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Granger promises 1823 Demerara Revolt memorial at Parade Ground; critics justify recognising current monument

President David Granger announced that Government will erect in remembrance of the executions of more than 200 Africans, during the Demerara Revolt 1823, during his address at the Commemorative Ceremony at the Monument on Atlantic Avenue.

President David Granger announced that Government will erect in remembrance of the executions of more than 200 Africans, during the Demerara Revolt 1823, during his address at the Commemorative Ceremony at the Monument on Atlantic Avenue.

Under intense pressure from sections of the Afro-Guyanese community to construct a monument at Independence Park (Parade Ground) where slaves who fought in the 1823 Demerara Revolt were executed, President David Granger on Saturday announced that a memorial would be built there.

“The government will erect a memorial at Independence Park to commemorate these executions. Future generations must not forget that freedom was bought at a high price, the price of martyrdom of hundreds of Africans on the 20th of August, 1823,” he said. No time frame was given.

Saturday marks the 193rd anniversary of the killing of hundreds of Africans, two days after the revolt had begun and 10 years before Britain had legally abolished slavery with the passage of the Emancipation Act. “This atrocity, the arrests and subsequent executions at the Militia Parade Ground and elsewhere were, perhaps, the single most significant event to hasten the abolition of slavery in the British colonies. The Demerara Revolt was the turning point in slave society and is commemorated today as one of the most important events in Guyanese and Caribbean history,” said Granger, a former military officer and historian.

The 1823 Coalition for the Parade Ground Monument, which had vehemently opposed the construction of the existing monument at the Kitty Seawall by the then People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) government, welcomed Granger’s announcement and buckled into recognising the current monument.

Executive Member of the African Cultural and Development Association (ACDA), Violet Baptiste applauded Granger for announcing that a memorial would be built at Parade Ground. “We have struggled long and hard to get the government to acknowledge Parade Ground as a historical site and now that President Granger has done that, I think we are on the right track,” she told Demerara Waves Online News.  She hailed the President’s decision to attend the commemorative activity at the Kitty Seawall-based monument, saying that that revolt was a major blow to slavery in the British colonies. Baptiste credited Granger with consulting and reasoning with representatives of the Afro-Guyanese community after they learnt that he was planning to speak at the Kitty Seawall.

Head of the Coalition, Rudy Guyan said the President has acknowledged a monument at Bachelor’s Adventure where slaves were killed during an uprising in 1823. Guyan said the monument at the Kitty Seawall recognises the decapitation of slaves’ heads and placed along the East Coast Demerara. “I don’t think anything was done sufficiently to address that. This monument ironically should be addressing that. It is facing the east; it is facing the direction where those things happen and we should acknowledge the place of this monument in that particular episode of the 1823 Revolution,” he said.

He welcomed announcement by the President that a memorial would be built at Parade Ground where mock trials were held, slaves heads were cut off and placed around that open space. “We are saying before the President we were confused about this particular two episodes. Now we are clear that we have given support to every section of the remembrance of the murders of our people in 1823 Revolution so there is no contradiction. This monument here doesn’t represent a contradiction but it represents a well-meaningful addition to the remembrance of our people,” he said.

Guyan assured that the monument at Parade Ground would not merely be a piece of concrete, but would include an area that would provide meaningful education to Guyanese concerning the country’s history.

Executive member of the 1823 Coalition for the Parade Ground Monument, Dr. Melissa Ifill remained adamant that Granger should not have spoken at the monument. She claimed that the President opted to speak at the 1823 Monument after he refused an invitation to speak at a commemorative event by an African village because the the small monument the village had built to commemorate the rebellion was rudimentary and was situated around a pig pen so the area was ‘smelly’ and wasn’t befitting of a ‘national’ commemoration and certainly not worthy of his presence.

“Ah the contempt for poor/working class people and their genuine efforts continue unabated in this land of ours. Do you know where is worthy of the president’s presence and speech? Yes, you guessed it .. the Monument built by the PPP, that was vehemently protested by African Guyanese that Granger himself criticized when he was opposition leader and seeking votes.

The same government that Granger had accused of murdering hundreds of young Afro-Guyanese men and discriminating against African Guyanese … yes, that one. why? well because it cost 50 million of our dollars to build and as head of the government he can’t ignore a monument built by government with taxpayers dollars. I’m speechless. Guyana got many, many problems and I will say it – this APNU-AFC government is one of them,” said Ifill on her Facebook profile.

