On Friday 20 May 2016, The Guyana Reparations Committee will hold the main event of its month-long activities for the Caricom International and Regional Youth Reparations Relay and Rally at the Parade Ground (Independence Park) where in 1823 over 200 African Guyanese Freedom Fighters and Martyrs were killed by the British and some of their heads decapitated and placed on poles to be displayed in public at the sea wall for months afterwards as a deterrent.
This Caricom Initiative began in Barbados on April 16 when Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, Chairman of the Caricom Heads of State Subcommittee on Reparations launched the event. President Granger is a sitting member of that subcommittee. A reparations Baton, created in Barbados and made of mahogany wood was passed on to Guyana at the event by Chairman of Barbados’ Task Force on Reparations, Professor Dr Pedro Welch, to acting Consul General of Guyana to Barbados, Monique Jackman. It arrived in Guyana on April 19, 2016.
The Caricom Relay and Rally is part of a wider effort to spread the reparations message around the Caribbean, through public education and other initiatives focused on youth.
The Friday May 20 event sits in the middle of a large number of activities all across Guyana. On Friday May 6 and Saturday May 7, the Reparations Baton was sent to Essequibo where it was first taken by boat to Hackney, Liberty, Marlboro and Lillydale in the Pomeroon and to Charity. From Charity runners relayed the Baton to Dartmouth where a ceremony was held. Runners then took the Baton to Anna Regina where a ceremony was held at Damon Square. Runners continued to Queenstown where a ceremony was held and finally the Baton was driven to Hopetown back to the Stelling. At each ceremony, the Moringa Tree (‘The Tree of Life’) was planted.
Essequibo activities were followed by Berbice activities. On Friday 13 May, beginning at Calcutta (Mahaicony), Belladrum, Lichfield, Hopetown, Lovely Lass/Golden Grove and Ithaca. At each stop there was a ceremony and a planting of a Moringa Tree. Drummers, outriders, runners and speeches were all part of the process for this 7-hour journey of the Baton through Region 5, Berbice.
This was followed on Saturday May 14 by Region 6 Berbice. Beginning with the historical heritage village of Sandvoort, the Baton was relayed through Winkel (an historical village of free African technologists) to the Esplanade in New Amsterdam where representatives from Skeldon, Kildonan, Manchester, Lancaster and other African villages were waiting for a grand ceremony which was significantly facilitated by the Mayor of New Amsterdam and several other individuals. Libations, drumming, singing, speeches and tree planting as well as a message from the Guyana Reparations Committee constituted the programme.
Friday May 20 is the next major activity at Parade Ground beginning at 4 pm with young runners leaving with the Baton at Stabroek where slaves were undocked through several historical stops (Parliament Building, Cuffy Square, the Sea Walls) to the Parade Ground for the 6pm programme.
Sir Hilary Beckles, Danny Glover and Don Rojas of the African American Reparations Committee have been invited to the Parade Ground Event.
Following the Parade Ground event both the East Coast and West Coast Demerara villages will stage their own activities. The calendar is as follows:
20 May Plaisance (am)
21 May Mocha (pm)
22 May Buxton (am)
28 May Linden (also 27th)
29 May Farm and other cluster villages (am)
29 May Den Amstel and other cluster villages (pm)
The Baton will then be sent to the next Caricom country after Guyana’s activities are over in May and will tour all 15 Caricom reparations countries this year.
Guyana has produced 3 replicas of the Baton, in beautiful mahogany, one for each of the three original counties of Essequibo, Berbice and Demerara.
An open invitation is offered to all groups and individuals who are interested in the above mentioned activities.
Eric M Phillips
Guyana Reparations Committee