“We must continue to work, fight against racism, other injustices” – PM

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Prime Minister Mark Phillips

While noting that Emancipation Day is a time to reflect on the sacrifices of enslaved Africans to attain freedom, Prime Minister, Retired Brigadier Mark Phillips has said that the fight against social injustices such as racism and social inequalities continues even today, hence, he underscored the importance of remaining resilient to overcome these hurdles.

PM Phillips made this remark in his Emancipation Day 2021 message, which he delivered on Sunday at the Emancipation concert held at the 1823 Monument located at the Georgetown seawall.

The event, which was streamed virtually for the public, was organised by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport in observance of Emancipation 2021. Prime Minister Phillips attended the concert in company of his wife, Mignon Bowen-Phillips.

During his address, the Prime Minister reminded that time must always be taken to reflect on the sacrifices of ancestors and their astounding will and courage that were exhibited in their fight for freedom.

“In the spirit of Emancipation, I encourage that we continue to work towards mutual respect and to fight against the injustices of society, much like our African forefathers did. We must remember the strength that lies in being a unified nation – for it is unity that will forever allow us to thrive,” PM said in his Emancipation Day message.

Prime Minister Phillips and his wife, Mignon Bowen-Phillips on Emancipation Day

During his address, the Prime Minister reminded that time must always be taken to reflect on the sacrifices of ancestors and their astounding will and courage that were exhibited in their fight for freedom.

“In the spirit of Emancipation, I encourage that we continue to work towards mutual respect and to fight against the injustices of society, much like our African forefathers did. We must remember the strength that lies in being a unified nation – for it is unity that will forever allow us to thrive,” PM said in his Emancipation Day message

According to Phillips, it is important to remember that despite the achievement of Emancipation, there still remain many challenges that people of African heritage have to overcome that are as a result of the lingering aftermath of slavery. These include racism and socioeconomic inequalities, among others.

“Globally, issues of racism, and other social, political and economic problems remain critical areas of concern and discussion – particularly in territories where slavery reigned centuries ago. While solutions to these issues continue to be sought, there are successful takeaways that Emancipation has produced. It reminds us of the importance of perseverance, resilience, justice and respect for human rights,” he asserted.

These lessons, the Prime Minister went on to point out, can continue to be observed in everyday life, both as individuals and as a nation.

Moreover, PM Phillips contended that these lessons learnt from ancestors can help guide this current generation as they strive to overcome issues that plague Guyana today. This includes the global pandemic and a natural disaster by flooding, the likes of which the country has never seen before.

He noted that both of these have taught the importance of working together, persevering and being resilient in the face of major threats to the world’s existence.

“Similarly, we are constantly reminded of the need to appreciate the freedom of our beliefs and respect for our differences in our multi-ethnic society in Guyana – such freedoms and respect were rights fought for in the fight for Emancipation,” the Prime Minister stated.

On this note, Phillips further contended that the enslavement of Africans remains one of the most odious events in history, where millions of men, women and children endured unimaginable acts of violence, oppression and exploitation over four centuries.

“Through it all, the African peoples suffered not only a loss of freedom, but slavery took from them their home, their culture, their identity and their families.”

“Yet, they endured – on the backs of the sacrifices of slaves like Cuffy, Damon and Quamina. The rebellions led by these slaves and many other rebellions in the British West Indies played a major role in the abolition of slavery,” the PM said.

Meanwhile, Education Minister Priya Manickchand and Tourism, Industry and Commerce Minister Oneidge Waldron were among those in attendance at the Emancipation Day event.