GAWU Emancipation Day Message

The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) salutes the country’s significant Afro-Guyanese community on the occasion of the 171st Anniversary of Emancipation. (We count from the 1st August 1838 when FULL FREEDOM from slavery was won).

It is not that the insidious system of the Middle Passage, Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade to British Colonies is not as important as it was brutal and savage. It is not that the transplanting of more than TWELVE MILLION African from West and Central Africa to the Caribbean and Guyana was not an example of man’s greatest inhumanity to man. And certainly, it is NOT that the dehumanized treatment of hundreds of thousands of slaves on Guyana plantations, their struggles and rebellions which culminated in the abolition of the trade and, eventually complete Emancipation, are not worth of examination here.

GAWU, however, whilst paying tribute to the triumph that Emancipation brought to the freed people, wishes to focus, most briefly on two significant aspects of the CONSEQUENCES of Emancipation in 1838.

First, we repeat our agreement with the observation now often made: HAD THERE BEEN NO EMANCIPATION THERE (PROBABLY) WOULD HAVE BEEN NO ARRIVAL! The British, faced by their own internal social economic circumstances, were forced to end both the trade and the system. But they needed to maintain their sugar industry which fed them their European wealth. So they turned to Portugal, to China, to the Caribbean and to INDIA for alternative cheap labour.

To a great extent, they succeeded. As GAWU notes its own involvement in Guyana’s still vital sugar sector, it recognizing the historical role sugar played in being the dubious catalyst which resulted in the makeup of Guyana’s population today. That, surely, is a significant consequence of Emancipation.

Then there is the sterling-example of socio-economic organisation and development demonstrated and implemented by the emancipated men and women in the face of aggressive sabotage and de-stabilisation by the bitter, greedy plantocracy. Slave savings from the (1834-1838) Apprenticeship period bought parts of plantation and other real estate and were developed into coastal village system. Ex-slaves turned to their own agriculture; to limited commerce; to the trades and, later to the professions.

The history since then dictates that the contribution to today’s Guyana by African descended Guyanese can never be denied.

GAWU advances the view, over this week-end especially, that today’s Afro-Guyanese must use, the historical PRIDE at their fore-fathers’ resilience, achievements and contributions to nation-building to do some INTROSPECTION. GAWU respectfully suggests that that might include issues and questions about their community and political LEADERS and, perhaps most of all, WHAT CAN BE DONE TO PROMOTE A UNIFIED NATION where all groups work for the common good. Emancipation 1838, after all, had and has – implications for ALL of us.

A Pleasant, Reflective Emancipation 2009 Weekend.

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