People were enslaved into supporting an oppressive, fascist dictator for almost three decades. It is ironic that we are calling upon the foreign Whites to help protect our rights that are now being denied by those who inherit the powers from the Whites. The right to vote was restored in 1992 largely with intervention of foreign Whites. And today, another attempt was made to take away the vote of last March. And the foreign Whites are championing Guyanese right to vote.
As we observe emancipation day, we must salute the contributions of the African ancestors and others who helped to free us from slave and indentured bondage, election rigging, and starvation during the 1970s and 1980s. Emancipation in 1838, 1920, 1992, and 2020 provided the opportunity for a fresh start and to free our minds from evil. As freed people, we must oppose any attempt to impose another kind of enslavement on people regardless of their race. We must stop those seeking to return us to the past of refusing to accept electoral rejection in a free and fair vote.
We must use the occasion to commit not to ill-treat others on account of their race and deny them the right to the vote. If supporters of the coalition can have the right to the vote and have them accurately counted, why not supporters of other parties? Or people of other races? No race or supporter of another party is inferior. We cannot on one hand say we are proud Africans and Guyana is an African nation, as some have asserted in racist comments, and then proceed to deny people of other races, 70% of the population, as inferior races and not worthy of equality of their race. We cannot deny people of other races or supporters of other parties the right to their vote. It is a most shameful episode in the African people history to want to deny others a government that they won fair and square as observed and reported by election monitors. The slaves did back-breaking work on plantations. Never in their imagination did they think that some of their descendants would engage in rigging elections and practice enslavement (rule people against their will in fraudulent elections).
I urge all to resolve to conduct themselves honestly for the improvement of our nation and respect the will of voters.
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