Saying that the most glaring challenge for African Guyanese is economic inequity, the Society for African Guyanese Empowerment (SAGE) has urged that they demand that the issue be treated as a national emergency.
“The inequalities and inequities are most manifested in that area of activity. It is estimated that African Guyanese own less that 15 percent of the country’s wealth. This is due in part to a lack of generational wealth and in part to the way in which the economic institutions discriminate against those without wealth. African Guyanese must be afforded formal opportunities in the economic sphere including ownership of Black-owned banks committed to serving the peculiar needs of the Black community and access to government contracts by Black contractors. Equality of outcomes must be premised on equality of opportunity,” the group said in an Emancipation message that was issued on Saturday.
SAGE called on African Guyanese to confront their economic condition by demanding that all parties treat the economic inequity as a national emergency. “In a country soon to be flushed with more wealth than at any time since emancipation, this ethnic-racial economic gap cannot continue. It is a recipe for heightened conflict. While it is the responsibility of the government to act, the burden lies with African Guyanese. They must demand policies aimed at their particular condition. The “one tide lifts all boats” approach will not suffice. African Guyanese must organize themselves in pursuit of this goal. Black Lives Matter must include the notion that Black ownership of wealth matters as the lack of economic wealth is a clear and present danger to Black livelihood,” it added.
According to SAGE, after 183 years African Guyanese have made some important steps towards transforming the “emancipation moment into a state of freedom.” It argued that there have been constitutional changes and other legal statutes that embed the equal humanity of Africans. Further, it says Black Guyanese have risen to heights in our society that their fore parents could hardly imagine. “SAGE therefore rejects the view that nothing has changed for Black people—a lot has changed, but it must be stressed that those changes came despite much institutional and other barriers to Black [advancement],” it added.
At the same time, SAGE said it must also be stressed that changes must not mask the challenges that African Guyanese continue to face in an independent Guyana. It said the scars of enslavement and colonial domination are still fresh on the psyche of a society that has not shaken off the vestiges of anti-black racism. “Our institutions from police to the justice system to the education system still make assumptions about African Guyanese based on the meaning of their skin color. These are in many regards more subtle than overt, but they are there just beneath the surface,” it noted.
SAGE also urged African Guyanese to eschew a Guyanese nationality that silences or erases African identity and other forms of ethnic identity. It contended that the erasure of African identity is accompanied by the erasure of Black history and cultural heritage. “Such erasure means that slavery and emancipation would lose their centrality to our historical memory and rob African Guyanese of a significant point of reference. The affirmation of African Identity has significance for Guyanese and Caribbean identity. Since the formal education system would most likely frown on including African history and culture as a central plank of the curriculum, the burden falls on African Guyanese organizations to lead the charge in this regard,” it added.