Georgetown, Guyana – (August 1, 2018) As Guyana, today, commemorated the 180th anniversary of the Abolition of Slavery, President David Granger urged Guyanese to pursue ‘economic emancipation’, which he said will become the gateway, not only to a better quality of life, but to a greater country as a whole. Economic emancipation, he said, is built on four pillars, namely education, employment, enterprise and empowerment.

Kicking off his Emancipation activities at the 8th of May Movement’s ‘Cultural Night’ at the Beterverwagting (BV)/ Quamina Primary School on Tuesday evening, the Head of State said with the upcoming oil and gas sector, it is necessary for persons to take advantage of the opportunities that will be presented. He noted that the former slaves had the vision and fortitude to establish villages and that it is now up to the descendants to ensure that the freedom fought for and won is utilised in a judicious manner.

“Today, all of us have an obligation to bring about what I call ‘economic emancipation’. We have to make poverty history just as we have made enslavement history. We have to build a society… just as our fore parents 180 years ago did. They were uneducated persons but they had a vision of the future. We too must have a vision for the future and where we want BV and Guyana to go. It is towards economic emancipation that we must turn our efforts. Everyday life is changing in Guyana and we must not be left behind,” he said.

In a direct reference to the oil and gas sector, President Granger noted that education played a critical role in the development of villages and continues to be important to the development of all communities and the country. It is a pathway to economic emancipation, he said.

The President, who has been pushing an ‘Every Child in School’ policy since his assumption to office, called on all residents to make that policy their personal responsibility in a cooperative effort to stamp out illiteracy, truancy and delinquency, so that the villages, communities, and, ultimately, the country, can benefit from young, bright minds, which drive the economy forward.

The Head of State noted that the second and third pillars of economic emancipation, employment and enterprise, made former slaves successful at agriculture and farming. Their descendants, he said, have an obligation to make use of the abundant back dams and open opportunities left for them.

“We must not allow our villages to degenerate into mere dormitories. We must think about making our villages free from economic deprivation. We must plan what we are doing. We didn’t buy these villages, we inherited them… We got these things because of the struggle of our ancestors and if you do not make use of what your ancestors gave to you, you will be poor. They did not intend for you to be poor and destitute. They intended that you should never be slaves again… We must understand this. We must not sit on our hands. We must go out there and use our talents. If we go into our farms, workshops and schools, we will be able to build prosperity. I believe in villages, I believe in Beterverwagting,” President Granger said.

Empowerment, he noted, comes in the form of Local Government Elections (LGEs), which gives the citizens and villagers the power to manage their own communities in their best interests.

Meanwhile, over at No.53/ Union Village, where the Government of Guyana in collaboration with the Berbice Association of African Groups hosted the 2018 Emancipation Day celebrations, the Head of State handed over 25 bicycles for students to attend school. In his address, President Granger noted that 2018 must mark the beginning of the economic emancipation that is to come. He also called on the residents of No.53/ Union Village and other surrounding communities to take up the mantle of continuing to build strong villages, through the upholding of the four historical pillars of success, family, religion, education and gainful means of employment, especially in the area of agriculture.

“The villages are important even to today because the villages are the cradle of the nation. You have to start thinking about the future. The future is bright but if you are not careful, you will lose the advantage. We must continue to strengthen our villages and make them self-reliant. We must educate and empower our own sons and daughters. We must ensure that our children inherit something better than we inherited from our fore parents,” he said.

The President, as is customary, also visited the Glory Light Tabernacle in Plaisance, East Coast Demerara for its annual Emancipation Sunrise Service and Prayer Breakfast. While there, he called on the church to ensure that the community does not forget the people, who made the village a reality and to show the young generation the heights that the village can reach with hard work and commitment.

The President noted that while freed Africans were poor and uneducated, they were rich in their understanding of the need to look after their families. It is primarily for this reason that they pooled their resources and started the Village Movement. Within the first decade after Emancipation, freed Africans purchased 15,000 acres of land at the value of $1M, which they converted into communities. The village of Plaisance, which sits on about 300 acres of land, was purchased by 65 persons for $39,000 in 1842.

The events featured folk songs, drumming and other cultural displays, which were all warmly received by the crowd.

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