Another Emancipation Day has come and gone. This year’s celebration marked 177 years since our enslaved forebears were set free. The day, August 1, is marked by a celebration held in the National Park under the auspices of the African Cultural Development Association (ACDA) which seems to set itself forward as the national authority on African culture.
Before the dawning of ACDA in 1992 and its current lock on the National Park festivities, the event celebrating emancipation and African culture was called ‘Folk Festival’. It was held at the same venue on the same day and touted African food, games, clothing, music and other such festivities as you would expect at a ‘Folk Festival’. We are told that it started sometime in the 80s and we’re not sure that anything else obtained prior to that, in terms of that kind of celebration.
The ‘Folk Festival’ was hosted by the then Guyana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC). What we remember most about it is its catchy advertisement – a conversation (possibly on a CB radio) between an eagle and a carrion crow. Neither bird holds any significance for the occasion, so it was clearly just a bit of nonsense that someone dreamed up, which caught on. We imagine therefore that the folks who came together to form ACDA must have cringed every time they heard it.
But there are/were other activities. The day, night rather, before Emancipation Day a libation ceremony is held, traditionally at Public Buildings, where the ritual involves the offering of liquid tributes to our ancestors. There are also prayers, drums and dances. Hopetown Village on the West Coast Berbice, populated mainly by African Guyanese, was famous in the 70s and 80s for its Soiree, we’re told. This celebration was also held on Emancipation Eve and involved traditional African drumming and dancing among other rituals. It eventually all died away, but was resuscitated this year by young Guyanese who have an interest in keeping their culture alive. Good for them!
Several other villages host celebrations, but on a smaller scale. Some have stood the test of time, while others have become a spectre of their former grandness, lost in the glare of television, iPads, iPods, computer and smartphone screens. Or if not, they came in second to the cutthroat pursuit of academics, which glorifies attending school in July and August as well as extra lessons two or three times a day. And why? Because children, egged on by lunatic parents, are in competition to sit 16 and upwards subjects at the Caribbean-administered examinations.
But if perchance some of them rebel and decide that they want to soak up a bit of the African culture, it is to ACDA that they should look right? Wrong. In this day and age when young people get most of their information from devices they can hold in the palms of their hands and carry in their pockets, the organisation has not updated its website since the first emancipation. Okay that’s a joke, but seriously most of it is desert-like. And whoever is supposed to update it, lazily posts stuff grabbed from other websites. There is a Facebook page, Acda guy, but since it seems to be a personal rather than an organisation page, that doesn’t count.
Look, if you’re going to be on the worldwide web, command a presence, share information, get up to date. Take a look at how other organisations promote themselves. If you can’t get with the program, just scrap the idea. The desultory approach is just embarrassing. It’s not cutting it.