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Afro-Guyanese must shape their social, economic destiny

Attorney-at-Law, Nigel Hughes addressing a group of Afro-Guyanese

A small cross-section of the Afro-Guyanese community on the West Bank of Demerara (WBD) were Sunday afternoon urged to  revitalise “social cohesion “ through community groups , a feature which dominated unity among rural areas across Guyana.

This appeal as well as a call for prioritising in manner in which many spend their income were among several calls made by speakers at the Bagotville Community Centre where the Cuffy 250 Committee in association with the La Retraite/Stanlytown , Bagotville Development group hosted  its “State of the African Guyanese Community “ forum .

Member of Parliament (MP),Carl Greenidge , speaking on the topic of “Restoring Economic Vitality to African Communities “ , told a packed house that an important element of ensuring unity in communities “has to do with the social cohesion  of the community , it builds  on how the community organises itself”.

He asked, ”what has happen to the community groups, those groups whether …. be it the church ,youth self- help…that helps to pass messages , as a network , whether they are they are messages concerning assistance or aspirations”.

Greenidge stated that a community has no place to go if its youth feel “it is a hopeless place “. According to him, a survey done in 2009 of young persons between the ages 10-25 , found that 75% of the respondents would prefer to leave the community immediately if they have the chance “so that community is one with problems”. He said that the instrument for giving the community hope “is really cultural and social hope… it has to do with the vision by those in it, how they see each other “.

The community groups, those are groups that we have to try and cherish, encourage and bolster, added. As he continued to address the issue he noted that one of the differences between many Afro-Guyanese villages from others is the lack of strength of the social groupings within the community. According tom him, “many of the old church arrangements have dissipated …many of these bodies, persons and entities are gone “

“It is necessary for some set of groups in the community to unite “, he added, as he urged the audience to recognise the importance of community groups and encourage the fostering of such arrangements.

As regards employment and economic activities at the village level , he stated that persons must recognise that not all economic activities are secure . He said” we must ensure productivity of those involved in economic activities improve ….do more things efficiently “.

“If we want a African community that is vibrant , you also have to have eco activities that are profitable or lucrative” and as such , he said “it will require a raising of the skills in the community “.

“ You need to organise business to make the business more vibrant or lucrative …there is need to improve in pricing, in running a business there are certain things which are a priority , if you don’t , people will not come half a mile to come to your shop “, he added.

Prominent attorney , Nigel Hughes speaking on the subject of violence in communities noted that too many young persons  are gone and have left families behind .

He said that men from the Afro-Guyanese community,” are not just absent from children lives, too many are absent from each other …..the real cause of the African Guyanese communities , urban or rural , has to do with and led to violence within many communities “.

Noting that the family is in great crisis , 95% of the homes headed by female led , many of whom are in the security industry. According to him, “the state of the family is challenge by the fact that the extended family, a critical feature of the family in the 1970s, has either evaporated or migrated due to a  lack of money .

“What is the state of violence and the state of crime in our society and in our community …. the reality is the perceived state of crime or violence in our communities includes black on black violence “, Hughes charged.

He cited several reasons as regards the family structure being broken down as a result of violence. Among them , he noted are , poor socialisation . “Far too many young African males are sitting in jail because someone disrespected them or dissed the “, as he cited fights or personal matters being reasons why some are behind bars.

The absence of both parents in the home was also another reason behind the family declining. He said that persons need to become aware of these and other issues affecting society.

Hughes also said “we have to change the way we spend our money “, to which he received a round of applause from the packed audience. According to him , “ I could never get over the fact we have reached the stage in 2013 , 250 years after Cuffy when people were brazen enough to say that you can get a loan to go to Jamzone … the JamZone loan “ .

As the audience responded with approval comments of its own regarding the issue, Hughes said that “that is the biggest insult to the Afro Guyanese community “noting that the sum can be put towards others used such as buying a house. He said, “ it is not the problem of the person creating the ad but rather  it is because we have  allowed them to have the perception that we are stupid enough to that we would borrow money to go to a fete”.

The well-attended forum , which attracted activists an civil society leaders , included several cultural presentations as well as opportunities for members of the public to interact with the Cuffy250 Committee on issues of concern , including ancestral lands , economic  avails , as well as security crime and education among others .