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– participants urged at MAAFA Day observances
By Grace Hutson
The sound of drumming resounded through the community of Kingston as a small group gathered under a tent by the Seawall bandstand last week to commemorate the annual African Holocaust.
They assembled by the ocean to honour African Ancestors who jumped because they preferred to be dead than in bondage. “The fact that if you read history again you will be aware that in this journey through the middle passage, several millions of them suffered because they preferred that over the unknown, they didn’t’ know where they were going, what was going to happen to them so better I die than to face that.” Mr. Elton McRae, a representative from the African Cultural and Development Association (ACDA) said.
The correct term for the English translation “African Holocaust” is “MAAFA” which originated from
Kiswahili signifying “A very terrible occurrence”. Kiswahili Language is the native name for the Swahili Language spoken by “Waswahili” (People who speak Swahili as their first language). Since the commencement to the Trans-Atlantic slave trade “MAAFA” is used to symbolise the enslavement and the genocide that followed thereafter.
In Guyana, the African Holocaust observation is one of the many African practices that have been kept alive. The gathering on the seawall bandstand consisted of organisers from the International Decade for People of African Descent Assembly- Guyana; the Pan-African Movement, Ghana Day Committee, the 1823 Committee and ACDA.
The theme for this year’s observation was “Our resilience and struggle is paramount for our survival as a people”. The sub theme was “Committing ourselves by example to leaving a firm foundation for future generation”
Libations, which is the practice of pouring liquid on the ground to honor the ancestors that have passed while reciting their names and affirmations was done by Bishop Irvin, described as a spiritual warrior who emphasised the importance of educating the African youth who have been indoctrinated with false information about African Culture. He stated that the misleading teaching have cause many people to be afraid of African religion, movements and organisations. “A lot of us, we are not so willing to be part and parcel of African organisations, African struggles, and more so our African spirituality. So as we re-educate our minds, we will remember that you and I are black people and black lives do matter,” he said. His remarks proceeded the Chairman of the ACDA committee Sis Clementine Marshall who reminded the participants that they should not neglect their history and be performative in their observations. “We as Africans do not have to wait until special occasions to acknowledge our people…Never forget your ancestors never forget where we came from” She said. Adjacent to the podium was a table of offerings like fresh flowers and other valuable tributes to be placed in the water as a remembrance of the African Ancestors.
After speeches and charges from several other persons, the group trotted down the seawall led by the thumping of the drums. They made their way to the ocean behind Marriott Hotel and placed their offerings in the waters while reciting chants and drumming.
Speaking with Village Voice, Mr. McRae highlighted the prevalence of MAAFA Day in today’s society in which the struggle for people of African Descent’s rights still persists. “We are still being persecuted, twist it or turn it our freedoms are still being curtailed. The fact that the united Nations recognised that Africans in the diaspora that are outside of Africa are persecuted that is why the Decade of People of African Descent was established because the UN recognised that Africans wherever they are, are not given a fair chance to survive”. The UN international decade for people of African Descent was created to conduct studies and derive statistics and solutions on the marginalization, discrimination and disadvantages faced by people of African Descent worldwide. Observances of MAAFA continue on October 13 with Libations at Parliament building to remember Damon, an African Labourer who was hanged on October 13 1834 for protesting apprenticeship.