Georgetown, Guyana – (August 1, 2017) President David Granger, today, joined with residents of East Berbice-Corentyne (Region Six) for an Emancipation Day Cultural Reception where he spoke of the strong agricultural background of freed Africans, which provided them with the means to purchase their own lands and spark the beginning of the village movement in Guyana. He said that villages such as Gibraltar, Leeds, Fyrish and Union produced and exported agricultural produce to other countries in the region such as Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados. The event was held at the Gibraltar-Courtland Primary School, where several communities also received $1M cheques for sport development.
Speaking to the large crowd gathered there, the President said, “Over the years, your fore parents were able to produce ground provision, fruits and coconuts and they made these villages into the food bowl of the Corentyne. In fact, when the Black Bush Polder was opened they were able to get planting materials from Gibraltar and Leeds…These villages were purpose-built…There was an aim to create a settled peasantry.”
Sitting on about 500 acres of land, Gibraltar was one of the biggest villages purchased 175 years ago during the Village Movement. It was bought a mere four years after the end of slavery by 20 freed Africans at the cost of $4,383. President Granger said the fact that in the decade after Emancipation, freed Africans were able to buy 15,000 acres of land in cash, attest to their visionary thinking. “This was an economic miracle…In the whole western hemisphere there was no movement like the Village Movement of British Guiana at the time in which thousands of people were able to move off of the plantations…We today are the beneficiaries of the miraculous Village Movement. What a people our forefathers were! They gave us the greatest legacy of all, land to build churches, homes, schools and farms,” he said.
The Head of State also called on Guyanese to use this legacy of liberty and land, which they have inherited to improve their lives so that their children’s future will be secured.
A similar call was made by Minister of Education, Ms. Nicolette Henry who said that “We must draw on the rich reservoir of our history to drive our actions today. We are emancipated from the physical shackles of the chattel slavery, but there are still some mental chains that hold us back. True emancipation in this age of ideas will mean that we must strive for critical thinking and innovation.”
She also urged citizens to join the fight against crime, violence, economic underperformance, road carnage, social exclusion and intolerance, which still plague communities and are hindering development.
Meanwhile, Regional Chairman of Region Six, Mr. David Armogan in his remarks said that freedom of the worst forms of indignity, exploitation and inhumanity is reason enough to celebrate. However, he noted that this occasion must be used by the descendants of the enslaved to reflect on their struggles, endurance and achievements.
“Today, these are lessons that we must learn from our foreparents. Whether they came here as slaves, whether they came here as indentured servants, today we have managed to forge a nation called Guyana and all of us have a role to play regardless of our race and our political persuasion and on this Emancipation Day we must recommit ourselves to building our nation. We must recommit ourselves to unity. We must recommit ourselves to living peacefully with each other,” he said.
After the formal ceremony, President Granger presented cheques totalling $1M each to seven communities to develop their sport grounds. The Communities include: Liverpool, Union, Rose Hall, Scottsburg, Gibraltar-Fyrish, New Amsterdam and Kildonan.
The event was well-attended by residents from across Region Six, Georgetown and even the diaspora. It was a spectacle of African-inspired fashion, dance, food and music in a relaxing family-atmosphere. The formal programme also featured a fashion show displaying contemporary and traditional African wear, African drumming exhibition and other cultural activities performed by various African groups from the region.
One of the attendees, Ms. Carlotta Maxwell from Limlair Village said that expressions of African culture are not as strong as it used to be in years gone by, but efforts are being made to train youths to play the African drums and to get involved in various aspects of the culture to ensure that it is retained.
Mr. Shawn Rankin, a youth from the Corentyne, is urging youths to try to get involved with the cultural groups that are already established and try to develop closer relations with persons of artistic backgrounds. “My father is an artist and now I am also an artist, so I followed up the trade with him. People need to pay more attention to these creative people and not just cast aside our culture,” he said.
Ms. Elizabeth Frank from New Amsterdam said that everywhere she goes she would ensure that she and her little grand-daughter dress in their African attire. She also boasted that she specialises in cooking African delicacies. Like Mr. Rankin, Ms. Frank too is urging her fellow citizens to ensure that they cherish the culture that was brought from Africa by their ancestors so that the future generations will always know where they came from.