Guyanese celebrate Emancipation Day with colorful presentation

Menes DeGriot performing on the National Park tarmac in Guyana.
Photo by Tangerine Clarke

Brooklyn-based Menes DeGroit excited thousands of mainly young Afro-Guyanese with his rhythmic drumming to pay homage to the ancestors, during a powerful Emancipation Day Festival at Guyana’s National Park, where the colorfully African dressed nationals enjoyed folk culture, creole food, and fellowship on Aug. 1.

The Guyanese-born Kweh Kweh (a pre-wedding ceremony) specialist and his group put on an impressive drumming presentation, before Menes, leader of the Brooklyn Shanto Rhythms band, took to the tarmac to entertain the crowd with Guyanese folk songs.

Guyana’s freedom day is a national holiday in the republic, and commemorates the end of slavery, with families coming together to reflect, enjoy, and plan for the future.

The Emancipation celebration which brought out Prime Minister Hon. Moses Nagamootoo, Mrs. Nagamootoo and several ministers of the government, wearing African attire, applauded performers including the National School of Dance, ACDA Culture Dancers, five-year-old Michael Douglas who recited “Hey Black Child,” and many others.

The annual festival organized by the African Cultural and Development Association (AGDA) showcased its theme “Moving Forward Building Guyana Through Ujamaai” during the exciting afternoon of drumming, dance, poetry and acrobatics, that focused on the talents of young Afro-Guyanese.

This commemoration, geared towards educating generations of Afro-Guyanese of the importance of emancipation, has done well over the years, said Dr. David Hinds, despite the low turnout this year. He said the celebration brings together not only Afro-Guyanese but also, other races into an understanding that emancipation is a significant occasion.

Many Guyanese celebrate in their villages and at small events to popularize emancipation for the younger generation, “but unfortunately,” he said, Guyanese are not sufficiently educated about the significance of emancipation, and called for institutionalized emancipation studies at grade, and university level, so that people understand its significance.

Veteran journalist and playwright, Francis Farrier, feels that Guyanese are educated about emancipation, but argues that not enough history is taught in the classrooms of Guyana.

He suggests that teachers make history exciting, “we can’t be a country of six peoples and not know of each other’s culture.”

“We need to teach history more and more in our country, whether it’s Emancipating, Diwali or Phagwah, we need to get to nationhood. We acquired independences 50 years ago, and yet we still do not have nationhood, added Farrier.

Guyanese youth at the Emancipation festival in Georgetown, Guyana.
Photo by Tangerine Clarke

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