It is interesting to note the debate caused by the announcement that the Government has made a grant available to ACDA for International Year for people of African Descent (IYPAD). Most of these comments often seem to come from individuals who contribute nothing to ACDA or to the African communities in which they live. I do not know which category Mr Skinner falls into because he is often engaged in Guyana through his letters.
For Mr Skinner and others with similar concerns, I have responded to his letter knowing fully ACDA will not be engaged in the game of political football. Our record in Guyana is clear and no government or individual will compromise us or make us change how we vote individually.
First of all, ACDA did not ask the government for money for IYPAD. We never expected it, especially since ACDA led the boycott of the IYPAD launch at the Convention Centre based on principles. It should be remembered that ACDA and representatives from 36 other organizations met in February this year and collectively disagreed with the approach and content of the announced programme, its budget and the fact that at the launch no significant African person including the Leader of the Opposition was on the agenda.
ACDA also went ahead with its IYPAD programme without crying about who was funding whom. To date, ACDA has participated in 43 events in schools, groups and communities in 5 regions, spending for example,$150,000 and $160,000 to twice take NZINGHA, our dance group to Bartica. ACDA has produced fifty 30 x 20 feet heroes posters, cultural and historical notes, and over 20 others documents that have been used by other groups. Our library, the Ronald Waddell Reading Room has been used by many individuals and groups and we have trained groups sent to us in dancing. We have also been integral in the 4 symposia organized and run by the 16-member All African Guyanese Council including one on Food Security, Entrepreneurship, African Land Rights and Farming. In July, we spearheaded the registration of the African Business Council, a trust that will have member organizations in all 10 Guyana regions, which we promoted 6 years ago.
For IYPAD, ACDA has spoken at many events and most times is never given any contributions or the contributions never cover our costs or time, as many of these communities can’t afford it. We daily get invitations to bring artifacts, drums, dancers, books, cloth, etc, and we carry the costs even though we are a self-funding organization with a few key members funding significant events on their own. We are a volunteer organization but our monthly budget (guard, electricity, phones, office supplies etc) is significant, as we have to also maintain our building and school. We don’t even have a bus for our school because we simply can’t afford it. What we have are individuals who are tireless in their obligation to see Guyana become a better place.
Secondly, ACDA is 19 years old and was never formed by nor has had any association with the US Muslim group Mr Skinner mentioned. Earlier this year, individuals based in Linden brought an important guest to Guyana and the public was falsely led to believe by these same individuals that it was ACDA who was the host of this gentleman when problems arose. This is a trick ACDA daily has to fight by groups who are weak and want to embarrass or destroy us. For example, the outrageous toilet now being built behind National Hero Cuffy at the Square of the Revolution is also supposed to be ACDA’s work. This too is a lie and only unintelligent or culturally illiterate people would suggest this.
Thirdly, ACDA has reached out to the diaspora in many ways and for many years. Most recently, we reached out to a prominent email list of more than 300 in the diaspora.
ACDA has reached out on Facebook for US$100 per term to support our students who are bright but can’t afford school fees. We have also reached out to individuals in the diaspora for help and our programmes are well known. Everyone knows ACDA celebrates or commemorates Kwanzaa, African Holocaust Day, Black History Month, Emancipation Day, and that we have 4 key fund-raising vities.
ACDA does get some support from local Guyanese, some of whom have been with us for the long haul and to whom we are grateful. But in the diaspora, only Kean Gibson and a few others have responded. We are in the process of establishing a website for our school and where we may place over 200 articles written by our members. We also for 15 years have had a weekly TV hour, paid for by Sister Violet Jean-Baptiste, our PRO.
Strangely enough, yearly at Emancipation, ACDA is questioned about taking money from the government for Emancipation Day. No one however questions why the Amerindians received $30 million from the government for Amerindian Heritage Month which is September; no one questioned the US$150,000 the Racing Association received or the millions for a privately owned Ogle Airstrip or the random millions of dollars given to other cultures through contracts and cultural event support. No one complains when there are annually 5 or 6 free performances at the Cultural Centre by international groups representing other cultures but none at Emancipation other than what ACDA brings in for that occasion.
