Support Village Voice News With a Donation of Your Choice.
In a previous editorial captioned, “The Village Movement (TVM) and the establishment of Guyanese African identity” this publication examined and emphasised the conversion of plantations into free villages.
Many historians, though, take a more holistic approach to TVM. Those experts include former president Brigadier David Granger. This article focuses on that view.
Brigadier Granger has written and spoken extensively on the subject of TVM. In his pronouncements, the noted historian and expert on the subject has made points which he repeatedly underscores.
The Village Movement was much more than the creation of physical villages; it represents the establishment of “villages” within the minds of freed former slaves.
The Village Movement set the foundation for the structure of Guyanese society as we know it.
The Village Movement established — in the minds of former slaves — the fact that they have the power to effect massive and fundamental social and economic change.
The village movement was a process that was initiated by the process of Emancipation, and those two processes cannot be examined separate from each other.
Unity among our diverse people’s is essential.
In his scholarly article, The Emancipation Movement: the pursuit of dignity and liberty, Granger writes about the process that gave rise to TVM.
The historian points out that
events are never the result of any single factor or circumstance. Instead, historical events have their origins in incidents and movements which took place long before those historical events occurred. Understanding historical occurrences, therefore, requires examining these various movements and events in their contextual entirety.
Referring to the process of Emancipation, Granger said that the Emancipation Movement was a continuous struggle by enslaved Africans, aimed at dismantling the system of enslavement through acts of rebellion, resistance and runaways. He notes the numerous rebellions in Berbice in 1733-34, 1749, 1752, 1762 and 1763-64; in Essequibo in 1732, 1772 and 1834; and in Demerara in 1795, 1804, 1807 and 1823. He argues that those revolts were part of the Emancipation process. Granger strongly implies that this phase of the process prepared slaves psychologically for their eventual freedom; just as it prepared them to make the transition from being in conditions of bondage to being free.
With regard to the current shape of Guyanese society, Granger said, “These villages, which were established on the coastland, were the single most important economic, social and political development in the history of our country,” he said that, “the historical pillars of success: family, religion, education and gainful means of employment, particularly in the agriculture sector, must be upheld.”
Underscoring his position that Emancipation is a process, the former Head of State said, “Unless we work on this goal, we will not achieve full emancipation. Emancipation is not something, which has happened, Emancipation is continuous. You have to continue working to ensure that you are free. Let us look after our children,” he admonishes.
The former president also emphasises the economic potential of villages. He points out that villages were once economic powerhouses, and they can be such again.
Granger has said that, “Programmes for the economic empowerment of Guyanese people of African descent could well originate in our villages, which, famously became the cradle of African economic empowerment after Emancipation in 1838. The freed Africans pooled their resources and invested their savings to buy abandoned plantations. They converted those plantations into human settlements. Villages are vital centers of human settlement and economic enterprise. Two out of every three Guyanese still live in villages. Villagers are repositories of accumulated knowledge and expertise.”
The Head of State has said that villages should never have become dormitories but must return to being power houses of food production.
“Villages must be revitalised to provide the bases for small and medium-sized enterprises, including cottage industries, to be established to provide employment and generate wealth. They have the potential for increased agricultural, agro-processing and value-added production. Villages, also, can expand the range of services, which they present provide for residents. Given the skills of our people, I have no doubt that we can produce to satisfy our needs and the export market. If we start supporting our communities and villages, then we can empower housewives and families in the villages. We have the power in our villages,” the former President said.
Granger, at every opportunity speaks of the potential for unity. At an Emancipation day event in 2016, he said, “Today we pay homage to the founders of these villages, not as ethnic enclaves to separate and divide our people, but as settlements where people could be free. We pay homage to the churches, which stood by the people during the dark days of enslavement, to the village fathers. We are proud, proud of the emancipation struggle, proud of the movement, proud of the village movement, the political movement, the cultural movement.”
The former president said that we must bridge gaps and foster freedom in every sense. He noted that it is through Emancipation that Guyana has been blessed with a diverse population from different racial groups in which all members are endowed with unique talents, skills and cultural heritages, which must be unified for nation-building.