Support Village Voice News With a Donation of Your Choice.
Self-identity is a very integral concept to anyone regardless of creed, culture, or race. As such, I ought not to be misconstrued as racist when I confidently proclaim that “I am a proud Black Guyanese and I carry the dignity of such an honor on my lapels.” Numerous times I am forced into retrospection, examining my station in life as a Black Guyanese. Sadly, I am oft times appalled at my conclusions after such an examination.
I was born and lived at Eldorado Village, a satellite of Belladrum where my family and community taught me the concept of “Black Consciousness,” a concept that is the philosophical underpinning of my life. The 1972 Policy Manifesto of South African Students Organisations defines Black Consciousness as “an attitude of mind, a way of life, with the basic tenet that Black must reject all value systems that seek to make him a foreigner in the country of his birth.” To succumb to an adverse belief reduces his basic human dignity. The concept of Black Consciousness, therefore, implies that Africans are not second-class citizens and must forcefully reject all forms of discrimination while demanding equal treatment.
Africans arrived in Guyana during the 16th century and since then they have persistently fought to be treated as human beings. Their economic and social fortunes were shaped by historical experiences: slavery, colonialism, independence, and the extant post-independence emerging apartheid state.
Throughout their history, despite the most inhumane treatment, Black Guyanese have demonstrated strength and resilience to overcome all challenges and vulgar atrocities. Thousands of our ancestors were interned in the Atlantic Ocean. Others were beaten, raped, and forced to work until death on the plantations of the wild coast of Guyana. Notwithstanding, we managed to defy those vicissitudes and bounced back, buying lands and establishing communities following the abolition of slavery in early 1838.
Notably, our fore-bearers, on whose shoulders we leaned, agitated and advocated on our behalf for better socio-economic conditions and political independence. We understood what it meant to be citizens and honor our obligations with dedicated and invaluable service to the public sector, disciplined services, and other sectors. Yet they are those in our society who do not recognise our contributions and have persistently shown scant regard for our efforts.
Cuffy, Hubert Nathaniel Critchlow, Forbes Burnham, Eusi Kwayana, and Fred Wills among other great Africans have laid the foundation for our independence and we can ill afford to squander their valiant efforts in the fight against slavery, indentureship, and colonialism. Africans have a duty to resist all forms of oppression and subjugation, especially amidst glaring evidence of an emerging apartheid state.
Unfortunately, compared to the days of slavery, we are still surrounded by weak Africans that are subservient to the oppressors and refuse to see the bigger picture. They are least concerned about the plight of the masses. Though in a position of trust, these ‘privileged’ Blacks are placed in power positions but devoid of broad-based authority. Such a ploy should not be underestimated as it is the most dangerous element within the oppressive group and will collaborate with the despot to further strengthen the oppressors’ motives.
Undeniably, the ‘house slave’ mentality strives wherever there is a void of Black Consciousness hence, the affected individuals are unaware of the significance and importance of their own value system, i.e., their socio-economic, political, and cultural values. Implicit in the appreciation of their value system is the need to reject systems, policies, and actions that are designed to oppress and emasculate the Africans. It is not an easy feat since Africans must redefine themselves and their value system. Over the years, our value system was subjected to foreign and exploitative attacks. Consequently, there is the emergence of dystrophic African communities. This is most evident in urban centers and peri-urban areas.
The rebuilding of the African value system requires a convergence of interests: social, economic, religious, cultural, and political. African elites and their constituents must unite to educate and promote the African value system. We must expunge alien values and embrace those that will inevitably strengthen and make us an unconquerable group.
Within the political realm, Africans who are associated with the electoral autocratic regime must ensure that their kith and kin are not reduced to the status of second-class citizens. They must understand that Africans are entitled to a fair share of the nation’s patrimony irrespective of where they place their votes. They must debunk the paltry $56 million contracts, bequeathed to Africans at Buxton, as tokenism, rather than an equitable distribution of government contracts.
Black Consciousness must not be touted as racism. Rather, it must be regarded as an awakening and preservation of Africanism. This concept allows us to peacefully coexist with other racial groups, provided that there are no deliberate attempts to erode our value systems. Most importantly, Black Consciousness allows for the convergence of African interests across the political divide. Hence, we welcome all Africans onboard as we seek to redefine our value system. Only when such a stance is made crystal clear and accepted by our oppressors can members of the Black community experience inclusivity.