African Decade support

first_imgWith the present activities focusing on giving meaning to the International Decade for People of African Descent, it might be useful to remember the efforts of the previous PPP Administrations to commemorate the prior “International Year for People of African Descent” (IYPAD) declared in 2011. This is against the background of persistent allegations of “race baiting” statements by former President Bharrat Jagdeo.Back in 2009, the United Nations had designated the year as IYPAD in acknowledgement of the historic injustices that had been inflicted on African peoples and on the need for the world to attempt rectification in the present. At the launching of the event, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had pointed out: “The international community has affirmed that the transatlantic slave trade was an appalling tragedy not only because of its barbarism, but also because of its magnitude, organised nature and negation of the essential humanity of the victims. Even today, Africans and people of African descent continue to suffer the consequences of these acts.”The PPP Government, through the Ministry of Culture, immediately organised a broad- based committee to plan a year-round roster of activities to give life to the declaration. In January, after the launching of the plan of activities, there were some accusations that the Government was excluding some organisations. President Bharrat Jagdeo’s Administration then granted million to the African Cultural and Development Association (ACDA) to support the organisation’s activities to mark the occasion. He did this even though ACDA has been one of the most independent organisations in the African community and has not been shy in criticising the Government on occasion.At the launching of the IYPAD commemoration at the International Convention Centre, then President Jagdeo had promised, “We will as a nation salute, honour and pay tribute to the people of African descent who constitute such a vital part of the fabric of this plural nation and we’re not just going to talk about it, but make sure that financially, the Government will support it.” In a very candid and forthright challenge, Jagdeo also declared, “When we come to the table, whatever differences we have, let’s talk about it here. If you feel that there are sections of the Government that do things that are inimical to the interest of people of African descent, bring it to the table, don’t stay in the corner and cry like a baby.”We believe the former President touched on the crux of the conversations that are presently swirling about his statements on “racial discrimination” against Indian Guyanese in New York. In a society that is racially “plural” as Jagdeo reminded us, we cannot escape the reality that one group or another will unfortunately read “racism” when the issue of race is invoked. But responsible leaders will have to be measured in their responses since the latter can also be dubbed “race baiting”. It is time that those who use our group identifications to divide us be rejected: there are still the disabilities consequent to slavery and indentureship in our midst to confront.As Jagdeo said back then, “This dedication of 2011 as the year for peoples of African descent was necessary because the world needs to yield itself from these afflictions in history, particularly the single affliction that is at the root of the ills suffered by Africans, that is African slavery.” But what should be appreciated is that the then President, as with the present one, sought to go beyond the identification and celebration of cultural survivals – important as those might be.In a landmark speech in 2007 on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade, then President Jagdeo became the first Head of Government of a Caricom State to officially, unequivocally demand reparations for the descendants of Africans against the European slave traders and owners. The support for reparations was once again articulated by Jagdeo at the 2011 launching of IYPAD and these actions should not be conveniently forgotten.last_img