The Coalition Head, however, labelled Ifill’s stance “an opinion of the past” and noted that she was absent from a meeting with President Granger earlier this week when it was explained that the current monument at the Kitty Seawall respects  and acknowledges Afro-Guyanese history while not negating what would be built at Parade Ground. “Anything that negates the Parade Ground I will not support. In fact it gives that drive, it gives that urgency to what we will do at the Parade Ground,” he said. Guyan believed that if Ifill was in the meeting with Granger  “she would have reformed her opinion.”

  • Lancelot Brassington

    Just some thoughts from an African Guyanese;
    (1) Does the president have any obligation to attend a commemoration service at a monument situated near a foul smelling hog pen? If those villagers had any respect for their ancestors and their sacrifices they would have placed that monument elsewhere if the hog pen was there first or placed the hog pen elsewhere if the monument was there first. At any rate a national commemoration demands aesthetics and atmosphere. Would those two features which are part of ‘respect’ have been in evidence at the village ceremony?
    (2) Hatred for the PPP is not a recognized and respected component of black pride. Madam Ifill needs to leave bile and venom out of this thing and stop playing to the gallery.
    (3) A monument has already been constructed at substantial cost to the country. It does not conflict with the underlying ethos of the slave rebellion or black pride. In fact it is positioned in a way that can be said to give recognition to the beheading of slaves and the lining of the East Coast route with their heads. I am of the view that that monument is sufficient recognition of the slave rebellion even if it was constructed by the infamous PPP.
    (4) Restoring Independence Park to a state where it can again be used by by school children and city youths for football, athletics, cricket and other sports, would serve the black community better. Sports are an excellent diversion for youths who may be otherwise inclined to throw away their lives doing ‘stupidness’.
    (5) Government may also want to consider putting another sports ground on the land to east of the Durban Park facility and west of NCN, National Sports Hall, National Archives and National Cultural Centre et al. That way the whole stretch of land will be devoted to education, enlightenment and upliftment.
    (6) The two sports facilities could provide employment for sixteen security guards working two man shifts, four groundsmen and two charwomen in a country whose government is said not to be creating jobs.
    (7) I wonder if Dr Ifill made a promise to the villagers and was unable to deliver.Her rage suggests that this may be the case. Initiative can be a dangerous thing. By the way did she raise a hue and cry when the country’s foremost athletics facility was placed all the way over at Leonora? I don’t recall hearing it.

    • rs dasai

      I feel the ‘rage’ in your voice, but it should not detract from what The President does to commemorate the struggle slaves endured. Both the ‘PPP’ and the PNC recognises this, but the PPP took the opportunity to erect the monument which does not detract from the ‘feelings’ of the PNC’s core supporters. Yes, you are right, hate only breeds hate for all of us. And if the Prezi and the Gvt believes that the Leonora facility is too far away from city, then it is incumbent on the Gvt to build one in an area more conducive to your way of thinking to ONLY serve the ‘black’ community. I am sure that the PPP will not create a ‘hue and cry’. Mr. Granger is not the President of the ‘black community’ only, but of all Guyanese. Lol.

      • Lancelot Brassington

        The athletics facility at Leonora is where it is. That is a fact of life that all will have to live with. That does not prevent me from questioning the rationale for placing it there.Likewise that for placing the Berbice River Bridge near the mouth of the river to face the salt air and strong currents instead of further inland. Likewise that for placing the national stadium at Providence instead of at Durban Park.
        The laws of Guyana do not allow for any ethnic group to be denied the use of public facilities but practicality and common sense should dictate that you put them at or near the centre of gravity or where the bulk of the likely users are resident, subject of course, to other practical and technical considerations. You are no doubt aware that practically all sugar estates have cricket grounds located a short distance away. You would also have noted where the horse racing tracks are located.That is practicality and common sense.
        Maybe there are compelling reasons why the stadium, the bridge and the athletics facility are where they are. I would like to hear them.

        • rs dasai

          Despite our feelings as to what you say, we have not much of a say as to what is done where. The ‘BAAYS” have their reasons after consultations with ‘experts’. However on the sugar estate cricket ground matter, these grounds were placed within the bounds of the estates without regard to anything else. There are also cricket grounds in villages. The race track is a colonial matter which does not matter to those who do not play the races. we should not raise our blood pressure over these issues. .we should enjoy what we have. LOL