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Group proceeding with Parade Ground monument to 1823 slave revolt

(L-R) 1823 Coalition members Melissa Ifill, Freddie Kissoon and Sister Penda Guyan.

The 1823 Coalition says it is determined to erect a monument to the Demerara slave revolt at Parade Ground despite the work being done by the government at a Carifesta Avenue location.

The Coalition has long argued that Parade Ground was the appropriate place to locate the monument since it was there that rebelling slaves were tried, convicted, sentenced and executed.

“I’m pleased to announce that we received pledges in the amount of one million dollars and two hundred thousand dollars from two donors to commence our building fund.

We have also received numerous smaller pledges from ordinary citizens who believe that our African ancestors must be accorded the respect and honour befitting of their sacrifices and that that sacred space, the Parade Ground is the best venue for a monument to be erected,” Coalition member Melissa Ifill told reporters Wednesday.

She added that they would be hosting two telethons during this month to raise money for the building fund.

“All monies collected will go solely towards the construction of the monument and will not be used for administrative purposes by the Coalition,” Ifill explained.

The Coalition comprises several organisations including the African Cultural Development Association (ACDA), People’s Parliament, the Pan African Movement and has been registered as an NGO. It is looking to raise between $15M and $20M for the fund and hopes construction could start by the next anniversary.

A design competition is to be launched with the public and a panel of judges to choose the winning design for “The People’s Monument.”

Ifill said they were unconcerned about the one being constructed by the government or interference from the administration since the Parade Ground is controlled by the Mayor and City Council. She added that they had the support of Mayor Hamilton Green who has pledged to put their proposal to the Council for approval.  

But Sister Penda Guyan described the Carifesta Avenue monument as an insult.

“That monument as far as the Africans in this country are concerned has nothing to do with us as a people, it is not representative of us simply because when we tried to engage the government and the ministry as far as the monument is concerned they did not respond to us.

The Africans in this country find it very insulting that a government can dictate to us where a monument representing our ancestors, our martyrs should be erected,” Guyan stated.

Meanwhile, columnist Freddie Kissoon added that there has been no buy in by the public for the government’s initiative.

“To date there is no major stakeholder in this country that has made a pronouncement in support one way or the other on the 1823 Monument being on the seawall road, no major stakeholder and not one single African organisation.

It is phenomenally intriguing that it must be one of the most talked about event that has not had national support. That in itself tells you that Guyanese in totality have not supported the monument,” he said.

Officials have listed a number of technical reasons for the choice of the Carifesta Avenue location such as its proximity to the East Coast Demerara where the revolts took place, its openness to public viewing and adequate land space to house the monument and vehicle parking. More than $26M is being spent to erect the monument which was designed by sculptor Ivor Thom.