ERC reflects on slavery during Emancipation observance

first_imgThe Ethic Relations Commission (ERC) on Wednesday hosted its annual Emancipation Day celebration.Member of staff of ERC performing an item on WednesdayThe celebration programme, full of pomp and vigour,involved reflection into the history of Afro-Guyanese, while the audience was entertained by folk songs, stories, dancing and drumming.A standout entertainment piece featured a poem composed and recited by employee of the Commission, Octavia Walcott, which journeyed into the struggles of then enslaved Africans to their being liberated today.The Black Royalty Dance Group brought the energy as they moved to the sounds of the African drums. With faces tribally painted, and decked out in the tradition wear and colours of their African ancestors, the dancers and lone drummer entertained with their unique moves and twirls.Staff of the Commission then led the signing of folk songs which included Small Days, Bamboo Fiyah, and Morning Neigbour, among others, and the audience joined in the singing.Commissioner Barrington Braithwaite, in his delivery, briefly told the story of the Africans; who, according to him, are a people of great history. He expressed an opinion that Emancipation was just a timeline which saw the beginning of real struggle.“The real struggle began after Emancipation. The struggle to survive and to create space economically and culturally in a world dominated by, and controlled by, the plantocracy was controlled by planters and merchants,” Braithwaite reflected.“They (Africans) saved money. They used to bring to town every Sunday, (which) was market day, and they would bring oranges and limes…they took that money and saved it, and were able to buy those villages when the time came, because their ultimate goal was to create housing and liberation and detachment from the plantation; so they went into business,” he told the audience.“However, the villagers were told, and demanded, that they should pay taxes for the colony to enact drainage. The (colonial) masters took the taxes and funded Indentureship, in the benefit of the planters…The businesses that Africans had created, the plantocracy decided that they were going to work towards destroying them and replace them by the indentured peoples, Portuguese, so that the African would go back, out of need, to work on the plantations at reduced cost.“Emancipation brought into force a whole new cycle of struggle…Emancipation was just a timeline, an important timeline, but had struggles,” Braithwaite disclosed.Emancipation Day in Guyana is observed on August 1st and commemorates the abolition of slavery in Guyana in 1834.Once slavery was finally abolished in 1834, Guyana’s economy and social structure underwent radical changes. Many former slaves left the plantations and populated villages outside of Georgetown and the main cities, or even went inland to settle the frontier.Guyanese use the day to dress up in traditional African attire, which is no longer worn by the vast majority of the population.Guyana’s largest Emancipation Day festival is held at the National Park in Georgetown, where traditional music can be heard throughout the day. Exhibits of African cultural customs will be on display, while singing, dancing, and drumming would occur, with the highlight being the delicious African-style cuisine.last_img read more