Fourthly, Mr Skinner asks why ACDA has a school. Hopefully he has asked himself why Hindus or Muslims have schools in Guyana or why Jews have schools in the USA. So let me answer this question although our school has been in the news many times this year and has been around for 9 years. We have also from time to time, placed TV and newspaper advertisements in the media and have an annual scholarship programme for the best performing African students at CXC for the last 7 years.
Education be it cultural, spiritual, economic and educational has been a major priority of the African Cultural and Development Association as for years ACDA has been very concerned about the status of young African males and females in Guyanese society. ACDA firmly believes a solid value-driven education is a key determinant of success, and yet Guyana’s current educational system promotes illiteracy and non-performance. Additionally, access to quality education, jobs, business capital and power networks are significantly limited to African Guyanese youth due to racial, political, cultural and economic factors.
ACDA has watched over the last 19 years as Guyana has rapidly become an illiterate nation. Indeed, illiteracy is now a national disgrace. Guyana seems to nurture, promote, encourage and reward illiteracy. Guyana was once the most literate nation in the British Commonwealth. Today, that is no longer so. Today, in Guyana, we celebrate our illiteracy in many different ways. We are proud of this national cancer. The prospect of speaking or writing English or of computing simple numbers has rendered many men and women instantly impotent.
ACDA ‘s school was created to nurture a new breed of highly educated, skilled servant leaders whom will understand their heritage and whom will recognise Guyana is a multi-cultural society in which all are equal and should be treated as such. The Centre of Learning and Afro-centric Orientation (COLAACO), which is the name of our school, is designed to serve young children from early childhood to secondary school so as to equip them with the necessary skills to make them excellent productive citizens who are well balanced socially, emotionally, intellectually, physically and morally.
ACDA’s vision is to be a centre of excellence in providing the highest quality education and Afrocentric education and life skills in Guyana and the Caribbean.
ACDA’s principles and philosophy are central to the approach in which we have 10 students to a teacher and in which we will build from Nursery to Grade Six by adding a new class every year until we reach Grade Six.
Our Learning Centre, all of our programmes and all of our approaches, embody the seven principles (NZUGO SABA) of Kwanzaa which include unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. These principles serve as the basis for daily life at the ACDA Learning Complex and are reflected in all aspects of ACDA’s programmes.
Our Philosophy is ‘It takes a village to raise a child.”
The Early Childhood Centre is designed to serve young people from an early childhood programme through primary school and to equip them with the necessary skills relevant to our culture. ACDA does this by fostering a very strong value system and in nurturing each child in our Learning Centre emotionally, intellectually, physically and morally.
ACDA has eight goals, namely:
Through direct involvement ACDA can play a significant and positive role through its input and throughput in determining quality output.
ACDA will work with our young people from playgroup to nursery to primary school stages of their education in order to give them a better than even chance of becoming successful adults.
ACDA desires to empower young people by ensuring that they will achieve functional literacy and social responsibility at an early age. ACDA intends to develop students with lively enquiring minds and a sense of purpose in life.
ACDA plans to provide a learning environment which would stimulate the development of literate and numerate students who are capable of self-directed learning.
ACDA aims to promote pride in work, honesty, concern for others, especially elders and those in authority, a feeling of self-worth and willingness to take responsibility for one’s behaviour.
ACDA aims to create high but realistic expectations and to motivate our youth to live up to them.
ACDA aims to create a positive vision of themselves among young people and to identify positive role-models for them to emulate.
ACDA intends to imbue our youth with a sense of history and culture which will form the base for their actions.
In the meantime, I hope Mr Skinner is satisfied with the answers to his questions and feels empowered to contact his network and help us with a bus, as some of our students bypass dozens of schools to come to COLAACO. We have a student from Golden Grove, one from Mocha and one from Wales among our class of thirty.