On Monday, August 1, 2011, Guyana commemorates the 173rd anniversary of Emancipation. This is a national holiday which should remind all Guyanese of our country’s first transition away from slavery and Guyana’s movement towards Independence.
This year the African Cultural and Development Association (ACDA) commemorates the end of chattel slavery in 1838 with its 15th annual Emancipation Day Festival at the National Park.
This year is also the United Nations International Year for People of African Descent. ACDA has therefore chosen, in acknowledgement of this internationally important year, the theme “Recognition, Justice, Development” for our Emancipation Festival. This theme is also that used for The International Year For People of African Descent (IYPAD). Our sub-theme is “Re-uniting the African Family.”
Ghana, which was the first country south of the Equator to gain independence from colonial rule in 1957 and also the first African country on the continent of Africa to celebrate Emancipation, will this year also use the theme “Re-uniting the African Family” as both its Emancipation and IYPAD themes. Both ACDA and the planners in Ghana seek to remind all Africans of the need for unity and solidarity in all African countries’ sites.
For Emancipation Day 2011, ACDA, in a move away from the tradition of celebrating a single African country each Emancipation Day, will celebrate all 54 African countries this year. Mother Africa, where human life began millions of years ago, is therefore what ACDA and many other groups globally will celebrate this year. The celebration of Mother Africa underscores the reality that Africans were brutally dispersed throughout the world during the Arab and European slave trades, and most Africans in the diaspora cannot be sure of which African country their foreparents and ancestors lived in.
Emancipation means freedom. Because of this, ACDA will commemorate this year’s anniversary by highlighting the birth of the Republic of South Sudan which is the 193rd independent nation recognized by the United Nations.
It became the 54th member country of Africa in the UN. This is after South and North Sudan battled two civil wars over more than five decades. Millions of African lives were sacrificed for this recent freedom and hundreds of thousands continue to suffer and be displaced in neighbouring Darfur because of the greed for oil.
Traditionally, each year ACDA honours and highlights a village bought by freed Africans. This year, in honour of the great achievement of the African Village Movement in Guyana, ACDA will celebrate the more than 100 villages bought by our ancestors after Emancipation.
This year, the celebration of Emancipation at the National Park will be extra special because of the International Year for People of African Descent. ACDA will among other things
1. have a Hall of Heroes to acknowledge the great contributions of Africans to Guyana and the world;
2. have displays that highlight the many unique things about Mother Africa. For example: Did you know Timbuktu really exists and that its libraries have over 700,000 manuscripts covering such diverse topics as law, the structure of the heavens, philosophy, civics, politics, disease and cure, ethical behaviour, labour, agriculture, gold, the slave trade and poetry? Did you know that the Lebombe bones which were found in Swaziland, Africa 35,000 years ago proved mathematics began in Africa – the mathematics of the pyramids further reinforce this fact;
3. have overseas groups which will have dancers born in Africa and its most diversified cultural programme ever;
4. have special activities at the National Park to honour young people as this year is also the United Nations Year of Youth.
This year’s Emancipation Day celebrations will have many of the usual dimensions even though there will be creative modifications to incorporate the significance of the International Year for People of African Descent.
Seven days before Emancipation Day, there will be the IFA House of Santeria annual nightly events of drumming, dancing, singing, storytelling and spirituality in front of Demico House starting at 7 pm.
Each night will have a special theme: July 25 – ancestors; July 26 – Earth Night; July 27 – Water; July 28 – Fire; July 29 – Guyana; July30 – Culture/Libation; July 31 – Candlelight March. The traditional July 31 Candlelight Parade which will be led by Bishop Irving through the streets of Georgetown and which culminates at the Square of the Revolution with a ceremony has now become a nationwide phenomenon. At the Square of the Revolution, visiting overseas groups will be present and a Libation will be held under 1763 Monument.
On Monday August 1, Emancipation Day, the festival will start with the traditional Sunrise Morning Programme which will be held by Faithists groups across Guyana. The National Park will open at 11am and the main cultural extravaganza will begin at 3 pm and will last for 4 to 5 hours. Outside the National Park, ACDA will host several key events such as the Freedom Race.
ACDA’s Performing Arts Group, Nzingha, will also be involved in several activities on July 29 as annual events such as the African Wear Competition held by Courts and the Bank of Guyana as well as by the Ministry of Culture Youth and Sport will be held.
Nzingha also has a concert in Bartica on July 30, and performances in Buxton, Linden and the Square of the Revolution. Groups from several countries and organizations are planning to attend and there will be much more variety in the cultural programme. Several events are planned for children and young adults. Again, this year, anyone who enters the National Park with a ticket will be eligible to win prizes. ACDA hopes to see Guyanese of all races at the National Park on Emancipation Day.