Maya Angelo  And Still I Rise

October 27, 2012 – Georgetown, Guyana:
COMMEMORATING AFRICAN HOLOCAUST 2012“AND STILL WE RISE”My brothers and sisters I am extremely pleased to have been given the honour of leading this conversation on the state of African Guyanese in 2012 under the Theme “AND STILL WE RISE”. I commend the organizers of this observance for their steadfastness in commemorating the African Holocaust every year. I am advised that this is the 15th Annual observance.There is deep symbolism in the meaning of the topic “Still We Rise, As the tide rises”. Today it brings with it the hope and aspirations of the African Guyanese to live a good life in their own country. It is this HOPE that tomorrow will be better than today that led our fore-parents after emancipation to create villages and to transform plantations into a vibrant Nation. Long before Mr. Barrack Obama wrote about the AUDACITY OF HOPE our African Guyanese fore-parents had adopted that Mantra in order to create the conditions for a modern society.  

This conversation therefore comes at a very opportune time, for as we gather here today, mothers and young Afro-Guyanese men are still mourning the loss of their sons; gunned down by members of the Guyana Police Force. As we meet, the unemployment in the African community in Guyana is way over 30% and double the national average. As we begin this conversation a little African child will drop out of school and by the time we are finished he or she will be joined by another African boy or girl. As we begin this conversation, the prisons in Guyana are disproportionately filled with African men and many of our women folk are single mothers raising their families without men in the home. I mention all these things to say that we as a people having survived the African holocaust; having endured the trans-Atlantic slave trade; imperialism, colonialism and all the other forms of oppression that our people have faced throughout history, we owe it to our ancestors and to generations still unborn to continue to fight, so that we can forge a better tomorrow from the struggles of today. We must continue to rise!.

In February of 1763 the Slaves in Berbice launched a revolt for freedom. Led by Cuffy (Kofi); the revolutionary ranks rose to over 3000. The revolution lasted well into 1764 and almost toppled European control of Guiana. Poor leadership, personality conflicts and inferior strategy caused the revolution to be put down.

In August of 1823 the Africans in Demerara launched a revolt. It was massive, but like their counterparts in Berbice they too lacked training and they were poorly organized. Our history is filled with many such examples of our forebears rising-up against tyranny but failing because they were poorly organized, or sometimes totally disorganized and most times not properly trained.

So if we are to learn from the failures of the past, what can we take away from the failed efforts and missteps of those who went before:

(i) We must have a strategy

(ii) We must be organized

(iii) We must be trained

David Granger – in an article written in July, 2010 titled “Waking the Dead” had this to say:

“The majority of Guyanese people have always been poor. In the distant past, however even the poor could hope to improve their living conditions and enjoy a high quality of life through a virtuous circle of education-employment-enterprise-empowerment. It is now evident that many have been ensnared in economic misery and poverty. Destitute members of this the growing underclass seems to be crawling out of every alley and avenue.”

Clarence Ellis writing in the Emancipation Magazine in 2003 pointed to the need for an African-Guyanese agenda. His ‘Agenda’ raised questions about identity, the economy, employment, empowerment and other issues affecting Africans in Guyana. Ellis’s initiative rejected the easy resort to soliciting handouts from the Government or seeking solutions from the politicians.

Marcus Garvey’s 1925 Manifesto – “An appeal to the Conscience of the Black Race” reveals the following, “The Negro will have to build his own government, industry, art, science, literature and culture before the world will stop to consider him. Until then, we are but words of a superior race and civilization and the outcast of a standard social system”

At home, the Report on Promotion and Protection of all Human Rights – Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural, including the Right to 2009 Development by United Nations Expert in Ministry issues, Gay Mc Dougall made some very telling discoveries. In compiling her report, she focused her attention on the relations between Afro Guyanese and Indo Guyanese. She emphasized that ethnically divided political and administrative structures and failed political processes have created “deep frustrations and distrust” in the institution of government. As a result, further effective action is required urgently to restore confidence in good governance and the rule of law among all communities, and prevent an inexorable slide into further polarization and possible violence.

African-Guyanese feel that they are systematically discriminated against. That perception springs from several sources. The incontrovertible evidence is that a disproportionately large number of African-Guyanese have been the target of “serious rights violations”, including arbitrary detention without trial, torture, deaths and mistreatment in custody, and killings of innocent civilians. That climate of fear and suppression within the African Guyanese Community continues today, reinforced by the disproportinate use of lethal force by Policemen in African Guyanese communities.

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©2012 OneVoiceCanWin | Georgetown, Guyana


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