Family, togetherness and culture on display this Emancipation
Men, women and children of all ages took to the Botanical Gardens on Tuesday to spend Emancipation Day.
While some families preferred to don their African wear to pay homage to our African ancestors, others wore brightly coloured clothing, while still keeping in mind the message behind emancipation.
Forty-year-old Ryan Lewis was one of those who donned African wear, and noted that he travelled from Linden with his family to spend the day in the capital city.
“Emancipation means a great deal to me as a son of the African soil, and for my family. It represents the fight that our foreparents went through, that we can be here today, and that we can enjoy this freedom. Our foreparents didn’t have the opportunity to enjoy the things that we are enjoying, and so it’s a day that we should reflect and honour… even if you’re home or at work, you can take a moment to reflect upon the struggles, because we went through real struggles,” he expressed.
Joshua Melville, 19, who spent the day picnicking with his extended family told the Department of Public Information (DPI) that Emancipation Day should be celebrated by all.
“I believe Emancipation Day is for everyone. We all know the story of emancipation and how the slaves were freed on this day in 1838 in the Caribbean, but I believe that Emancipation Day is important for everyone… Because of Emancipation Day, everyone has the right to freedom. So, I do believe that… we should all celebrate it. No matter what background you’re from, we should all celebrate the right to be free,” he said.
Dehron A. Harvey, another member of the family, shared a similar opinion.
“I believe that Emancipation is exactly what it says— to be free, to feel a sense of belief in what you know. As Guyanese, we have come a long way when it comes to slavery. So, emancipation really hits home to every Guyanese, every single year. Emancipation also doesn’t mean just not going to work. You can not go to work and still be enslaved mentally. It doesn’t necessarily have to be enslaved physically, but you can be enslaved financially, and in a lot of ways. So, emancipation is all about a balance, and everything being on a balanced scale, for me,” he explained.
Harvey’s family was one that opted not to wear African cultural wear, but rather to participate in a fun trend of the various households wearing matching colours to their family picnic.
“This day is important, because it [celebrates] freedom for everybody, and the abolition of slavery. Without that, everybody would still be in slavery,” Andrew Ross, aged 62, said.
His family was fully decked in their African cultural wear.
Meanwhile, at the National Park, where an African cultural fest and exhibition took place, Patricia Cornel celebrated the holiday with three generations of family: her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchild.
“As an Afro-Guyanese, you have to learn your history and where you come from, where your foreparents come from, and how they achieved freedom on this day,” she said.
Fashion designer and art enthusiast, Mwanza Glen, said that African culture and their contributions are not just to be celebrated and embraced on Emancipation Day. Instead, he tries to incorporate various aspects of African culture into his everyday life as a designer: hairstyles, accessories, and clothing.
“What I like about the day is that we can celebrate the fight that our ancestors would have fought to get us to this place, so we can have a choice. They didn’t have the choice to get an education, or to wear what they want to wear. Somebody fought for that. So, this day really gives me that memory about the investments of the ancestors, and the investments of all of those who would have fought for our freedom,” he expressed.
Fellow fashion designer, Paula Evans, shared that as a small business owner, Emancipation Day is crucial for marketing her products, which fall under African fashion.
“For me, it’s very important, because you get to interact with a cross-section of the population and foreigners too, and you build clientele from these activities,” she noted.
She also expressed appreciation for Emancipation, stating that the observance reminds persons—especially Afro-Guyanese— of their roots as a people.
Traditionally, Guyanese celebrate Emancipation Day through a number of cultural activities, including festivals, soirees, and queh-queh. Guyanese also enjoy creole foods such as metagee, cook-up-rice, and engage in other activities related to African culture.