President David Granger
Emancipation Day – on 1st August 1838 – marked the end of over 200 years of enslavement in the colonies of Demerara-Essequibo and Berbice. This day marked, also, the start of Guyanese nationhood.
Emancipation enabled Africans who had been enslaved on the plantations to gain their freedom. It triggered, also, the immigration of Portuguese, Indian and Chinese indentured labourers. The descendants of these peoples, together with the indigenous Amerindians, make up the population of the free nation of Guyana today.
Emancipation was the opportunity for people from four continents to build better lives for themselves and generations to come. They embarked on a series of movements to transform the colonial landscape and the peoples’ livelihoods.
The great ‘Village Movement’ started in 1839. This led, eventually, to the ‘political movement’ for civil rights and constitutional change and to the ‘labour movement’ for the improvement of conditions of work in urban and rural areas.
Emancipation Day, therefore, is a most auspicious event of Guyana’s history which should be observed by all. It was, indeed, the start of the process by which the plantations became the foundation of one nation and through which the various peoples began to live and work together in pursuit of a common destiny.
Happy Emancipation Day to all Guyanese!
People’s Progressive Party
The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) wishes to extend warmest Emancipation greetings to every Guyanese, especially our Afro-Guyanese brothers and sisters.
Slavery remains the most cruel and inhumane system of subjugation and discrimination known to human history. The celebration of its abolition is the right and duty of every single human being.
Under the most intolerable and horrendous conditions, the slaves were able to mobilize and struggle relentlessly for their freedom. When freedom finally came, the freed slaves and their descendants, though uneducated, demonstrated an exceptional degree of industry, thrift and financial acumen and hence, were able to acquire large portions of land, which today remains the foundation of our village movement and subsistence cash crop industry.
Indeed, the contributions of slaves and their descendants to every facet of life in this nation is simply immeasurable and it would be impossible to accurately capture in a mere statement of this nature.
As we celebrate this important historic and national occasion, we urge every Guyanese not only to reflect upon the herculean sacrifices of the slaves and their descendants, their incomparable struggles and their remarkable achievements, but also to use them as a source of inspiration and guide as we continue to work together to build a united and democratic nation, free from poverty and discrimination and one in which every Guyanese believes that he/she can achieve his/her true potential.
Happy Emancipation Day to all.
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”. But it is still a valid observation of our shared history. Both slaves “apprentices” and indentured labourers were children of the plantation – however illegitimate they were made to be. Sugar is the historical reason for today’s diverse 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 2017 period should re-inforce 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 the disaster of unemployment as government flounders to fashion a valid structured lasting plan to rescue an historic industry. Closure threatens 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 held 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 2017 from GAWU.