Another August is here again, a time of much significance especially for Guyanese of African descent, with its inspiring theme of ‘emancipation.’ There are the usual celebrations of cultural heritage in all its forms – dance, music, drums, foods, etc.
There would be the usual reflections of the pre and post-emancipation era of the contributions made by our forefathers and the sacrifices made to purchase and build our communities, and the various forms of tribute to the ancestors. Two such communities come to mind, being among the first established villages – Buxton and Victoria.
For the past two weeks there has been a convergence of the diaspora on these communities, and I am quite sure on other communities as well, for a sort of ‘groundings with my brothers and sisters,’ but my focus is on Buxton since it was a bulwark of the emancipation movement, notwithstanding the major contributions of other African Guyanese villages.
Sometimes I find these celebrations strangely lacking; I am not knocking the organizers of these events; I am just trying to highlight the lack, or for want of a better word, the shortcomings.
The village of Buxton is sparing no effort to break with its recent past and I am one of many who has been born and bred in this premier village that is quite happy at the efforts made by everyone so far to reverse the fortunes of the community. These events planned are not without the usual day of sports, concerts, dinner and dance, church services, reunions just to name a few. These events we must agree are hardly challenging, and contribute only in a very small way to the solution of the myriad problems that continues to exist within Buxton, especially poverty, and no amount of pageantry is going to make it disappear. But I am convinced that we can start by engaging ourselves in serious debate, challenging our minds to dispel whatever notions, might be out there.
We are in a unique position at this time; there is an invasion of our brothers and sisters from foreign lands here on reunions and to celebrate with us 170 years of the village movement, hence the need to impress upon them the urgency of the task of empowering every man, woman and child, mentally, to prepare us economically for a sustainable future.
A task which may well be unattainable if not treated with urgency.
This calls for lengthy research, discussion, training and implementation – a feat that can hardly ever be attained in the course of one day.
This is the missing component from these events – economic empowerment. I would be happy if it formed part of the discussion at the symposium, but it is the priority, at the end of which concrete plans or programmes to move to the next level should be arrived at. These are the hallmarks of a successful confab.
Victoria probably recognized such a need, and although they are celebrating, they have recognized that the spirit of emancipation may be defeated if efforts are not made to seriously tackle “the apathy that sets in over a period of gradual decline.” They engaged with their diaspora in the likes of Donald Ainsworth, Saul, and Poole at a conference which began on August 5 and lasted over a number of days, to deal with the whole question of economic empowerment and sustainability. A quote from a news article underscores the seriousness of the village situation which could aptly describe Buxton; it reads, “Villagers must be ready to admit that the old village economy built on a few agricultural crops is no longer adequate to sustain a growing population.” In that case there is an urgent need for a transformational leap of the economy that has traditionally been the means of economic prosperity in the village. The article concluded by saying that the journey from the purchase to the present must provide information that will lead to a sustainable future. It is time for us to take control, it is time to change the status quo – a fitting emancipation tribute to the ancestors.